The SPD Youth Aspiration Award is administered by SPD and sponsored by NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd. The award comes with a $5,000 grant that allows youths with physical disabilities to develop their interests and talents in the areas of visual and performing arts, sports and community service. This year, four youths with disabilities were presented with the award last month at the SPD Education Awards Presentation Ceremony 2016.
Let’s meet the recipients:
Ritchie Chan Jun Rong, 16 years old
Award Category: Sports, Shooting
Ritchie Chan Jun Rong was born with spina bifida which affected the lower end of his spinal cord, causing deformities and weakness in his left leg. Ritchie seldom relies on mobility aids but walks slower than most people.
Ritchie’s exposure to sports began when he took up swimming in Primary 2. He subsequently took up air rifle shooting in 2014. Since he started training under the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC), he improved by leaps and bounds. He was invited to compete at the International Shooting Championships of Hannover in April 2015 where he achieved a respectable score of 622.4 over six rounds.
Photo credit: www.aseanparagames2015.com
At the recent ASEAN Para Games held in Singapore, he surprised many in the shooting fraternity by becoming the youngest shooter given a medal at the Games, winning silver in the R1 Men’s Air Rifle (Standing).
The North View Secondary School student clearly has talent and passion when it comes to shooting. With his parents fully supporting him, there is no limit to Ritchie’s potential.
Edgar Cheong Tuck Mun, 21 years old
Award Category: Community Service
Edgar Cheong Tuck Mun is passionate when it comes to community service and advocacy. He has volunteered for his school’s mentoring club and is currently the president of the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Debaters’ Club.
Edgar was diagnosed with cervical 5-6 level spinal cord injury sustained in a swimming accident when he was 17. He relies on a wheelchair to get around and depends on his mother and domestic helper in all his activities of daily living. Following the accident, Edgar’s interaction with his friends was affected as he was unable to access facilities that his friends frequented.
Despite the challenges he faces, Edgar continues to be passionate about helping others. He believes that there are others in a similar situation like him who, in his own words, “have fallen through the system’s cracks”. He envisions a world where people with disabilities are viewed as equals with non-disabled people. His was inspired by his father who used to take him to Chinatown where they would distribute food packets to those in need.
Edgar wants to form an interest group for youths with disabilities and holds monthly meetings to discuss ideas that benefit youths and persons with disabilities in general.
Alvina Neo, 26 years old
Award Category: Sports, Hand Cycling
At 15 months, Alvina Neo was diagnosed with spina bifida, a congenital condition that occurs when there is an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. This condition affects her mobility and now, she relies on a leg brace and forearm crutch to get around.
Alvina’s memories of her growing up years are largely filled with trips to the hospitals and multiple surgeries that she had to undergo. Frequent absence from school due to medical reasons made it difficult for her to catch up with the rest of the class in secondary school and polytechnic. Thanks to her teachers and lecturers who offered her one-to-one tutoring, she managed to obtain passing grades for her studies.
As her condition deteriorated, Alvina had to give up her favourite sport – cycling. It was during a hospital stay that Alvina learned about hand cycling from a medical student. In 2011, at the age of 22, she decided to take up the sport and trained with the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC). Since then, she has gone on to compete in several hand cycling competitions. In 2014, Alvina was Singapore’s only female representative in hand cycling at the Incheon Asian Para Games.
Photo credit: www.unisim.edu.sg
Alvina has contributed to the disabled community through hand cycling. In 2013, Alvina and her friends hand-cycled 100 kilometres to raise funds for children with chronic and terminal illnesses. Her efforts inspired staff and students from her alma mater, Temasek Polytechnic, who in turn supported the same cause.
While competing in the 2014 Asian Para Games, Alvina sustained a serious shoulder injury and had to undergo treatment. Alvina remained undeterred and wanted to explore another sport that would require the use of just one arm. Believing that “challenges are there for a reason, to prepare us for the next”, she decided to take up air pistol shooting. In 2015, she began training with SDSC for the sport. Her efforts have paid off and she did Singapore proud at the 8th ASEAN Para Games in Singapore in December 2015 by winning a bronze medal.
Photo credit: www.aseanparagames2015.com
Alvina is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at SIM University. Inspired by a medical social worker who went above the call of duty to help her, Alvina hopes to work as a medical social worker serving people with disabilities or children with chronic illnesses after graduation.
Tan Kok Yew, 14 years old
Award Category: Performing Arts, Dancing
Like many dancers on the popular television show ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’, Tan Kok Yew is open to experimenting with different genres of dance such as jazz, body-popping and ballet. However, his true passion lies in K-pop dancing.
Kok Yew is not like other dancers. His right forearm was amputated when he was 3 years old due to an injury. In a 2007 medical report, doctors gave him a next to nothing chance of participating in physical activities that require the use of both hands. Still, this young man continues unperturbed. He believes “one hand is as good as two”.
Inspired by Nick Vujicic, not many things can keep Kok Yew down for long. He simply gets up and tries again, as all that matters to him is to finish the race.
The Mayflower Secondary School student was selected to perform a dance item at the SPD Charity Show 2015. Tan Kok Yew aspires to be a dance teacher one day. He hopes to spread to others, especially persons with disabilities, the joy of dancing.