4. The SPD Education Programme was started in 1985 with the firm belief that children with disabilities and those whose parents had disabilities should not be denied education because of financial hardships. Over the years, the SPD Education Programme expanded and now comprises five main components, namely,
ii) Youth Aspiration Award or YAA for short,
iii) Tuition support,
iv) Learning and development programmes and
v) Case management services.
5. As part of our constant efforts to remain relevant, an internal review was conducted and a decision made to change our support criteria, keeping in mind changing economic and demographic conditions and falling applications. In alignment with SPD’s direction to serve the wider community of persons with disabilities, we have expanded the bursary and YAA criteria to beyond children with physical disabilities. The cohort of recipients and winners you see today includes students with sensory disabilities, that is, those with hearing and visual impairment.
7. Among the YAA winners is 17-year-old Chew Chee Siang who is receiving the award for his contribution to the community. He has embarked on a long journey of self-discovery and was initially perceived as a trouble maker in primary school. Despite being born with congenital hand disorder on his left hand, he slowly learnt to recognise his own strengths in leading and giving back to the society. A chance encounter in Secondary Two when Chee Siang was being tailed by a suspicious character made him learn how to protect himself better. He managed to break out from his fear and confront the other party, causing him to believe in his own strength. He eventually served as the Director of Community Outreach in National Police Cadet Corps in secondary school, and the Beneficiary Director of Elderly in Interact Club in Junior College. These experiences further impressed upon him the importance of community service and he often found himself planning and executing projects that benefited the less privileged. His commitment is commendable. Please give Chee Siang a round of applause for his courage and conviction in making an impact on the community around him.
8. Before I close my address, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to NatSteel for the unwavering partnership with SPD in the last decade. It has paved the way for greater inclusiveness within the educational setting for students with special needs.
11. In closing, I would like to convey my heartiest congratulations to each bursary and Youth Aspiration Award recipient today. May your resilience bring you to greater heights.