Students with Disabilities Get a Boost from Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Scholarship

SINGAPORE, 15 January 2013 – Five young Singaporeans have demonstrated not only strength and resilience when overcoming countless adversities in their young lives, they have also shown optimism for the future and a passion to help those who, like them, need a little boost. Their extraordinary achievements were celebrated at the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities award ceremony this morning. It was also the first time that more than three scholarships were awarded in a year.

Started in 2004, the APB Foundation scholarship is awarded to students who are physically-challenged in recognition of their academic excellence and achievements despite their disabilities. The Scholarship was then extended in 2008 to include students with hearing, visual or speech impairments.

21-year-old Amanda Chan was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in her spinal cord in her late teens, while Ong Hua Han, 19, and Seah Wei Jian, 22, are born with extremely fragile bones and susceptible to fractures. A high fever in his childhood resulted in profound hearing loss for 30-year-old George, and similarly for 19-year-old Jacqueline, she started experiencing spasms at a young age and was diagnosed with a disorder that causes strong involuntary movements in her body which also impedes her speech.

These youths, undergraduates at the local universities, have shown their mettle to become deserving recipients of this year’s APB Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities award.

Our oldest scholarship recipient, George, who is turning 31 this year, was not deterred by his age and hearing impairments to pursue his dream to become a life science professional. He was first enrolled in an Internet Computing diploma course and began his career in the IT field. He soon discovered that an IT career was not what he desired. He worked hard for two years and accumulated sufficient savings to re-enrol into his desired specialist diploma course in Molecular Biotechnology. His excellent academic results and persevering attitude led to his dream come true when he was accepted into the Bachelor of Science degree programme at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Attending courses at NUS posed a new set of challenges but George took proactive steps to overcome their learning obstacles. He worked in partnership with his faculty for a viable solution when visual aids in lectures were not adequate in helping him understand the more complex lectures. Similarly, Wei Jian, who is born with delicate, brittle bones and susceptible to fractures, planned and organised discussion groups with his coursemates to help him adjust to a new learning structure when he started university. He also consulted the school’s facilities management for the shortest route possible in campus and familiarised himself with the campus environment so that he could be punctual for class. In addition, both were active in community work.

Their achievements were so compelling that members of the evaluation panel decided to award the scholarships to all five students – a first in the history of the scholarship programme.

“Education empowerment is one of APB Foundation’s philanthropic priorities to plug a gap in Singapore community and level the playing field for academically-inclined youths with disabilities. We are impressed by the calibre of our Scholarship candidates this year and decided to give an extra financial boost to help all five exceptional youths realise their dreams to pursue a University education. Armed with a good tertiary education, we strongly believe the Scholarship becomes a powerful enabler for young people like Amanda, Jacqueline, Hua Han, George and Wei Jian. We hope that their achievements and tenacity to overcome life’s limits will inspire other young people in similar situations to dream with no limits and be the best they can be,” said Mr Roland Pirmez, Chairman of APB Foundation Advisory Committee; Member, APB Foundation Board of Trustee.

The Foundation has committed over $265,000 to help fund the university education of this year’s scholars. In view of the rising tertiary tuition fees, APB Foundation has increased its annual funding to help all its Scholarship recipients to cope with financial pressures. The five scholars will be receiving $12,000 per annum from the scholarship, an increase from $11,000 from previous years. To date, the Foundation has disbursed $814,000 to fund and manage the scholarship programme.

“The APB Foundation scholars are testimonies of how students with disabilities are capable of rising above their circumstances to integrate and excel in mainstream education. Their successes not only serve as an inspiration to other students with disabilities, their experiences are also reminders to the community that with a bit of understanding and support, people with disabilities can be a part of all. We would like to thank APB Foundation for stepping up and giving our young students with disabilities a lift through the provision of the scholarship,” said Ms Chia Yong Yong, President, SPD.