Students with disabilities get boost to reach for bigger dreams

SINGAPORE, 20 January 2018 – Bursaries amounting to $117,550 were awarded to 95 students with disabilities and students whose parents have disabilities at the annual SPD Education Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony 2018 held at the SPD Ability Centre this morning. Three youths also received a grant through the SPD Youth Aspiration Award (YAA) to pursue their interests. The students were congratulated by Madam Halimah Yacob who attended the event as Guest-of-Honour.

One of the YAA recipients was 19-year-old Justin Kueh. Born with severe and profound hearing loss, Justin has never heard music like an able-bodied person, yet he does not miss a tune when he plays the double bass. A music lover who also plays the piano and performs with an orchestra, Justin wants to bring people together through music.

Justin was joined by fellow award recipients – Joshua Tseng and Shahrul Izwan. Joshua, 19, has vision loss and is a passionate public speaker and storyteller. He volunteers and advocates for the visually impaired community by sharing his personal experiences. Shahrul, 23, was diagnosed with lower limbs spastic paraparesis when he was 16, and now relies on the wheelchair to get around. An avid floorball player before his disability, Shahrul found drive and adrenaline through a new sport – wheelchair racing.

The YAA comes with a $5,000 grant that helps young persons with disabilities to maximise their potential and reach for bigger dreams. This is an initiative of SPD, a voluntary welfare organisation that helps people with disabilities, and supported by NatSteel Holdings.

Apart from the YAA, bursaries were also awarded to students with disabilities from low-income households. One of them was 17-year-old Lee Chee Yong, who is a junior college student and a beneficiary of the bursary programme since he was 8 years old. The bursary award that he has been receiving yearly has helped the family alleviate a considerable amount of financial stress and aided them through tough times. It has also allowed him to focus on his studies without having to worry about his educational expenses. “With the bursary award, I can purchase books and material that are needed to help me in my studies,” said Chee Yong.

A sponsor of the bursary programme since 2007, NatSteel has contributed over S$775,000 and handed out more than 800 bursary awards. It has also increased its support by stepping in to sponsor the YAA since 2014.

“NatSteel is honored and privileged to be able to contribute to the SPD Education Programme Bursary Award for the tenth year running, and the SPD Youth Aspiration Award since 2014. We believe strongly that the future lies in the young generation and by providing what we can to enable their dreams to come true, we are also providing space for the future generation to grow and become a driving force ahead,” said Mr Ashish Anupam, President and Chief Executive Officer of NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd.

Thanking NatSteel for their unwavering support in the last 10 years, Mr Abhimanyau Pal, Executive Director of SPD, said: “NatSteel’s sponsorship has impacted so many youths and their families. It has given them a solid foundation to build a financially independent and dignified life. We hope to see more companies and individuals coming forward to contribute money or volunteer their time and expertise to ensure that these students are not left behind.”

Her first trip to SPD as Singapore’s head of state, Madam Halimah went on a tour of SPD to learn more about its programmes and took the opportunity to interact with its beneficiaries and caregivers.

A partnership with Uber also saw close to 100 award recipients and their families travelling to SPD this morning in Uber vehicles. The two-way trips for every family were sponsored by Uber.

Since 1985, close to 4,000 bursaries amounting to about $3.2 million have been awarded to students from primary to tertiary levels including those at ITE, pre-universities, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities, to help alleviate some of their financial hardships.

The SPD Education Programme was started in 1985 to help students with physical disabilities from low-income families cope with expenses related to the students’ studies in mainstream schools. It has since evolved from just a bursary award programme to meet other needs of the students by offering a more holistic support which includes counselling, tuition support, enrichment courses and even collaboration with schools, to ensure all-round care for the students. YAA was introduced to the programme in 2010 to provide youths with disabilities with a $5,000 grant to develop their interests and talents in the areas of visual and performing arts, sports and community service. In 2017, the Education Programme was extended to students with sensory and learning disabilities as well.