SINGAPORE, 23 January 2016 – ASEAN Para Games medallists Ritchie Chan and Alvina Neo joined two other youths with disabilities in receiving the SPD Youth Aspiration Award from Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, this morning. This is a record number of the award given out in any one year at the SPD Education Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony.
Administered by SPD, an organisation that supports persons with disabilities, and sponsored by NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd, the SPD Youth Aspiration 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.
26-year-old Alvina and 16-year-old Ritchie were diagnosed with spina bifida when young. Despite their mobility impairments, both developed a keen interest in sports and excelled in it. Alvina represented Singapore in air pistol at this year’s ASEAN Para Games (APG) where she won a bronze medal in the women’s individual finals. Ritchie, who took up sports in Primary 2 to prove that he deserved to be treated like anyone else, shocked the shooting fraternity by becoming the youngest winning shooter at the Games, bagging silver in the R1 Men’s Air Rifle (Standing).
Also receiving the award were 14-year-old Tan Kok Yew, an aspiring dancer who lost his right forearm in an accident a decade ago, and 21-year-old Edgar Cheong who has tetraplegia and is looking to help through community work people who “have fallen through the cracks”.
The SPD Education Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony this year saw 84 students with physical disabilities and students whose parent(s) have physical disabilities and are from low-income families receiving $56,150 in bursaries from NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd to help alleviate some of their financial hardships, such as in the case of 12-year-old Enya Wong who has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. Enya’s father is a taxi driver and the sole breadwinner for the family of five whereas her mother is a full-time housewife and main caregiver to her and her two younger sisters who also have special needs and health issues that require regular follow-up at hospitals. Despite the difficulties, the family of five has a close relationship. SPD helps in many ways to alleviate their challenges.
“The bursary that Enya received today is very useful in paying her school expenses. We are also grateful for the fully subsidised tuition and NTUC vouchers provided by SPD. Enya has been accepted into a mainstream secondary school and I hope she will do well there and become a useful member of the society in future,” said her mother, Madam Ang Siew Ching.
Since 1985, more than 3,700 bursaries amounting to about $3.1 million have been awarded. The support is extended to students from primary to tertiary levels including those at ITE, pre-universities, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities.
“Education is a powerful enabler that can transform lives and we are happy to be part of this meaningful programme. We are glad that our contributions help the students financially, so that they can focus on achieving academic excellence and developing their talents,” said Mr Ashish Anupam, President and Chief Executive Officer of NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd. NatSteel has been contributing to the SPD Education Programme Bursary Award and the SPD Youth Aspiration Award since 2009 and 2014 respectively.
“The SPD Education Programme is important for our students and we would not have been able to sustain it for the last 30 years had we not received the support from individuals and corporate partners, such as NatSteel Holdings, who share our vision. Their unwavering support has helped lighten the financial burden of countless families and enabled our youth to get closer to their academic and aspirational achievements,” said Ms Chia Yong Yong, President, SPD.
The SPD Education Programme was started in 1985 to help students from low-income families cope with expenses related to the students’ studies in mainstream schools. It has since evolved to meet other needs of the students with disabilities 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.