Singapore, 11 January 2014 – Samuel Lim made the news when he was just three months old. The family’s domestic helper poured acid down his throat which permanently damaged his tongue, throat and vocal chords. Amazingly, baby Samuel survived the acid attack. Today, 14 years on, he is making the news again, in a positive story this time.
Samuel was one of the two recipients who received the SPD Youth Aspiration Award this morning. Sponsored by NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd this year, the award was started by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) in 2010 to support talented youths with physical disabilities in their pursuit of interests outside their studies. Victor Wong, a cosplay actor with a disability, is the other young recipient.
Samuel has never tasted food and he breathes and feeds through tubes that are inserted into his body. The teenager who cannot vocalise normally, speaks through his music. He learnt to play the piano at seven and the gu zheng when he was in Primary Four. He enjoys bringing beautiful music to people around him, and is especially passionate about playing for those who are disadvantaged. Samuel would be using the $5,000 grant from the award to pursue Grade 6, the next level of his piano assessment.
“Music has given me another identity and a channel to express myself more confidently and freely. I am very happy to receive this award,” expressed Samuel in writing.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, 21-year-old Victor did more than just overcome his own disabilities. Bringing smiles to others cheers him up. It was for this simple reason that he ventured into cosplay about six years ago. Always looking for ways to improve his craft as a cosplay actor, the award would help the Infocomm & Network Engineering student from Temasek Polytechnic hone his craft as he prepares for more competitions ahead.
“I am thankful for the SPD Youth Aspiration Award. It will certainly take me one step closer to my dream of becoming a full time cosplayer in future,” said Victor who is planning to perform for children at more charity events.
At the same event, Mr Chan Heng Kee, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social and Family Development, also presented bursaries amounting to $76,050 to 97 students with physical disabilities or whose either parents have physical disabilities. The bursaries help defray education fees of the students and alleviate the financial stress on families who are in a similar situation as Ng Hong Xian and Ng Hong Wei’s.
The two brothers were both diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a muscular degenerating condition, when they were very young. Medical care for Hong Xian, 12, and Hong Wei, 13, stretches the family’s finances. Hence, they are unable to attend medical reviews regularly. The family of four relies on the salary of the elder Mr Ng who works at an apparel store at a wet market.
Grateful for the financial assistance, the boys’ mother said, “The bursary from SPD has given us peace of mind where the children’s education fees are concerned. We are extremely grateful to receive the bursary once again and hope Hong Xian and Hong Wei will do well in school so that they can contribute back to society in future.”
Since 1985, over $2.9 million has been awarded to more than 3,500 students with physical disabilities and students with parents who have physical disabilities. The support is extended to students from primary to tertiary levels including those at ITE, pre-universities, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities.
On NatSteel’s contributions to the NatSteel-SPD Education Programme Bursary Award since 2007, Mr Vivek Kamra, President and Chief Executive Officer of NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd, said, “NatSteel believes in the empowerment of young people through education. This is the most basic of opportunities that every young person should be given, including those with disabilities. We hope that our contribution alleviates the financial burdens of families in need and enables students to focus on achieving academic excellence as they pursue their education.”
“An education will lay a good foundation to many possibilities, so no child should be denied one. We are grateful to have found a valuable partner in NatSteel who shares this belief and continues to invest in the future of students who are under disadvantaged circumstances,” said Ms Chia Yong Yong, President of 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 individual students with physical disabilities.