SINGAPORE - The contribution of the Samsui women in Singapore's formative years is something that is not lost on 12-year-old Victoria Ong Dai Qi.
Her desire for their story to be told inspired her to pen a vivid piece on them for the Paper Planes 2014 creative writing competition, which challenged participants to celebrate Singapore's 50 years in exactly 50 words.
She wrote: "Gnarled hands, rough skin, rheumy eyes, the signs of much hardship and old age. With pride, she looked across the river; at the place she and countless others like her built. She closed her eyes, satisfied. With a final breath, the last Samsui woman finished her service to her Nation."
The St. Hilda's Primary School student's words impressed judges and won her top prize in the 11 and 12 year old category. The winners were presented with their awards in a ceremony held at the Singapore Press Holding News Centre Auditorium on Monday.
Paper Planes is an annual competition organised by Creative Horizons, an English language enrichment centre. This year's edition held in conjunction with SG50 attracted over 1,200 entries from children as young as seven and seniors in their 60s.
Madam Nellie Lim, 65, was among the oldest participants.
"My daughters actually pushed me to enter. It was the last day for submissions already, so I thought: 'Why not?'," said Madam Lim, a retired English teacher.
She wrote about the "laughter and innocence" of her teenage years, "hiking at MacRitchie, cycling around Bukit Timah and going for tea dances".
Overall winner, St. Hilda's Primary School pupil Madeleine Fung, wrote about the beginnings of a mixed marriage.
The 10-year-old wrote: "Ahmad had approached the poor Chinese girl sitting on the steps. He handed her a takeout box of noodles. She responded to his Malay question in Chinese. Both didn't understand, but they had a bond, beyond the borders of their language. Dad always remembers when he first spoke to Mum."
Former Straits Times editor-in-chief Peter Lim, who was one of the competition's five judges, said entries were judged on structure and storyline.
"The writer has to be able to fit a start, middle and end into 50 words, and then make sure there is a human interest element somewhere inside," he said.
One of the youngest of the bunch, seven-year-old Meher Narang, was "very happy" with the results. She wrote about getting lost on a school trip to see the Merlion.
The NPS International School pupil said: "I got the idea from a dream, and took a whole hour to write it."
She intends to use her $500 prize money to buy snow globes for her mother and sister.
Champions of Paper Planes 2014: 50 Words For 50 Years
Category 1 (7 & 8 years old): Meher Narang, NPS International School
Category 2 (9 & 10 years old): Madeleine Fung Sum Yee, St. Hilda's Primary School
Category 3 (11 & 12 years old): Victoria Ong Dai Qi, St. Hilda's Primary School
Category 4 (13 & 14 years old): Leong Jo Yie, UWCSEA East
Category 5 (15 & 16 years old): No champion
Category 6 (17 years old and above): Luo Junjia (Jj)