A 70-year-old IT guide, a stewardess who went back to teaching: 6 National Day Rally 'stars'

(Clockwise from top left) Ms Nuraslinda Safaruan, Mr Tariam Singh, Ms Gillian Tee and Mr Syafiq Yusof.
(Clockwise from top left) Ms Nuraslinda Safaruan, Mr Tariam Singh, Ms Gillian Tee and Mr Syafiq Yusof.PHOTOS: MCI

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Aug 20) delivered his National Day Rally, in which he spoke about building up pre-schools, fighting diabetes and Smart Nation, the country's IT push.

In his speech, delivered in three languages, PM Lee highlighted the success stories of several people.

Here are six of them.

1. A pioneer whose striving spirit runs in the family


(From left) Adam Zafran Aziz, Mr Aziz Ahmad and Mr Ahmad Azali. PHOTO: MCI

Grandfather Ahmad Azali, now 79, was a gardener with Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, an antecedent of Mediacorp.

His son, Aziz Ahmad, received an SBC House Union Bursary from PM Lee in 1986, nearly 30 years ago.

Mr Aziz, now 42, graduated with a diploma in mechanical engineering from Singapore Polytechnic, and was an engineer working for semiconductor multinational corporations.

But he did not stop learning - he got a master's degree in engineering management.

Mr Aziz was later headhunted to be a senior maintenance engineer with pharmaceutical MNC GlaxoSmithKline when the biomedical sciences industry took off.

His son, nine-year-old Adam Zafran Aziz - who is studying at Teck Ghee Primary School - received an Edusave Merit Award from PM Lee this year.

"So I have presented awards to father and son, 31 years apart," PM Lee said in his speech. "It was a special moment for Aziz, Adam and also for me."

2. A 70-year-old UberEats delivery granny


Madam Teo at the National Day Rally 2017. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB/ PMO

At 70, Madam Teo Yoke Lan is five years older than PM Lee, and still full of energy.

She is among the oldest delivery "walkers" - people who deliver food in the Central Business district - employed by UberEats, the food delivery arm of ride-hailing service Uber.

She was initially scared to use the mobile app and was afraid she may get lost while making deliveries as she does not understand much English, but Madam Teo is now familiar with the technology and street names.

Some customers dub her "Wonder Woman", and PM Lee hailed her optimism, enthusiasm and can-do spirit of lifelong learning.

3. A stewardess who went back to teaching


Ms Nuraslinda Safaruan with students from My First Skool. PHOTO: MCI

Nuraslinda Safaruan, 32, worked as a pre-school teacher after she got a diploma in early childhood.

She worked in the industry for seven years before being promoted to senior teacher.

 

However, she left the pre-school sector to become an air stewardess with SilkAir.

Even as she was taking to the sky, she realised that her heart remained with the children, so she returned to pre-school teaching last year after more than two years of flying.

Ms Nuraslinda is now working at My First Skool as its deputy centre lead.

"So far it's great," she told The Straits Times. "It's like catching up with what I left."

4. A multilingual 70-year-old who helps fellow seniors learn new IT skills


Mr Tariam Singh. PHOTO: MCI

Mr Tariam Singh is 70 but he is not to be beat by millennials.

The septuagenarian is a Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassador, who helps other fellow seniors learn new IT skills under an initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the People's Association Active Ageing Council.

Among the tasks he takes on, Mr Singh shows seniors how to use messaging apps and social media.

Mr Singh is not just Internet savvy - he is well-versed in many languages and teaches in Hokkien, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and Punjabi.

5. A Singaporean who started "Uber for in-home care" company


Ms Gillian Tee, founder of Homage. PHOTO: MCI

Ms Gillian Tee lived overseas for 15 years. She had a successful career in New York City and Silicon Valley, where she co-founded Rocketrip, a start-up to reduce travel costs, which raised US$18 million (S$25 million) in funding.

However, she returned to Singapore and set up Homage, a start-up which connects professional caregivers with seniors who need help.

The company matches a pool of caregivers with these seniors - just like how ride-hailing apps match drivers with passengers.

Ms Tee, 34, previously told ST that she had a soft spot for the elderly: She had been raised by a nanny who was then in her 60s until she was 10, while her maternal grandmother tided her through her parents' divorce in her teens.

6. A school dropout-turned-logistics firm boss


Mr Syafiq Yusoff (centre) with staff of Riverwood. PHOTO: MCI

When Syafiq Yusoff was in school, he did not do very well. He dropped out and worked as a personal trainer after national service.

The 33-year-old later set up logistics company Riverwood, which started out with just two vans and four workers.

In the face of strong competition, Mr Syafiq joined his workers and made deliveries himself.

He also upgraded his operations by using technology, and the company has grown to about 120 employees today.

When Amazon Prime Now set up in Singapore, it engaged Riverwood as its logistics partner, and the company is going strong.