Two men receive SPD Youth Aspiration Award

Winners Samuel Lim, 15 (left), who has a permanently damaged tongue, throat and vocal cords, and Mr Victor Wong, 21, who has cerebral palsy, at yesterday's Youth Aspiration Award event.
Winners Samuel Lim, 15 (left), who has a permanently damaged tongue, throat and vocal cords, and Mr Victor Wong, 21, who has cerebral palsy, at yesterday's Youth Aspiration Award event.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

His transformation into Red Ranger - the leader of popular children's cartoon Power Rangers - started six years ago.

Mr Victor Wong, then 15, had a friend who donned the red suit to fulfil the wishes of a 10-year-old child with final-stage cancer.

Now, the 21-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, dons the outfit himself to entertain other physically challenged children, striking poses for photographs and bringing some fun into their lives. He also takes part in cosplay - a costume-based performance art - competitions.

The final-year infocomm and network engineering student at Temasek Polytechnic was yesterday awarded the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) Youth Aspiration Award for his performance art.

"Kids like us, we are special," said Mr Wong. "We tend to live our lives more colourfully. We have more hardships, but also double the rewards when we achieve things we couldn't before."

He was one of two recipients of the annual award, started in 2010 to encourage students with physical disabilities to pursue their interests in visual or performing arts, sports or community service.

The other recipient, 15-year-old Samuel Lim, was left with a damaged tongue, throat and vocal cords when a maid poured sulphuric acid down his throat when he was just three months old.

Samuel depends on a tracheostomy tube, which is inserted into his windpipe via the front of his neck, to breathe. He also relies on a gastrostomy tube inserted into his stomach for feeding.

Speech is difficult, but music has become a mode of communication for the Secondary 3 Yuan Ching Secondary School student, who plays the piano and guzheng - a Chinese string instrument.

"Music helps Samuel socialise in school and bond with his friends through a common language," said his father, Mr Lim Boon Keong. The 42-year-old sales engineer added that surgeons are evaluating the possibilities of reconstructing Samuel's gullet and upper airway.

Both winners will receive a reimbursement of up to $5,000 to help them pursue their interests.

Mr Wong hopes to use the money to buy a new Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad costume, while Samuel will use the grant to pursue his Grade 6 piano assessment.

At yesterday's ceremony, held at Traders Hotel, $76,050 worth of bursaries were given out to 97 students with physical disabilities and students with parents who have physical disabilities.

Given yearly since 1985, the SPD Education Programme Bursary Award helps students from low- income families with study-related expenses. The SPD also announced a collaboration with non-profit organisation Spirit of Enterprise to drive entrepreneurship through activities such as workshops.

The programme, which starts in June and comprises six two-hour sessions, will help 15 to 20 students. Two SPD student beneficiaries will also participate in a camp conducted by Outward Bound Singapore later this year.

Yesterday's guest of honour Chan Heng Kee, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), shared his hopes for the disabled community.

They include improving support for the disabled at different life stages and progress for the MSF-established agency SG Enable into an "effective agency that helps enable persons with disabilities".

He added: "My third hope therefore is for even stronger partnerships among government, corporate, community and families... with each offering their resources and know-how to make Singapore a more inclusive society."