3 from ST's Generation Grit series share their stories of overcoming hardship

(From right) Ms Zulayqha Zulkifli, Mr Rayson Choo and Mr Wong Zi Heng, who were featured in The Straits Times' fortnightly column Generation Grit, told their stories to the staff at re-insurance company Swiss Re on Aug 8, 2019.
(From right) Ms Zulayqha Zulkifli, Mr Rayson Choo and Mr Wong Zi Heng, who were featured in The Straits Times' fortnightly column Generation Grit, told their stories to the staff at re-insurance company Swiss Re on Aug 8, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - After he became paralysed in a freak diving accident during his first year in university, Mr Wong Zi Heng, then 21, never wallowed in self-pity.

He persevered to become a secondary school teacher.

Mr Wong, now 27, and two other inspiring young people previously featured in The Straits Times' fortnightly column Generation Grit told their stories to the staff at re-insurance company Swiss Re on Thursday (Aug 8).

He shared the story of his journey with around a dozen staff, encouraging them to persevere through difficulties.

Mr Wong, who is one of the three winners of The Straits Times Generation Grit Award 2018, said he tries to focus on the positive things in life each day.

"I don't focus on my disability. I forget about the negative things in my life and think about things that I can do," he said.

"At the end of the day, we are all human. We all have our good and bad days."

Also sharing their stories at the session were psychiatric nurse Rayson Choo, 28, and social worker Zulayqha Zulkifli, 25, both featured in the Generation Grit series.

 
 
 

Mr Choo learnt at a young age that his mother suffered from schizophrenia. As a child, he struggled to understand her and her illness, and how it affected their family.

Now a psychiatric nurse at the Institute of Mental Health , he is determined to continue caring for his mother despite the challenges of looking after a mentally challenged person.

As for Ms Zulayqha, who is also a Generation Grit Award winner, her parents' divorce in 2010 left her and her three siblings homeless for months.

Yet she never gave up hope of a better life for her family. With the support of those around her, she made it through financial and emotional hardships, and now as a social work associate and grassroots volunteer, she is dedicated to helping others.

She said that in order to create a kinder society, people need to look out for themselves.

"We must first start with ourselves. We have to be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves to process our own emotions. We are all human after all."