Cerebral palsy moves her to inspire others

Silent Heroes Award recipients Oh Siew May, Gemma Angela Fernandez and Atul Ramesh Deshpande after the ceremony at Shangri-La Hotel last night. They were lauded for their contributions to society.
Silent Heroes Award recipients Oh Siew May, Gemma Angela Fernandez and Atul Ramesh Deshpande after the ceremony at Shangri-La Hotel last night. They were lauded for their contributions to society.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Born with cerebral palsy, Ms Oh Siew May is prone to falling and has problems saying more than a few words at a time.

Yet, the 46-year-old shop assistant continues to give talks in schools, runs regularly and takes on rock climbing. She has even scaled Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu, a feat she accomplished in 2005.

To inspire others to make the most of their lives, just as she does, she penned an autobiography called Scaling Walls in 2009, and donates part of the earnings to charity.

She is among three recipients of this year's Silent Heroes Award, which applauds their contributions to society. The ceremony was held at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday.

Cerebral palsy is a condition that permanently affects muscular coordination and balance.

Said Ms Oh at the event: "As long as we have a life, we can create miracles with our love for others and live life to the fullest."

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, who presented the awards, thanked all winners past and present for their efforts in helping to build a Singapore that is defined not just by material wealth but also by a "bigness of heart... to do more for others, over and beyond what we do for ourselves".

Launched in 2014, the annual awards are organised by the Hillview Civilians Sports Club (HCSC). It recognises ordinary Singaporeans and permanent residents who quietly make a difference to families and communities, without seeking any reward.

This year's winners were selected from 38 nominees by four judges consisting of senior figures from the public and private sectors.

Another awardee is Mr Atul Ramesh Deshpande, 53, whose belief that yoga is a "service to mankind" has allowed over 51,000 people to learn yoga for free in Singapore since 1997. Those who have benefited include people suffering from ailments such as slipped discs, heart disorders, asthma and diabetes.

"I started teaching free of charge, and my students were inspired to do so too," said Mr Atul, a quality engineer and volunteer yoga instructor.

Over 350 of his former students have followed in his footsteps, offering free classes as instructors.

HCSC president M. P. Sellvem said: "We are all silent heroes in some unique way, doing our own fair bit in caring - for individuals, society and the environment... We hope that they (the winners) serve as both inspiration and motivation for each of us to make an impact on the community."

Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Cerebral palsy moves her to inspire others'. Print Edition | Subscribe