Generation Grit fan reads the stories for 'good start to his day'

Lawyer Michael Han can easily rattle off the names and stories of the 24 nominees of The Straits Times Generation Grit Award 2018.

The regular reader of The Straits Times has closely followed the paper's series about inspiring millennials for more than a year, and he still looks forward to reading it fortnightly, for a "good start to his day".

"In life, we're always chasing the materialistic things, but we all need something that goes above and beyond that to give meaning to our lives - these individuals give us hope to do so," said Mr Han, 49.

He frequently shares the articles with his wife and three children, and posts takeaways from the stories on Facebook.

Since the series' inception in December 2017, it has amassed a group of loyal fans, such as Mr Han, who have cheered on the young people featured in the column for helping to debunk the stereotype that millennials in their 20s and 30s are "strawberries" - soft, selfish and entitled.

About 3,000 readers have since voted for their favourite nominees for the inaugural The Straits Times Generation Grit Award, created to honour individuals who have inspired others with their resilience and grit. It will be presented by reinsurance company Swiss Re.

On May 6, three individuals selected by a panel of judges comprising Straits Times editors and Swiss Re representatives will receive a cash gift of $5,000 each. Readers' votes will also be taken into consideration during judging.

But, for Mr Han, all those featured in the series should be celebrated for triumphing over their hardships.

"When I read about how they've overcome homelessness, disfigurement and disabilities... I just find them incredible," said Mr Han, citing many of those featured, including Ms Diana Goh, 28, a teacher with heart problems who accidentally found out that she was adopted.

In a Facebook post Mr Han shared with his friends, he said: "Some of them have made bad choices. Some are born with bad genes. And others are thrown into bad circumstances from the get-go.

"But they are tough, not just because they lived through tough times. It is also because they make tough choices of never giving up and believing in themselves... They have embraced and transformed fear and doubts, instead of being consumed by them."

Apart from Mr Han, other fans have written to the journalists contributing to the series to express their support for the featured individuals and to offer help.

After a story about Mr Lim Bo Zhi, 24, who witnessed the death of his parents, a reader wrote in, asking if she could help him out, while another asked to convey her best wishes to the orphan.

Ms Theresa Tan, The Straits Times' senior social affairs correspondent, has also received e-mails from teachers who told her they are using the stories to motivate and inspire their students.

A principal told her he had compiled the stories to distribute them to students with disciplinary issues, in the hope of inspiring them.

She said: "I think the stories have touched a chord in many readers."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2019, with the headline Generation Grit fan reads the stories for 'good start to his day'. Subscribe