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Inspirational stories that touched many in 2017

The year 2017 has seen its share of inspirational and heartwarming stories that have touched The Straits Times readers.
The year 2017 has seen its share of inspirational and heartwarming stories that have touched The Straits Times readers.PHOTOS: ST FILE, INSTAGRAM/CHUANDO TAN

Stories that speak about starting afresh, overcoming challenges and the unbreakable human spirit always strike a chord. This year, too, has seen its share of such stories that have touched readers. Here is a look at the inspirational and heartwarming tales that trended on the ST social media and video platforms in 2017.

A GIFT OF LIFE, IN DEATH


Mr Mark Kok Wah and his wife, Ms Ariess Tan, meeting Ms Serene Lee (centre), whose heart once belonged to their daughter, an 18-year-old nursing student Carmen Mark. PHOTO: ST FILE

It was some 30 seconds long, but the recording of their daughter's beating heart was enough to bring her parents, Malaysian Mark Kok Wah and his wife Ariess Tan, to tears.

Their daughter, Carmen Mark, an 18-year-old nursing student, had died in Singapore from an arterial rupture in her brain two years ago.

After her death, Carmen's parents gave their consent for their daughter's heart, liver, kidney and pancreas to be donated to four patients - something she had wanted. And so, Carmen's heart lived on in a stranger they had yet to come to know - Singaporean Serene Lee, 37, who was suffering from heart failure at that time.

In August, Ms Lee got in touch with Mr Mark after reading his Facebook post about wanting to hear his daughter's heartbeat again. They arranged to meet for the first time in Penang, where Carmen's parents live.

Emotions ran high at the meeting. Ms Tan and Ms Lee rushed to hug each other, sobbing during the minute-long embrace. It was a poignant moment that deeply moved many readers as much as the people involved.

While most donors remain anonymous, the video documenting Ms Lee's journey to meet the parents of her donor highlighted the benefits of organ donation.


GRANNY DELIVERS FOOD ON FOOT


UberEats “walker” Teo Yoke Lan, 70, charms viewers of a video clip with her youthful looks, witty personality and funky sense of style. PHOTO: ST FILE

She may be 70 years old, but Madam Teo Yoke Lan proves age is just a number.

As a "walker" for UberEats, the food delivery arm of ride-hailing service Uber, Madam Teo clocks between six and 11 hours of work, or six to 12 trips, every day, delivering to office workers in the Central Business District.

The grandmother of two earns $1,000 to $1,500 a month, and her four children are supportive of her job. While the minimum age to be a walker is 18 years old, there is no upper age limit to deliver food for UberEats.

In the 3 1/2-minute video, Madam Teo charms viewers with her youthful looks, witty personality and funky sense of style.

Many readers commented that they respected her positive attitude and were impressed by how she had familiarised herself with technology and her zeal for keeping active by working.


PAINTING HIS WAY TO THE TOP


Mr Mani Malaichamy (in blue) progressed from painting condominiums to becoming boss of his own painting business. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

If anyone can turn rags into riches, it is Mr Mani Malaichamy, who began his story in Singapore 20 years ago as a penniless migrant worker from India.

With his hard work and perseverance, and encouragement from an employer who believed in him, Mr Mani, 47, progressed from painting condominiums to being boss of his own company.

When he started as a painter, Mr Mani earned only $18 a day, and owed $4,000 to his brother-in-law for the agency fees he paid to work in Singapore.

But in less than a year, he paid back the money he owed by working at least 11 hours a day and seven days a week.

Today, Mr Mani lives in a $1.2 million condo unit in Pasir Ris with his family, and is a permanent resident.

His success story inspired many readers, who applauded him for his positive attitude in life.


SURVIVING A PAINFUL LOSS


Ms Wee Mei-Yi with a portrait of her daughter, Zoe, whom she lost, along with husband Choi Chi Man, when AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed in 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

After losing her husband and daughter in the AirAsia plane crash in 2014, Ms Wee Mei-Yi could not see beyond a day.

Closure was even more difficult, when the body of Mr Choi Chi Man, 48,was not found until more than a month later, while that of their two-year-old daughter, Zoe, was never recovered.

Ms Wee was shattered by the heartbreaking news, but with her then five-year-old son still by her side, she was determined to remain strong.

It was only this year, three years after the tragedy, that she decided to speak up for the first time about her loss, in the hope that sharing her story will help others who are also coping with grief.

Her immense resilience in picking up the pieces after their deaths inspired many readers, who expressed not just sympathy, but also their admiration for her strength.


REUNION WITHOUT BARRIERS


A 40-year-old inmate serving a seven-year sentence was able to touch his three-year-old son for the first time at a Children’s Day event. PHOTO: ST FILE

You could barely make out their faces in the photographs, but that didn't make the sight of inmates embracing their family members any less heartwarming.

Some 24 inmates at Tanah Merah Prison were allowed to meet their loved ones without a glass panel separating them as part of Children's Day celebrations this year. One 40-year-old inmate, serving a seven-year sentence for drug offences, was able to touch his three-year-old son for the first time.

The aim was to enable the inmates to reconnect and reconcile with their families, giving them the support they need to prevent them from reoffending.

The photos struck a chord with many users on Facebook, who encouraged the inmates to use the opportunity to find the resolve to turn over a new leaf.


OVERCOMING LIFE'S ODDS


Mr Jason Chee overcame the odds to win his first individual table tennis gold medal at the Asean Para Games. PHOTO: FOO TEE FOK/ SPORT SINGAPORE

Paralympian Jason Chee had already lost both his legs, left arm and three fingers on his right hand in a naval mishap in 2012.

But earlier this year, he was dealt another blow when he was diagnosed with choroidal melanoma, a cancer of the eye.

Three weeks after he underwent surgery to remove the tumour in his right eye, he found himself routinely missing the ball during training due to the loss of his depth of perception.

Yet the navy serviceman proved his indomitable spirit when he won his first individual table tennis gold medal at the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur in September.

"Warrior", "true champion" and "hero" were just some of the words used by readers to describe the 34-year-old's incredible resilience and mental fortitude.


HOW DOES HE KEEP HIS LOOKS?


Chuando Tan. PHOTO: CHUANDO

He may be 51 years old, but fashion photographer Chuando Tan looks nothing like it.

Photos of the Singaporean's chiselled abs and youthful good looks went viral on social media in July, with some international publications comparing him with the fictional character Dorian Gray.

His secret? He eats a healthy diet comprising eggs, chicken and fish in soup, avoids coffee and tea, and drinks lots of water.

Exercise may have played a part too, but he told executive editor Sumiko Tan in an interview that his, lean body is mostly thanks to watching what he eats.

While many readers, particularly women, were impressed by his boyish looks and fitness, some were inspired by his strict lifestyle and food choices.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 24, 2017, with the headline 'Inspirational stories that touched many in 2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe