SINGAPORE - "You are a bad kid and a parasite of our society!" Those were the words a discipline master once said to then 13-year-old Ang Pei Pei. Those words cut her deep and pushed her further into a dark abyss. "I felt embarrassed when he said that in front of a large audience. So I decided that if you label me as a bad kid, then I shall truly behave like one!"
Pei Pei started talking back to teachers, broke school rules deliberately and played truant. Looking back, the 17-year-old confesses that she was truly a rebellious kid then. "I was once late 9 times within a term and was suspended from school."
The rebellious teen also has a troubled past. Her parents divorced when she was young and all four children stayed with their mother, but Pei Pei is not at all on good terms with her mother. Having to work long hours to make ends meet, her mother barely has time to pay attention to Pei Pei's silent screams for help.
"These kids are not bad by nature," explains Miss Lim Jia En, a social worker from Students Care Service (SCS). "They are simply misunderstood and wrongly labelled by society. Scolding them does not help. Only through understanding and concern can they be pulled back from wrong influences."
Pei Pei's rebellious stunts landed her in SCS in Secondary 2. It was while in SCS that the teen found her passion and purpose in life through photography.
"I will never forget the first time I held a camera at an SCS event," recalls Pei Pei. "After the event, I felt very relaxed. I discovered that I like to capture and retain memories through photography. This gives me a sense of satisfaction."
SCS senior social worker, Miss Ong Jie Wen, marvels at the teen's transformation. "When Pei Pei first arrived at the centre, she was very defensive... After she picked up photography, Pei Pei became more patient, responsible and confident."
Pei Pei eventually became the president of the photography team at Hey Belle - an SCS-initiated club that encourages teenage girls to be more confident through picking up life skills and developing their passion.
In addition, Pei Pei met a life-changing mentor, Mr Lim Jit Chong, when she was in Sec 3. "He told me that I cannot let people put me down just because I am from the normal technical stream. That inspired me to change my attitude."
Mr Lim further encouraged her to not give up. "Among 40 students in my class, I usually ranked around the 25th. Nonetheless, Mr Lim continued to encourage me. He told me I have the potential to be among the top 10 in class. That shocked me but also motivated me to strive harder."
Pei Pei lived up to his expectations and subsequently stayed in the top 10 for two years.
Photography inspires Pei Pei to find focus in life. She hopes to receive formal photography training and develop her skills, so that she can prove to others that she is not a failure.
Host Ken Low arranges for her to learn from Long, one of the most experienced and professional photographers from Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao. From setting aperture and adjusting shutter speed on the camera, to composing and framing shots, Long imparts technical knowledge to the photo enthusiast.
"I think Pei Pei is very talented. She has improved immensely, going from zero knowledge to grasping basic concepts within such a short amount of time. She is very enthusiastic when it comes to photography and I am very happy to be able to share some tips with someone who is so keen to learn," Long comments at the end of the session.
Now, it is time for Pei Pei to showcase her talent. Watch the video to find out what moves her to tears during her shoot.
For more stories on "Live Your Dream", please visit: www.zaobao.com/zvideos/live-your-dream
About "Live Your Dream"
"Live Your Dream"（完成一个梦） is one of 10 SPH-produced short-form digital video series as part of a pilot Public Service Broadcast initiative. In this 13-episode series, host Ken Low Yong Kian (Digital Content Producer, Chinese Media Group Digital) will try his best to fulfil people's dreams no matter how challenging it may be. All episodes come with English subtitles.
This series is also available on zaobao.sg website, as well as the mobile app.