Meet the extraordinary S'poreans who are up for ST award

Nominees (clockwise from top left) Ms Lynn Wong, Mr Sakthibalan Balathandautham and Mr John Cheng. ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN, DESMOND WEE, ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Three unique individuals who have made a difference in various ways - saving an ill one-year-old baby, supporting the growth of local food start-ups, and boosting interest in Chinese culture and heritage - make up this year's first batch of nominees for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award, presented by investment bank UBS.

The award, now in its seventh year, recognises Singaporeans whose extraordinary actions improved someone's life or the larger community.

It also recognises Singaporeans who have put the country on the map or persevered to overcome great adversity.

The first three nominees include Mr Sakthibalan Balathandautham, 28, who selflessly donated part of his liver to a then one-year-old baby he did not know.

Another nominee is Ms Lynn Wong, 32, a defender of Chinese heritage and culture here, with her efforts to rejuvenate interest in Chinese culture among the youth.

The last nominee is Mr John Cheng, 39, who is dedicating his time to helping local food start-ups and promoting food innovation and sustainability.

ST editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/ Malay/Tamil Media Group, said: "Every year, my colleagues and I keep a lookout for stories of people within our community who do things which inspire us all.

"They think and act beyond themselves, show courage and grit, or take on challenges and reach new heights that bring credit to Singapore.

"This award aims to celebrate their efforts. We are still looking for more nominees for this year's award, and welcome all suggestions from our readers."

Nominees must be Singapore citizens who made the news this year. They can be nominated either as individuals or a group.

Nominations close on Dec 15 and the rest of the shortlisted candidates will be unveiled between now and December.

There will then be two weeks of public voting, and the outcome will be used as a reference by the judges to make a final decision on the winner in January.

President Halimah Yacob, who is the patron of the award, will be the guest of honour at the presentation ceremony in February.

Last year, the award went to the front-line fighters against Covid-19 for their tireless efforts to keep Singaporeans safe amid the pandemic.

Previous recipients include Associate Professor Angie Chew, who started Brahm Centre to provide free health education; Ms Siti Noor Mastura, who co-founded non-profit group Interfaith Youth Circle; and HealthServe, which provides migrant workers with affordable healthcare, and its co-founder Goh Wei Leong.

SPH Brightcove Video
Mr John Cheng's work in helping local businesses and his passion and efforts in food innovation and sustainability that has earned him a nomination for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2021, which is presented by UBS.

Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and his parents Colin and May, and Madam Noriza A. Mansor, a sales assistant who helped a senior who soiled himself in public, were also previous awardees.

The Singaporean of the Year will receive a trophy and $20,000, presented by UBS, which has supported the award since its inauguration. Other individuals or groups chosen as finalists by the panel of judges will receive $5,000 each.

SPH Brightcove Video
A skilled lion dancer and martial arts practitioner, Ms Lynn Wong decided to cut short her PhD in business to pursue her passion of preserving Chinese culture and heritage for future generations.

The top award recipient will also receive a five-night stay in any of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels' global properties, while the other finalists will get a three-night stay.

Singapore Airlines is also sponsoring a pair of business class tickets for the Singaporean of the Year, and economy class tickets for the other finalists.

A panel of judges comprising ST editors, UBS representatives and individuals who have made their mark in various fields will help select and recommend deserving candidates before picking the Singaporean of the Year.

SPH Brightcove Video
Despite having no connection to her family, Mr Sakthibalan Balathandautham stepped up to give a new lease of life to young Rheya. For his selfless act, Mr Sakthibalan is nominated for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2021.

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