NTU accountancy student with muscular dystrophy wants to give free financial advice, services to the needy

Ms Zhu Jiahui says she wants to contribute to society by providing free financial and advisory services to the underprivileged.
Ms Zhu Jiahui says she wants to contribute to society by providing free financial and advisory services to the underprivileged.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - On the first day of an internship, a supervisor asked Ms Zhu Jiahui why she came to work despite having muscular dystrophy and troubled others with the task of taking care of her.

Ms Zhu, then 18, replied: "Why not? It's just a physical disability, not a mental one. It will not affect my performance at work."

Undeterred by the supervisor's comments, she worked harder to prove that she could perform a better job than the other interns.

Ms Zhu, 23, a final-year accountancy student at Nanyang Technological University, was two years old when she was diagnosed with a genetic disorder known as spinal muscular atrophy type 2.

The condition causes muscles to disintegrate over time and hinders limb movement.

She relies on a motorised wheelchair to get around and depends on her mother for help with daily activities like going to the toilet, bathing and getting dressed.

Ms Zhu was awarded the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities last Thursday (Oct 7).

Proud of her ability to remain optimistic, she said she is determined to make sure her disability does not stop her from doing things like studying and forging friendships.

For instance, she did not have an easy time learning English when she first arrived in Singapore from China at the age of 11, she said.

"One of my teachers told me that I was dragging down the average score of the class after I failed my English and science papers."

She missed a term at school because of a major spinal operation but Ms Zhu forced herself to speak English to all her classmates and did as many exercises as she could.

Her efforts paid off.

For the Primary School Leaving Examinations, she topped her class with a score of 240 and got a B for both English and science.

After graduation, Ms Zhu wants to become an accountant, and also contribute to society by providing free financial and advisory services to the underprivileged.

She also aims to continue doing her bit for people in the muscular dystrophy community, having been involved in the cause since she was in Secondary 3.

At the time, she and her friends recruited 76 students to chip in for flag day and raised more than $5,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore).

Ms Zhu, an only child, said: "As someone with muscular dystrophy, I can best relate to the difficulties faced by others with muscular dystrophy and the kind of help and encouragement that they need.

"I am very grateful my parents did not give up on me after I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy."