13 people with disabilities win Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards for their achievements

Mr Kishon Chong was among 13 recipients of the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards, which recognises the achievements of people with disabilities. PHOTO: MEDIACORP.COM.SG

SINGAPORE - At 26, Mr Kishon Chong was living out his dreams as a chef with Singapore hospitality chain The Lo and Behold Group, which owns popular restaurants such as Tanjong Beach Club, The Loof and OverEasy.

But like the flip of a switch, and without warning, Mr Chong's world came crashing down in 2018.

"I woke up that morning feeling fine. But then I started feeling numbness and that gradually got worse, and after an hour, I eventually lost control and sensation in the lower half of my body," said Mr Chong, who was a chef with Clan Cafe at the time.

He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and after nearly three weeks of investigative tests, a specialist doctor told him that he had suffered a spinal cord stroke, leaving him permanently paralysed from the waist down.

"It hit me hard when the doctor told me that I would have to find a new line of work. Since I was young, I have wanted to be a chef. I loved being in the kitchen," said Mr Chong, now 29.

More than two years on, he has powered though several challenges because of his disability, and has now found passion in improving the lives of people with disabilities in his role as a customer experience inclusivity officer with public bus operator Tower Transit.

"With my job, I can help other people with disabilities, both directly and indirectly. I want to serve as a bridge for people with disabilities as well as people who want to learn to be more inclusive," he said.

"Self-doubt will always be present, especially when tackling the unknown or when trying out a new idea. But I have always believed in pushing forward and trying, instead of regretting and thinking of the 'what-ifs'."

The aspiring para-powerlifter was among 13 recipients of the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards, which recognise the achievements of people with disabilities.

The award, an initiative by the Mediacorp Enable Fund, is now in its third year and sponsored by UBS Singapore and the Tote Board.

A ceremony was held on Friday (Dec 3) at the Istana, where President Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour. Also present was the fund's patron, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, and Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education Sun Xueling.

In her speech, Madam Halimah said: "Today's recipients have shown us that there are no boundaries to what persons with disabilities can achieve. As a society, we can do more to support persons with disabilities in their integration into the wider community by removing prejudices and assumptions of their limitations."

Similarly, Mr Goh urged Singaporeans to motivate and support people with disabilities. He said: "We want a society where persons with disabilities are fully integrated in the community and in the workplace."

One of the UBS Achievement Award recipient was Mr Lim Chin Heng, 71, a pioneer in education for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Singapore.

PHOTO: MEDIACORP.COM.SG

Mr Lim, who is deaf, studied in the United States, earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1975 from Gallaudet University, and later obtained a Master of Education of the Hearing Impaired. The Washington-based school is a private federally chartered research university for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"This award is a bonus for my life's work, but more importantly, it is dedicated to the teachers who have worked tirelessly to teach deaf children, through the implementation of total communication, which combines the use of sign language and speech," said Mr Lim, a maths resource teacher at Beatty Secondary School.

Among the recipients of the UBS Promise Award was Ms Joan Hung, a 25-year-old goalball enthusiast. Ms Hung, who is visually impaired, plays for the Singapore goalball national team and was the top scorer of a tournament in Malaysia in 2018.

PHOTO: MEDIACORP.COM.SG

For Ms Hung, the award signals that she is taking her life in the right direction.

"I see it as an indicator that I am heading in a direction with more possibilities and an opportunity to equip myself with more skills and tools which will further enable me to help others too."

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