Rare disorder can't stop her from achieving her dream

Temasek Polytechnic (TP) student Cheng Ewe-Hsuen has a rare disorder that affects her heart and other organs, and has caused her to lose her sight in her right eye and most of her left eye.

But she is not letting that stop her from achieving her dream of one day becoming a lawyer and helping people as a way of giving back to society and returning the kindness she has received.

"I hope to be able to make a difference, big or small, in the lives of others," she said.

Inspired by her father, who is a lawyer, and her sister, who took the same course previously, the 17-year-old is now in the first year of a law and management diploma course.

Early in her life, Ewe-Hsuen was diagnosed with Loeys-Dietz syndrome, a rare disorder that affects the connective tissue in the body.

Despite her passion for her chosen subject, she worries about how her condition would affect her job opportunities in the future.

"Due to my eye condition, I do things slower than others. I don't know how employers will understand my condition and if there will be any accommodations put in place to aid me in my work," she said.

Ewe-Hsuen, along with 59 other students with disabilities from local polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), participated in a programme to explore jobs and careers in sectors beyond their areas of study.

The talent explorer programme, which ran for four weeks from Sept 13 to Oct 6, provided students with disabilities the opportunity to speak with industry professionals and learn the fundamentals of job skills in high-demand sectors in Singapore. The sectors included digital marketing, data analytics and sustainability.

The programme was organised by TP and Sumitomo Life Insurance, in partnership with local social enterprise Hide & Seek. The Japanese insurance firm has a corporate initiative called TomoWork that aims to improve the quality of life of marginalised communities.

TP and Sumitomo Life had collaborated earlier this year on an 11-week upskilling programme for graduating students and alumni with disabilities.

Mr Toru Shiomitsu, managing executive officer of Sumitomo Life, said: "We saw great outcomes from our first programme, and we are deepening our collaboration with Temasek Polytechnic to create an exceptional career explorer programme for the persons with disabilities community in Singapore."

TP principal and chief executive Peter Lam said: "This talent explorer programme, which is curated to allow participants to explore their interest in 'jobs of the future', definitely widens the horizons of these students and allows them to ride the wave of digital transformation with confidence."

The scheme also aimed to build a more inclusive society by engaging multiple stakeholders to support young talent development.

As part of the talent explorer programme, LinkedIn offered an overview of high-demand sectors and jobs in Singapore, and companies such as Microsoft and Google provided participants with skills training, mentoring sessions and career talks.

Students could choose to focus on either digital marketing, data analytics, sustainability or talent management.

The programme helped participants align themselves with emerging professions so that they can adjust their skill sets to secure job opportunities.

ITE College Central broadcast and media technology student Gareth Chua Teng Howe, 22, chose the data analytics track as it was related to his studies.

Mr Chua, who has autism, said of the programme: "It was a good experience and I got to meet other special needs students from other schools. I made some great friends."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2021, with the headline 'Rare disorder can't stop her from achieving her dream'. Subscribe