Sinda award winner's triumph over adversity

Among those receiving Sinda's Excellence Award yesterday were (from left) Mr Suraendher Kumarr, 25, Ms Angelyn Puspa-Nathan, 21, and Mr Mohamed Nizar Bathushaa Mohamed Hanifah, 24. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Among those receiving Sinda's Excellence Award yesterday were (from left) Mr Suraendher Kumarr, 25, Ms Angelyn Puspa-Nathan, 21, and Mr Mohamed Nizar Bathushaa Mohamed Hanifah, 24. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

He excels academically despite 'insecure, precarious' childhood

When he was growing up, his family of six moved from one rental flat to another, and never had a permanent place to call home.

His mother was the sole breadwinner of the family, working as a shipyard apprentice. His parents divorced when he was five years old.

But domestic struggles spurred Mr Suraendher Kumarr to study hard so that he could one day give his family a better life.

"It was a very insecure and precarious position to be in, not knowing where you (would) sleep the next day," he said.

Despite the obstacles, Mr Suraendher excelled academically and earned several education bursaries, which helped to ease the financial burden at home.

The 25-year-old was speaking as the valedictorian among a record 517 students who were presented with the Singapore Indian Development Association's (Sinda) Excellence Award at Singapore Polytechnic yesterday.

The award is given to students from primary to tertiary level who excel in their studies or in other areas such as sports and the arts.

Mr Suraendher, who graduated with first class honours in political science from the National University of Singapore this year, now works as a research analyst at a corporate investigations firm.

His family also now have a home to call their own.

 
 

As a university student, he interned at a migrant labour non-governmental organisation, where he was inspired by his interactions with South Asian migrant workers in Singapore.

While he is not working directly with migrant workers in his current job, he hopes to advocate for measures to help them and prevent exploitation of migrant labour in future.

The awards were presented by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat; Sinda chairman, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam; and Sinda president, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, yesterday.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said the experiences of Mr Suraendher and the other recipients demonstrate the power of education to transform lives.

"Individually, it empowers people to rise above difficult circumstances, and secure a better future for themselves and their loved ones," he said. "Collectively, it ensures our society remains open, where people succeed based on their hard work and talent, not because of their family background."

Another award recipient, Ms Angelyn Puspa-Nathan, 21, who graduated from Republic Polytechnic earlier this year, hopes to help people dealing with health and body image issues, as well as contribute to the community of people with disabilities.

She starts work in two weeks' time as a patient navigator, a job in which she will handle patients' aftercare needs.

Having dealt with obesity when she was younger, she wants to help those struggling with body image issues.

"I want to help others with the mental work... especially bullying. I remember the impact, the words they said, even though I'm over it now. Some people still (struggle) with that... it's really not easy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 29, 2019, with the headline 'Sinda award winner's triumph over adversity'. Print Edition | Subscribe