SPH scholarships: From covering the coronavirus to paying it forward, recipients take on a changed world

Ms Adelena Oh (left), recipient of Lim Kim San Memorial Scholarship and Mr Wong Yang, recipient of SPH Journalism Scholarship. PHOTOS: SPH

SINGAPORE - Mr Wong Yang, one of two recipients of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) journalism scholarship this year, earned his stripes as a greenhorn journalist covering an unprecedented pandemic.

In his six months interning at The New Paper before he received the award which will finance his university studies, the 21-year-old did a series of stories on how domestic workers, migrant workers in dorms, as well as Malaysian workers were affected by Covid-19.

He said on Monday (July 27) before the scholarship ceremony that talking to those whose voices often go unheard cemented his belief that journalism is a force for social change and reinforced his determination to pursue it as a career.

"Being a journalist gives me the privilege of listening to people who may be on the margins of society and putting their perspectives on the page. It was important that we captured the issues they are facing so that Singaporeans may empathise and think about how we can treat them better," he said.

He will be reading Comparative Literature and Social Anthropology, a direct Master of Arts (Honours) course at the University of St Andrews in Scotland before returning to be a full-time journalist at SPH.

The other journalism scholar, Mr Osmond Chia - who also interned at The New Paper - will be taking his degree in Communication Studies at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The coronavirus was a constant theme at the virtual awards ceremony held on Monday, where three different types of scholarships were given out to 29 recipients.

Apart from the two journalism scholars, 14 in-house scholarships were given to children of SPH staff and newspaper vendors, and a further 13 Lim Kim San Memorial Scholarships given to students from modest family backgrounds.

One recipient of the Lim Kim San Memorial Scholarship, Ms Adelena Oh, said the pandemic caused economic hardship in her family and disrupted her plans of saving up enough money to teach English in Japan for a few years.

For now, the scholarship, which comes with no bond, will help her focus on her English undergraduate studies at NTU, without having to worry about whether she could afford getting through each semester.

It will also help edge her towards her life goal of giving those who need extra support a leg up, although she is still exploring her career options as to which will best fulfil this purpose.

She currently works part-time at a cafe that hires at-risk youths, and said she hopes to offer them friendship as her mentor once did her when she was a "rebellious and angsty teen".

"The award would help me immensely in working towards my long-term goal of using stories, various languages and digital media to empower youths from troubled backgrounds, unconventional family units and diverse cultures to reach their full potential," the 23-year-old said.

In his speech at the ceremony, chairman of SPH and SPH Foundation Lee Boon Yang said Covid-19 has disrupted the lives of both young and old and revealed the importance of credible media in people's lives.

"Media provides credible news and information to the community...More people are turning to trusted media sources for reliable information to cope with the uncertainties brought on by the coronavirus," Dr Lee said.

To the award recipients, Dr Lee added: "Despite the uncertainties that swirl around us currently, you should focus on your studies. Armed with a good education, your future will be bright and fruitful."

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