The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2020: Nominees with extraordinary contributions

(From left) Madam Lim Ee Chin, Mr Cai Yinzhou and Mr Zulkifli Atnawi. ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH, KEVIN LIM, DESMOND

SINGAPORE - The first three nominees for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award this year all have one thing in common - a can-do attitude and a boundless desire to help anyone in need.

The first, 81-year-old retired factory worker Lim Ee Chin, leapt into action and helped put out a fire in her neighbour's flat.

The second nominee, social entrepreneur Cai Yinzhou, 30, co-founded a group to support migrant workers affected by circuit breaker measures.

The third nominee, retired cleaner Zulkifli Atnawi, 60, and the Project Hills initiative founded by his four children, provide outreach and financial help to rental flat residents affected by the pandemic.

The award, now into its sixth year, is supported by investment bank UBS Singapore. It recognises Singaporeans whose extraordinary actions improved someone's life or the larger community.

The award also recognises Singaporeans who have put the country on the world map or persevered to overcome great adversity.

The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, said: "In this very challenging year, all the more we need heroes to inspire us and lift spirits. The first three nominees this year do just that. They have risen to challenge in a crisis, extended a hand to help others in need and put the welfare of the community ahead of themselves."

"We will be on the lookout for more of them as we firm up the list of this year's nominees for Singaporean of the Year," he added. "We welcome all suggestions from Singaporeans."

Nominees must be Singapore citizens who made the news this year. They can be nominated either as individuals or a group. Nominations close on Dec 15 and the rest of the shortlisted candidates will be unveiled between now and December.

There will then be two weeks of public voting, and the outcome will be used as a reference by the judges to make a final decision on the winner in January.

President Halimah Yacob, who is the patron of the award, will be the guest of honour at the presentation ceremony in February.

Last year, the award went to Associate Professor Angie Chew, who started Brahm Centre in 2012 to provide free health education, other services like befriending, counselling and dementia-screening for frail and lonely seniors.

Previous recipients include Ms Siti Noor Mastura, who co-founded non-profit group Interfaith Youth Circle; HealthServe, which provides migrant workers with affordable healthcare, and its co-founder Goh Wei Leong; Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and his parents Colin and May; and Madam Noriza A. Mansor, a sales assistant who helped a senior who soiled himself in public.

The Singaporean of the Year will receive a trophy and $20,000, presented by UBS, which has supported the award since its inauguration. Other individuals or groups chosen as finalists by the panel of judges will receive $5,000 each.

The winner will also receive a five-night stay in any of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels' global properties, while the other finalists will get a three-night stay.

Singapore Airlines is also sponsoring a pair of business class tickets for the Singaporean of the Year, and a pair of economy class tickets for the other finalists.

A panel of judges comprising Straits Times editors, UBS representatives and individuals who have made their mark in various fields will help select and recommend deserving candidates before picking the Singaporean of the Year.

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