True grit: The mentors and role models in the lives of Generation Grit

The writers behind the Generation Grit series, (from left) Cara Wong, Theresa Tan, Vanessa Liu, Goh Yan Han and Tan Tam Mei, in a photo taken last month before strict social distancing measures kicked in. Their stories feature a total of 21 millennia
The writers behind the Generation Grit series, (from left) Cara Wong, Theresa Tan, Vanessa Liu, Goh Yan Han and Tan Tam Mei, in a photo taken last month before strict social distancing measures kicked in. Their stories feature a total of 21 millennials who are in the running for The Straits Times Generation Grit Award 2019.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

A total of 21 millennials are in the running for The Straits Times Generation Grit Award 2019, which celebrates their remarkable courage, resilience and service to the community. Three winners will be picked and, until April 12, readers can vote for the one who most inspired them at https://str.sg/STGGA19. Writers from the Generation Grit team share their experiences doing the series.

Sometimes, as cliched as it sounds, all it takes is one person to change the course of another's life.

In the two years since I started the Generation Grit series, I have been amazed by the courage, resilience and desire to help others shown by the millennials I have interviewed for the fortnightly series.

Some have had to cope with life-changing illnesses or devastating disabilities; others had to deal with deadbeat parents who gave them woe after woe to contend with.

But what stood out, besides their grit and grace in dealing with life's blows, was how many of these individuals also had someone who played a positive role in their lives.

That someone could be an extended family member, a friend, a teacher or a social worker.

Take, for example, Miss Law Mei Ting, 26, who was molested repeatedly by her mother's boyfriend when she was just three years old.

She has never met her father.

After years of struggling with shame and anger, the brave undergraduate is ready to talk about her past - hoping to encourage those who were abused so that they, too, can emerge from the shadows.

It was Miss Law's maternal aunt who made all the difference.

A former pre-school teacher, her aunt reported the abuse to the police and brought Miss Law back to her own home to care for her - until today, more than 20 years later.

Miss Law said her aunt is friend, mother and father all rolled into one, and, at times, a counsellor to her too.

Then, there is Mr Lim Wei Wen, 35, a former gangster whose life was changed for good by his fencing coach, the late Alexey Karpov.

 

The Russian coach so believed in Mr Lim's potential that he trained him every day for a year - for free.

Mr Lim was raised by his grandparents. Growing up, his dad was in jail and his mum abandoned him to flee from the loan sharks hounding her over gambling debts.

Mr Lim, who in 2014 won Singapore's first medal in fencing in the Asian Games, said: "People have been judging me my whole life, but coach believed in me. He made me believe that with passion and love, everything is possible.

"My life truly changed because he gave me hope."

 
 

People like Miss Law and Mr Lim may not have had a good start in life, but that did not stop them from fulfilling their potential - thanks to the love and support of the good Samaritans in their lives.

Their life stories give me hope and cheer that there are an untold number of unsung heroes out there making the world a better place.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2020, with the headline 'True grit'. Print Edition | Subscribe