SINGAPORE: Thirteen people with disabilities were celebrated at the inaugural Goh Chok Tong (GCT) Enable Awards on Wednesday (Jul 3) in recognition of their achievements and potential.
The awards recognise the achievements of people across different disability types. It is an initiative by the Mediacorp Enable Fund, initiated by Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong in 2016 to bring about a “kinder and gentler Singapore.”
“Our vision is to change society’s perception of them, from seeing only their disabilities to recognising their abilities, promise and achievements,” said Mr Goh at the event.
“We should celebrate the accomplishments of persons with disabilities, and not only for the challenges they have overcome but also for who they are and what they have contributed to the country.”
The ages of the 13 recipients ranged from 14 to 82.
Three people were awarded the GCT Enable Award (UBS Achievement), which celebrates people with disabilities who have made significant achievements in their respective fields. They received S$10,000 each.
Michael Ngu, 62, was one of the awardees. Diagnosed with polio when he was five, Mr Ngu suffered permanent paralysis of both lower limbs.
Today, he is the president and CEO of Architects 61, an award-winning local architect firm, which helped design notable local buildings such as the AXA tower and Changi Airport Terminal 1.
He represented Singapore in hand cycling at the 2014 Asian Paralympic Games.
When asked about his feelings after receiving the award, Mr Ngu said he never thought he would receive an award like this.
Recalling his childhood in Kuching, Malaysia, Mr Ngu explained that he grew up with the stigma that disabled people are “essentially nobody”.
“This award, more than anything else I have achieved, is so much more meaningful,” he added.
“Because it means a lot, not just to me, but (it is) in recognition (of) a marked time when I think the disabled or the less fortunate may be inspired and encouraged.”
Former President of Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped Tan Guan Heng, 82, along with Paralympic athlete and youngest Nominated Member of Parliament Yip Pin Xiu, 27, were the other two award recipients in this category.
Ten people were recipients of the GCT Enable Award (UBS Promise), which recognises those who have displayed a high level of potential in a talent or skill. They each received S$5,000 to motivate them to reach greater heights.
When asked about what he would do with the money, competitive swimmer Wong Zhi Wei, 17, said: “I’ll use the money to support my sports career and save for my studies, because I plan to go to university.”
Zhi Wei, who is visually impaired, was Singapore’s first gold medalist at the Asia Youth Para Games 2017. He is currently chasing his dream of becoming a Paralympian and hopes to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
When asked about his message to others, he responded: “Dare to dream and dare to live.
“This award is a way to give us a voice, to give people with disabilities a voice and say, ‘we are here and we can do great things’.”
Social media influencer Fathima Zohra, 22, plans to use the award money to create awareness and speak up for a more inclusive society by producing advocacy videos for people with disabilities.
“I hope to record stories that need to be heard, and put it out to the public so that society is more aware of the challenges people with disabilities face, now that I have lived a life before my accident,” said the former model.
A traffic accident nearly killed Ms Fathima in 2017. She became paraplegic and was too weak to breathe, and doctors had to puncture her trachea to keep her alive.
“Society immediately sympathises or pities us, but what we require more is, I think, just encouragement. It makes a huge difference for anyone with a disability,” she said.
“This award is giving us a lot of power. Because with this, we are motivated to change the perception of society.”
Since its inception, the Mediacorp Enable Fund has supported 1,000 people with disabilities to enhance their employability and to pursue their aspirations. More than 7,000 Singaporeans have participated in its partners’ events to promote community inclusion for those with disabilities.
President Halimah Yacob, who graced the event, said that family members and caregivers are “an important group of people” who should be mentioned as well.
“I hope that with this new award, we will also continue to extend our utmost support to them, as they play a vital role in being pillars of support for their loved ones with disabilities,” added Mdm Halimah.
“I also hope that more caregivers can step forward to share their experiences and support each other.”
Mediacorp CEO Tham Loke Kheng said: “The awards recognise people in our community who overcome great challenges to achieve remarkable things and demonstrate that people with disabilities across different fields are driving change, progress and positivity.
“The awards are also an opportunity to celebrate the extended community of family members, carers and volunteers who support these achievers.”