Mary on the move

Image shows beneficiary Mary Sagaya travelling on her motorised wheelchair, which she purchased with aid from the Goh Chok Tong Enable Fund (GCTEF)

Mary Sagaya travelling on her motorised wheelchair, which she purchased with aid from the Goh Chok Tong Enable Fund (GCTEF)

Weekends are always busy for 41-year-old Executive Assistant, Mary Sagaya; like most, she spends quality time with her family either visiting various parks or going shopping. It has been six years since Mary purchased her motorised wheelchair with aid from the Goh Chok Tong Enable Fund (GCTEF), which Mary shared, has allowed her to once again travel independently.


A life full of challenges

At birth, Mary was diagnosed with Congenital Band Syndrome, a condition where tissue bands form around fingers or limbs, affecting the blood flow and growth of the joints. For Mary specifically, the syndrome caused deformation in her fingers and legs.

As a student, Mary attended a mainstream school but recalled the tough journey she underwent. “They (the other students) would tease me, call me alien and all sorts of other names,” Mary shared with a wry laugh.

However, that was the least of Mary’s concerns. Up till the age of 18, Mary had to undergo multiple operations to straighten her bent legs. Unfortunately, a nerve was severed from Mary’s last surgery, which cost her the ability to walk. Despite the setback, Mary and her family took this in their stride. Mary explained, “All my life I was constantly in pain but now, because I lost all sensation in my legs, there was no more pain.”

But that was not the last hurdle Mary had to overcome. Due to the loss of feeling in her legs, Mary was unaware when she had badly gashed the sole of her left foot on a piece of glass. The severe injury led to gangrene, leaving doctors with no choice but to amputate her left leg below the knee. Following the amputation in 2001, Mary tried adapting to life with a prosthetic leg but further complications resulted in Mary having to undergo another procedure to further amputate her left leg, this time above her knee.


The tough gets going

In the early days of adjusting to her decreased mobility, Mary refused to rely on a wheelchair to get around. She tried giving crutches a go, but found that it was too physically demanding. She became reluctant to go out despite constant encouragement from her mother.

Now, after six years of using a motorised wheelchair, Mary chuckles at her initial reluctance. “I have freedom!” Mary exclaims ecstatically while explaining her commutes on the public transport system including buses and MRT trains.

Image shows beneficiary Mary Sagaya commuting on the public transport system

Mary commuting on the public transport system

Today, Mary commutes daily from her home in Bukit Panjang to her parent’s place in Choa Chu Kang to care for her ailing mother. Seasoned with the use of her motorised wheelchair, Mary accompanies her mother and sister for medical appointments and sends her nephew and nieces for their tuition classes.


A new-found confidence

Mary attributes her new-found confidence to her supportive workplace, Chapman Consulting Group Pte Ltd, and encouraging colleagues who are fellow wheelchair users. Mary is also grateful to the Handicaps Welfare Association for directing her to the GCTEF, which promptly assisted Mary in purchasing her motorised wheelchair. “I have to use the H word, handicapped. Really! Without it, my daily living activities would be limited.”

Image show beneficiary Mary Sagaya with her motorised wheelchair traveling confidently on her own

With her motorised wheelchair, Mary is once again able to travel confidently on her own


Taking all the obstacles she has faced in her stride, Mary is now a highly positive and confident individual.

Mary is one of over 1,000 persons with disabilities who have had their aspirations and needs met through the GCTEF. Since its inception in 2016, the GCTEF has improved the employability of another 1,000 and reached over 40,000 Singaporeans in promoting social inclusivity.