Singapore, 3 July 2019 – 13 individuals with disabilities were recognised today with the inaugural Goh Chok Tong (GCT) Enable Awards for their exceptional achievements and bright potential in their respective fields. The ceremony was graced by President Halimah Yacob and attended by Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong.
The Awards is an initiative under the Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) and is supported by the Singapore Totalisator Board (Tote Board) as the Founding Sponsor and UBS Singapore as the Principal Sponsor.
ESM Goh, who is also the patron of MEF, said, “The Achievement and Promise awards are to celebrate the accomplishments of persons with disabilities, not only for the challenges they have overcome, but also for who they are and what they can contribute to Singapore if we maximise their potential.”
President Halimah added, “Together, we can build a more caring and inclusive society, where persons with disabilities are recognised and empowered to contribute actively to our society.”
High quality nominations
A total of 61 nominations were received for the GCT Enable Award (UBS Achievement) and 86 nominations for the GCT Enable Award (UBS Promise).
Associate Professor Wong Meng Ee, Chairman of the GCT Enable Awards Evaluation Panel, remarked, “The number of quality applications we have received for the Awards testify to the capability of persons with disabilities. It was a challenge to arrive at the most deserving, and those who were not selected have also demonstrated impressive credentials. I hope we can see even more applications in the years to come and inspire more persons with disabilities to excel in their areas of expertise.”
Celebrating contributions of three Achievement Awardees
Three exceptional persons with disabilities living extraordinary lives shone through amongst the applications and were selected as recipients of the Achievement awards:
(in alphabetical order)
Mr Michael Ngu, 62
At the age of 5, Michael Ngu contracted poliomyelitis and became permanently paralysed. But this traumatic event did not stop him from rising to the top. He excelled academically; professionally, he shone at top architectural firms, eventually becoming the President and CEO of leading Singapore architecture firm, Architects 61. He represented Singapore at the Asian Paralympic Games 2014 in hand cycling, and more recently, raised funds for a local charity by hand cycling an epic 1,600 km through the UK.
Mr Tan Guan Heng, 82
Mr Tan is a familiar face in the social sector, having dedicated most of his life to championing for the visually impaired. Most notably, he was the first visually impaired President of the Singapore Association for the Blind (now known as Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped) from 1975 to 1980, and also served as its President from 2006 to 2012. Mr Tan, who lost his sight through retinal detachment in both eyes while he was studying in university, has also authored several books, one of which, The People's Verdict, was recently transcribed into braille, while another, My Love is Blind, was adapted into a musical.
Ms Yip Pin Xiu, 27
Even as a youngster, Ms Yip Pin Xiu stood out for her grit, determination and high expectations of herself. Born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurological condition, she started competitive swimming at age 12, and just 4 years later, at age 16, she clinched the first Paralympic gold medal for Singapore. More sporting success followed, including two Paralympic gold medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, a prestigious best athlete award from the World Para Series; and at age 26, Ms Yip has made history again as the youngest person to be appointed as a Nominated Member of Parliament.
Each of the Achievement award winners will receive S$10,000. In addition, to recognise the contributing role of nominating organisations in their success journey, Musical Theatre Ltd and the Singapore Disability Sports Council, which nominated Mr Tan and Ms Yip respectively, will receive S$5,000 each.
“The recipients of the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards send a strong message that persons with disabilities have ambitions and goals, and the determination and courage to achieve them. These Awards, we hope, will be a catalyst for Singaporeans to look at persons with disabilities in an even more positive light and come forward to support their endeavours,” said Ku Geok Boon, CEO of SG Enable, the fund administrator for MEF.
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.”
Recognising individuals with promise in their respective fields
In a separate category, 10 individuals who have displayed a high level of potential in a talent or skill were presented with the GCT Enable Award (UBS Promise), which comes with a S$5,000 cash award to motivate them to reach greater heights.
They are (in no particular order):
· Chen Ziyue, 33, a deaf illustrator whose art has graced various published works in Singapore and abroad, and Chalmers Wong, 14, who is believed to be Singapore’s one and only special needs sand artist
· Joshua German, 22, a budding pianist with autism who plays the piano by ear
· Visually impaired musician Stephanie Ow, 23, a professional erhu player
· Timothy Lee, a 19-year old with Down Syndrome who plays a lead character in Mediacorp Channel 5's long form TV series, KIN
· Toh Wei Soong, 20, with physical disability and visually impaired Wong Zhi Wei, 17, who have done Singapore proud on the international swimming stage
· Adelia Naomi Yokoyama, 20, who clinched a bowling gold medal at Deaflympics 2017
· Muhammad Haikal Bin Johari, 42, an executive chef who went on to guide ‘Alma by Juan Amador’ to Michelin-star success, and Fathima Zohra, 22, who uses her videography skills to tell the stories of persons with disabilities – both are traffic accident survivors with acquired disability.
Speaking about the Awards, Fong Yong Kian, Chief Executive, Tote Board said, “Tote Board is proud to be a sponsor for the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards as it signifies our progress towards a more inclusive and caring Singapore, to look beyond disabilities and recognise the special ability in all of us. We hope the Awards will inspire many to strive for their best and achieve their fullest potential in life.”
Edmund Koh, President of Asia Pacific, UBS, added, "UBS Singapore has consistently believed in developing the potential of youths, whatever their abilities, by investing, nurturing and helping them to achieve their full potential and promise. To this end, UBS is delighted to be part of the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards, sponsoring the UBS Achievement and Promise awards to help the beneficiaries to excel in their academics and pursuits of success.”
The full list of winners and their profiles are available in Annex A. For more information about the Awards, eligibility, nomination and evaluation processes, please visit www.mediacorp.sg/gct-enable-awards.
Mediacorp is Singapore’s largest content creator and national media network, operating six TV channels, 11 radio stations and multiple digital platforms including CNA, Singapore's most used news app, and Toggle, its digital video platform. Its mission is to engage, entertain and enrich audiences by harnessing the power of creativity.
Mediacorp pioneered the development of Singapore’s broadcasting industry, with radio broadcast in 1936 and television broadcast in 1963. Today, it reaches 98% of Singaporeans in four languages and has a growing Asian audience base through CNA as well as entertainment content that is distributed across markets in the region.
The Mediacorp Partner Network brings Mediacorp together with industry-leading brands like ESPN, Edipresse Media, 99.co and VICE to deliver rich content for consumers and effective solutions for advertisers.
Mediacorp is the recipient of industry accolades including New York Festivals, World Media Festivals, PromaxBDA (World and Asia) and Asian Academy Creative Awards.
For more information, please visit mediacorp.sg.
About SG Enable
Set up by the Ministry of Social and Family Development in July 2013, SG Enable is an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities and building an inclusive society. It seeks to support persons with disabilities across different life stages. For more information, please visit www.sgenable.sg.
Annex A: Profiles of Awardees
GCT ENABLE AWARDS (UBS ACHIEVEMENT) AWARDEES
Listed by alphabetical order according to surname
1. Michael Ngu, 62
Despite being struck with poliomyelitis when he was five and suffering childhood trauma due to permanent paralysis of both lower limbs, Michael persevered and achieved academic excellence by graduating as the Top Graduate of the year with First-Class Honours (Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture) from the University of Melbourne and a Double Masters Degree in Architecture and City Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. He has also earned professional licenses to practice in three territories – USA, Australia and Singapore/ASEAN.
Prior to becoming the President & CEO of Architects 61, a leading Singapore architecture firm, he worked in internationally acclaimed firms such as IM Pei office in New York, followed by Kohn Pedersen and Fox in New York and Sydney.
Under his stewardship, Architects 61 has achieved financial success and gained international recognition with more than 100 local and international awards. Michael also led the firm’s foray into overseas commissions. In 2018, Michael again gained industry accolades with his instrumental role in the International Consortium that won the mega Changi Airport Terminal 5 project.
Michael is always very passionate about engaging with the community, having served in positions such as Vice Chairman at Cheshire Home, member of the National Integration Working Group for Workplaces, Treasurer for Singapore Hand Cycling Association and several other government agencies at various capacities.
At the age of 58, Michael pursued sports excellence and represented Singapore as a National Para-Athlete in Handcycling at the Asian Paralympic Games 2014 in Incheon. In July 2018, he completed an epic hand cycling expedition of 1,600km through the United Kingdom, as part of Riding For Hope, which sought to raise funds for a new Kidney Transplant Programme at National Kidney Foundation.
2. Tan Guan Heng, 82
Mr Tan Guan Heng became blind when the retina in both eyes detached while he was in University. He was the first visually impaired person to obtain a degree from the then University of Malaya in Singapore - Bachelor Of Arts (Economics) in 1961.
Unable to find a job after graduating from University of Malaya in Singapore, Guan Heng established the publishing house GH Book Forum in 1965. Previously a columnist for the Sunday Monitor, he went on to write several non-fiction books and novels, including My Love is Blind (1995) and Night Butterfly (2001).
My Love is Blind was adapted into a musical in 2017, and another of his books, The People's Verdict, was recently transcribed into braille.
He has championed persons with special needs through his community work over 50 years. Most notably, he was the first visually impaired President of the Singapore Association for the Blind (now known as Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped) from 1975 to 1980, and also served as its President from 2006 to 2012.
In recognition of his contribution to society, he received the President’s Social Service Award in 2010 and the Public Service Star in 2015.
3. Yip Pin Xiu, 27
Born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurological disease that leads to progressive weakening of the muscles, Yip Pin Xiu has trained 11 times a week since she started competitive swimming at 12 years old when she debuted at the Singapore Disability Sports Council’s national championships. The following year, she participated in her first international competition in Brazil.
In 2008, she clinched the first Paralympic Gold medal for Singapore at a young age of 16, and was bestowed the Meritorious Service Medal, which is awarded to any person who has performed within Singapore, service of conspicuous merit characterised by resource and devotion to duty. Pin Xiu subsequently clinched two gold medals in the 2016 Rio Paralympics and has broken two world records to date.
In 2018, she was awarded the World Para Series Best Female Athlete S/SB 1-3 Award for High Support Needs Athlete, which sets her on a steady path to qualifying for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Her recent appointment as a Nominated Member of Parliament provided a platform for her to contribute her views to shape the disability sports systems and encourage integration.
GCT ENABLE AWARDS (UBS PROMISE) AWARDEES
Listed by alphabetical order according to surname
1. Chen Ziyue, 33
Ziyue’s Mum first discovered that Ziyue was deaf when she was two years old. In the years following, Ziyue’s Mum introduced art to her. The young girl became drawn to art as it allowed her to express herself freely, and to forget the struggles and frustration with deafness.
With her talent for the arts, Ziyue completed her studies overseas through the Media Development Authority’s scholarship programme and has since clinched many illustration projects for children's books in Singapore and abroad. Her local clientele include Child Educational Co, Epigram Books, HWM Magazine, Mother & Baby Singapore Magazine and Ministry of Education, while overseas clients include Little Golden Books, McGraw Hill and Sterling Publishing.
Apart from working on books, she has worked on exhibitions for the Peranakan Silence Show by The Intan and Singapore Association for the Deaf in 2012, as well as running art workshops and selling prints of her artwork.
2. Joshua German, 22
A budding pianist with autism, Joshua plays the piano by ear and "stores" scores in his memory without relying on a physical copy. Despite playing with slight difficulty due to motor skill impairment, Joshua has shown great improvement ever since he joined Very Special Arts (VSA) in Jan 2017.
His skills and techniques in playing jazz songs improved after one year of training under VSA’s VOICES programme. Besides the piano, Joshua has a strong interest in other instruments such as percussion and Sheng in Chinese Orchestra.
3. Muhammad Haikal Bin Johari, 42
A severe motorbike accident in Bangkok in October 2015 left Chef Haikal paralysed neck down. Back then, he was given only 3% chance of recovery, but today, through physiotherapy and much determination, he is able to make slow and steady steps for a short distance.
He is Executive Chef at Alma by Juan Amador, following a distinguished culinary career in some of the finest restaurants in the region, including the highly acclaimed Water Library restaurant, which he helped establish when he was based in Bangkok, Thailand.
Despite his movements being restricted, Chef Haikal has led Alma by Juan Amador to receive its first Michelin star in 2016 and the restaurant has kept this accolade for three consecutive years.
4. Timothy Lee, 19
Timothy is studying in Mountbatten Vocational School and has been attending Very Special Arts’ Performing Art classes for the past three years. He has been chosen as the lead character not only in productions by Victoria Concert Hall, Home of the SSO and Act3 Theatrics, but also in Mediacorp Channel 5's long form TV series, KIN.
He wants to develop his skill sets in mainstream theatre and TV productions and be a shining example in the local inclusive arts scene.
5. Stephanie Ow, 23
Stephanie, who has visual impairment, is a musician who has participated in many ensembles and concert performances such as the NAFA Chinese Orchestra, and Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra. In 2014, she became part of Deutsche Bank’s Born To Be music scholarship programme which allowed her to enrol in the Singapore Raffles Music College the following year. Since 2015, she has been part of Purple Symphony, Singapore’s largest inclusive orchestra.
Stephanie exudes high level of confidence in the teaching practice. In October 2018, she taught erhu lessons successfully to a beginner. In March 2019, along with four other classmates, Stephanie conducted a music workshop at Punggol Primary School, all while displaying excellent teamwork skills, creativity and passion during the planning.
6. Toh Wei Soong, 20
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Wei Soong achieved Singapore’s second-ever swimming medal. In that same year, he won three medals at the Asia Para Games, including two golds.
Wei Soong started competitive swimming at 15 years old and worked hard to excel both academically and in swimming. He clocked at least four hours of training and eight hours of school time daily for four years prior to his debut at a major game.
Earlier this year, he made waves at the inaugural Singapore leg of the World Para Swimming World Series, netting one gold and one silver.
7. Chalmers Wong, 14
14-year old Chalmers Wong is a multi-talented boy who was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism when he was 18 months old. He shows great potential in developing his own painting style and techniques and is believed to be the only special needs sand artist in Singapore. In November 2018, he had performed sand art at Extra•Ordinary People’s An Extra•Ordinary Celebration and in January 2019, with the Ministry of Bellz for Bellz Beyond Christmas.
He also enjoys singing, dancing and playing musical instruments such as the piano and drums. Two years ago, Chalmers took up acoustic drum and formal piano classes. He has since performed at numerous events such as the SG Diversity Inclusion Festival 2018 and Bukit Batok East CC’s Mid-Autumn Festival 2018.
He also shows much potential in the area of bowling since picking up the sport in 2015. This year, Chalmers emerged amongst the top for the National School Games Championship 2019 (Para event for Boys aged 13 to 17 years) and Singapore Sports School Para Games 2019’s Tenpin Bowling category.
8. Wong Zhi Wei, 17
Zhi Wei, who has visual impairment, is currently a student at Eunoia Junior College and a graduate of Catholic High School. In school, he is active in several Values-in-Action initiatives and demonstrates immense potential, integrity and character.
He was awarded the Edusave Character Award in 2015 and 2017, as well as the Eagles Award in 2018. He was also presented with the Catholic High School Gentleman Award in 2017 and 2019.
In 2015, he joined competitive swimming at the young age of 13 and managed to join the national para-swimmers in 2017 to participate World Para Swimming Series in Berlin.
In 2017, he took part in the ASEAN Para Games hosted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he achieved Second Position in Men's 100m freestyle S13 event and Third Position in Men's 50m freestyle S13 event.
In the same year, he represented Singapore in the 3rd Asian Youth Para Games in Dubai where he clinched three gold medals in the Men's S13 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly and 400m freestyle and two silvers in the Men's S13 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke, becoming the most bemedaled athlete at the games representing Singapore at the age of 15.
He is currently chasing his dream of becoming a Paralympian and hopes to qualify for 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
9. Adelia Naomi Yokoyama, 20
Adelia, who was born with bilateral profound hearing impairment, won the gold medal in the Women’s Bowling Masters event at Deaflympics 2017 in Turkey. This was one of Singapore’s first Deaflympics medals. Despite her young age and limited competition experience, she exhibited commendable mental strength as she strategised her games and stayed calm throughout the competition.
Her achievement at the Deaflympics catalysed her to continue to persevere in training to improve her games and techniques. She is currently preparing for the World Deaf Bowling Championship in August 2019.
Despite the rigour of university and intensity of training, Adelia makes time to contribute to the community through disability and inclusion advocacy projects such as engagement sessions and workshops in schools and hospitals. She is also a “befriender” for vulnerable students.
10. Fathima Zohra, 22
Fathima Zohra was an enterprising social media influencer. In 2017, a traffic accident nearly killed her. She became paraplegic and was too weak to breathe, thus doctors had to puncture her trachea to keep her alive.
After overcoming the worst mental states and physical pains, the social media student now creates advocacy videos for persons with disabilities and intends to use her expertise to speak up for a more inclusive society.
She also shares her story with peer support groups. As a peer facilitator, she speaks on topics like stress management, handling expectations and self-care. She believes that by speaking up collectively as one voice, society can be changed.