Audio Version Available
There are heroes walking among us.
Their actions aren’t flashy or loud — in their own way, they lift others up despite their personal challenges.
But every now and then, they get recognised for their deeds.
Singapore Silent Heroes is an annual ceremony organised by the Civilians Association (Singapore) that acknowledges ordinary, everyday Singaporeans and permanent residents for their extraordinary humanity and compassion.
They may have different backgrounds but last year’s award winners all have one thing in common: They refused to be defined by society and quietly broke out of their stereotypes to work for the good of others.
Anson Ng: My past does not define me
“It all starts from the heart,” Anson Ng tells The Pride.
Anson is the founder of Hao Ren Hao Shi (“好人好事”, which literally translates as “Good People Good Deeds”). The organisation, set up in 2018 by Anson and a group of volunteers, distributes provisions to more than 900 beneficiaries, including low-income families, vulnerable seniors and migrant workers.
The 56-year-old has been volunteering since 2001, when he joined his mentor Dr Uma Rajan at Man Fut Tong Nursing Home to provide care for the elderly and terminally ill patients.
He also works with schools and students to organise programmes to instil the spirit of volunteerism in students. During Covid, he distributed necessities and encouraged migrant workers in the dormitories as well as monthly food and provisions to about 500 needy families.
Yet he started from nothing. Growing up, he knew what it meant to live in poverty and even fell into bad company.
“I had no education, no money and I even went to a boys’ home,” admits Anson.
But he didn’t want others to experience the same life that he had. He wanted them to know how it feels to have someone out there care for them.
Anson shares with The Pride a story that left an impact on him.
When the mother of one of his volunteers passed away, he called Anson because he felt lost and didn’t know what to do.
Anson recalls: “I immediately went to visit them and made sure that the family had all they needed to bury her.”
He accompanied the volunteer and his family through the funeral and even went with them to the burial site. Till today, says Anson, the man still thanks him for the kindness.
“I didn’t do it for his praise,” he explains, “I just wanted him to know that there will always be someone looking out for them.”
Hao Ren Hao Shi’s monthly distribution drives have grown over the years. From just a few basic necessities, the care packages now include more than 20 items, thanks to generous sponsors, says Anson.
This means that Anson has to ensure the logistics flow smoothly, to make sure that deliveries arrive on a specific time so that the volunteers are able to pack.
These distribution drives have also become a family affair. Volunteers bring their entire families to help out with the packing and giving out of the essential items.
Explains Anson: “The mindset has to be set from young.”
Where possible, he partners neighbourhood schools to involve students in volunteering activities. He stresses the importance of including the young as he wants to influence the next generation of leaders.
And he leads by example too; Anson’s two adult children also take part in the volunteering activities.
It doesn’t need much effort, he says, “just giving your time would be enough.”
More volunteers are always welcome, says Anson, so check out Hao Ren Hao Shi’s Facebook page for more information.
Gareth Chua: My autism does not define me
When many people hear the word “autism”, they think about limitations — what those on the spectrum can or cannot do and how their lives are defined by it.
Not Gareth Chua though. Gareth, 23, has autism. But he refuses to be limited by his condition.
The ITE student, who has participated in marathons, was one of the eight YMCA special needs ambassadors who participated in a virtual climb up Japan’s Mount Fuji last year to raise funds and awareness for youth special needs programmes.
Because of Covid-19, last year’s challenge was done virtually in Singapore.
By jogging, hiking and climbing stairs at HDB flats – including 47 storeys at The Pinnacle@Duxton twice in the same session – Gareth was the first of the more than 400 participants to complete the 3,776m “climb” and raised more than $3,000 in the process.
“I didn’t give up. I benefited from the challenge by completing the hike and becoming fitter,” he told Salt&Light.
When The Pride asked him how he felt about winning in the “Inspiring Youth” Category at last year’s SSH awards, he said: “I’m motivated to do more.”
The ever-cheerful Gareth was enthusiastic when he talked about what challenge could do for people like him with special needs.
He says that he plans to participate in this year’s YMCA challenge again and encourages other youths to sign up as well.
Cyril Ong: My age does not define me
“My job is to bring people to enjoy cycling, bond and build friendships and cycle to have fun,” says Cyril.
Cyril Ong is involved in not one, but three organisations giving back to the community.
He is 75.
When he was in his 50s, the avid cyclist was stricken with Buerger’s disease. During his eight-month fight with the disease, his blood vessels become inflamed, swell and become blocked with clots, which led to him having to amputate his fingers to prevent the disease from spreading even further.
This did not stop him from doing what he loves, however. He tells The Pride how grateful he is that the disease did not affect his legs and allowed him to continue cycling.
In 2001, he took another big step when he quit his job to spend more time with his family.
With his newfound freedom, he started volunteering.
Cyril volunteers at The Helping Hand, a halfway house that focuses on the rehabilitation of former drug addicts.
He does fundraising for its annual Ride to Restore event, with the aim to create a cycling interest group to help residents on their restoration journey in regaining their self-confidence and self-esteem through recreational road cycling.
In 2018, Cyril also joined a group of community gardeners. He uses his passion for gardening to teach seniors who want to get closer to nature.
“We just planted whatever fruits and vegetables we had and started cooking and sharing them with the community,” says Cyril.
Cyril also volunteers at Cycling Without Age, an organisation that aims to engage and empower elders to improve their emotional, social, and physical well-being so that they can live fulfilling lives.
He is part of CWA’s Temasek Foundation Moving Generations programme, which sees riders take seniors from eldercare centres on trishaw rides through different parts of Singapore via park connectors.
Cyril uses these specially-designed rickshaws brought in from Switzerland to ferry seniors and chat with them during the rides.
One of his favourite parts is how during the ride, seniors get to share about their lives and get to know each other better. It showed them that there are still people who want to listen to them.
And they are grateful for the experience.
“You can spend one hour with them but to them it feels like you spend your whole life with them,” says Cyril.
During the pandemic, CWA stopped these trishaw rides but with safe distancing measures being eased recently, it has since resumed rides for nursing home residents.
“At my age, I feel like I have not wasted my life but have started a new beginning,” says Cyril.
Other stories you might like
Do you know of any people who are as inspiring as these award winners? Submit an application on their behalf for Singapore Silent Heroes at sgsilentheroes.com.