According to almost everyone on the internet, 2016 has been a year of bad news.
Brexit. Aleppo. Terrorism and natural disasters. And even the passing of several era-defining personalities including Muhammad Ali, David Bowie and Carrie Fisher.
It’s been a difficult year to smile.
In these dark days, we must remember the wise words of the late Professor Albus Dumbledore, who said: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.”
Quite a strange quote given that Hogwarts has no switches or electrical lights, but you get the drift. Even if the news cycle is getting you down, we mustn’t forget to celebrate our unsung heroes and to highlight the stories that uplift.
Lights please! Here are our picks for The Pride’s very first Story of the Year and a salute to the folks who made them possible.
Yip Pin Xiu’s Paralympics Feat
If you’re looking for someone to blame for the China-Terrex incident, look no further. It is all Yip Pin Xiu’s fault.
On 10th September, Pin Xiu reignited Singapore’s Olympic fever by winning a Rio Paralympics gold medal in the S2 100m backstroke, setting a new world record with her timing of 2:07.09. Just 6 days later, she took home a second gold in the S2 50m backstroke finals.
China’s Feng Yazhu came in second in the same race. Coincidence or not?
Jokes aside, Yip Pin Xiu’s paralympic journey is worthy of its own J.J. Abrams biopic. Our swim champ was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes loss of muscle mass and function, at the age of two. Over the years, she gradually lost the use of her lower body. By secondary school, she began using a wheelchair because she could no longer walk even with the aid of an orthotic brace.
We say ‘use a wheelchair’ because she did not allow herself to be confined to it. After seeing her brothers swim, Yip decided to try her luck in water, only to fail when she could not complete the swim test.
Despite the tears and setbacks, she kept trying. She trained for hours everyday until her determination brought her to the Olympic podium.
Upon her return, she made a different sort of splash when Singapore found out that she only received $400,000 for her two medals, compared to Joseph Schooling’s $1 million. However, Yip wasn’t really concerned with the money. She was just happy to see the improvements in equality for para-athletes and their able-bodied colleagues.
“Over the years, we have seen more support, more recognition, and people being inspired by para-athletes. And we’re grateful for that.”
Whether she’s in the pool fighting for victory or fighting for justice on land, Yip’s journey is surely an inspiration to us all.
Every year, PSLE results day is a harrowing ritual of high stress for both parents and pupils alike. After all, our nation accords a near mythic status to those supposedly life-defining three digits.
However, 2016 was different – Singapore chose to bust that myth instead.
It all started when the founder of KiasuParents.com, Mdm Soon Lee Young, expressed disappointment over her son’s PSLE T-score of 229. Despite getting four As, those grades did not impress Mdm Young, who declared: ‘You can forget about getting your Nintendo 3DS’.
Little did she know that those words that would spark a social revolution. On the same day, NUS Professor Khairudin had coincidentally posted about his own PSLE score of 221 and called on others to do the same to show children that these scores do not define their future.
As the article on Mdm Soon gained traction, his post went viral and started an outpouring of sympathy for the boy. Adults from all walks of life revealed their own PSLE scores alongside stories of their present-day success. These stories were shared to encourage the kids who may have been disheartened by their results. They showed us that there is more than one path to success and happiness.
One creative Carousell seller even offered a free Nintendo 3DS for any kid with 4As and a T-score of 229.
Perhaps one day in the future, the T-score system will be gone for good. In the meantime, Singapore cheers on our kids regardless of how they scored. It all goes to show that you don’t need a high marks to go viral and be a force for good.
Collectively, we think our nation passed this test with flying colours.
WateROAM for good
While some of us were busy trying to save the world via armchair commentaries in the comments sections, WateRoam was out there fighting the good fight for clean, affordable water.
Founded in 2014 by Lim Chong Tee, David Pong and Vincent Loka, WateROAM is a social enterprise that has made it its mission to create ‘a world where no man shall face prolonged thirst’.
Quite a bold claim for three young graduates who have yet to escape their twenties, but WateRoam’s motto is no idle boast. The trio have invented a water filter that is durable, lightweight and powered by that reliable magic called gravity.
From a distance, the RoamFilter Lite resembles an oversized kopi bag. Unlike your regular kopi packet, however, this one saves lives because it comes with a ceramic membrane that turns water from dirty and mud-filled to Evian-worthy by filtering out 99.99% of bacteria.
Viruses too if you opt for their deluxe models.
Their entrepreneurship has won them abundant praise in the media, but that’s not the real story. The real story is how their filter has changed the lives of villagers who would otherwise suffer chronic diarrhoea, water-borne illnesses and muddy water. With tireless zeal, the boys have zig-zagged across the region to make good their boast:
In June 2014, they provided water for 150 students in a Bintan orphanage.
In January 2015, David spent New Year’s Eve alone, preparing for an East Malaysia Flood Relief mission.
Two months ago, they partnered Mercy Relief to bring clean water to 120 households in the Philippines after Typhoon Haima.
‘This is my dream job.’ said David, who has no plans to stop anytime soon. Running a social enterprise may lack the glamour of a cushy corporate job, but it’s surely inspirational to see meaningful dreams come to fruition.
And to learn that somewhere across the sea, there are Indonesian orphans who don’t need to drink brackish groundwater thanks to WateROAM’s efforts.