Superheroes, outside of comic books, television and movie screens, are few and far between. On 28 Aug, the world lost one. Chadwick Boseman, known popularly for his role as King T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther, died after a four-year battle with cancer.
Boseman’s heroism went beyond the big screen. While privately battling the disease himself, he not only continued to work on films, but quietly visited children with cancer to inspire them and put smiles on their faces.
Not all heroes wear capes.
Just like Boseman, many ordinary Singaporeans demonstrate extraordinary kindness through their dedication, commitment and service towards helping and inspiring others, over and beyond what they do for themselves.
First given out in 2014, the Singapore Silent Heroes (SSH) Awards recognises people who have made a difference in their communities without seeking any rewards or recognition.
Oh Siew May
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was a young child, Siew May is prone to falling and has problems saying more than a few words at a time.
Yet the 49-year-old, who works part-time at an events company, has not let this hold her back. She gives talks in schools and workplaces (temporarily suspended due to Covid-19), runs regularly and does rock-climbing.
Siew May tells The Pride that she hopes that doing this would create more awareness for persons with special needs.
“I want people to know even though we are disabled doesn’t mean unable. Given a chance, we can also contribute to society.”
She has even scaled Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu, the highest summit in Southeast Asia, a feat she accomplished in 2005.
Last year, she took part in a YMCA vertical marathon, where she climbed 57 storeys to reach the top of Marina Bay Sands!
Siew May says: “Life is full of challenges but if we stay positive and never give up, we will see light.”
To inspire others to make the most of their lives, just as she does, she penned an autobiography, called Scaling Walls in 2009, and donates part of the earnings to charity. She is currently working on writing her second book.
Siew May received the SSH Award 2017 in the Hearts of Humanity Category.
Upon receiving the award, she said: “As long as we have a life, we can create miracles with our love for others and live life to the fullest.”
She says that the award has helped motivate her to keep inspiring others.
“I want to do more to help normal people understand us more and accept us for who we are.”
Aminur Rasyid Mohamed Anwar
Co-founder of social enterprise Junior Art Lab, Aminur conducts digital art workshops to impart digital literacy skills to disadvantaged and vulnerable children while cultivating their creativity in art and design.
With the 31-year-old’s support and training, Junior Art Lab’s first lab artist, Muhd Sayfullah, who suffers from quadriplegic cerebral palsy, produced digital art that has been printed on greeting cards and tote bags, providing a source of income for Sayfullah and his family.
Aminur tells the Pride: “The idea was to build their confidence, as well as to bridge the digital gap by teaching them skills on the computer.”
Since Aminur received the SSH Award 2019 in the Inspiring Youth Category, he has helped others in the way he helped Sayfullah.
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Junior Art Lab ran a programme at the Enabling Village with a couple of young adult special-needs artists and have subsequently hired them as part-timers.
Aminur says: “(The artists) wouldn’t have thought themselves to be the creative sort as they had no background in art or design. This is something new to them. They seem pretty happy to be part of the team and we are very proud to show their work.”
Junior Art Lab’s outreach programmes and workshops have made an impact on over 2,000 children and youths to date.
Aminur says that the challenge in the past few months was adapting to the new normal while keeping the business running. He misses the face-to-face interaction as workshops are now conducted online due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Nevertheless, he says that getting the award has given him and the team validation for their work.
“Initially, it was just me doing what I love, what I enjoy doing. I didn’t think it could grow to what it is today. I feel privileged and fortunate to be able to do meaningful work and give back to the community.”
Before co-founding Junior Art Lab, Aminur worked in a 9-to-5 office job. But his sister, with the support of his mentors, pushed him to pursue his passion – art.
And Aminur knew from the start that he wanted to work with disadvantaged children.
“Growing up, my family has always encouraged us to give back (to society). I could also empathise with this group of children, especially those who don’t do well academically and are lacking in confidence.”
“Like how I was given a boost of confidence from my sister and mentors, I realised I could provide the same spark for them.”
Gemma Angela Fernandez
In the past three years since receiving the SSH Award 2017 in the Outstanding Adult Category, Gemma has continued working closely with patients under her care at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
Her role as a case manager involves helping patients return to normal life after discharge. It is making sure the patients are safe and cared for in a holistic way, she says. She looks out for them to ensure they are doing well and fitting back into the community.
Gemma often goes beyond the call of duty for her patients – buying groceries for them, actively sourcing for sponsorships to help them financially, even tapping into her contacts and networks to help patients find jobs!
The 55-year-old tells The Pride that just as she has inspired her patients, they too have left a deep impact on her.
She shares about an elderly patient who often calls her to talk to her about everyday things, such as buying 4D.
Gemma says, “He shares with me anything under the sun and calls me often to ask me whether I’ve eaten. He knows that I won’t judge him.”
However, since Dorscon Orange, she has not been able to do home visits with her charges, and catches up with them only when they come in for appointments.
Gemma says: “Covid has also taken a toll on them as they feel isolated, so it was important to increase contact with them at the clinic and through phone calls, to let them hear that familiar voice.”
While she will be moving on from IMH to advocate for more to be done in community mental health, Gemma says she hopes to continue to influence the people under her charge in a stronger way.
“I feel that mental health is an area that needs a lot of support,” Gemma says. “I’m hoping to do more, so that they can get better care.”
After she received the SSH award in 2017, Gemma has gone on to receive two more awards – the Healthcare Humanities Award and Public Sector Transformation Award.
“It was an affirmation for me to continue my work and it made me feel that the work I do and the people I serve are important,” says Gemma. She adds that she does not feel burned out as her work is something she loves doing.
Gemma says: “If you have a love for reaching out, reach out for the right reasons, and if you can do it silently, even better!”
Nominations for the SSH 2020 awards are open until Oct 18. To submit a nomination, visit www.sgsilentheroes.com