I was fortunate enough to be able to witness the announcement of the 38th Singapore Youth Awards recipients on 27 June 2013. There were 6 recipients: Koh Hui Ling, Muhammad Riduan Bin Zalani, Martin Tan Beng Chong, Dr Chan Shuping Juliana Maria, Jean Ng Joo Lin and Laurentia Yen-Yi Tan.
The whole ceremony was very formal. I actually shared a lift with Laurentia Tan, but we did not talk much. I arrived at the posh ION Sky at 5.30pm, and was slightly overwhelmed by all the formally-clad guests milling around. I was ushered to my seat at the second row, and we waited for the recipients to arrive and sit in front. Then, a video showing all 6 recipients and two winners of the medal of commendation was shown. I felt especially inspired by the speech of Koh Hui Ling and Martin Tan and thus decided to talk to them further after the formalities of the ceremony were over.
Martin Tan, 35, greeted me with a firm and sincere handshake. Looking at him now, you would never have suspected that he had a difficult childhood. His father has passed away when he was 17, and that was when he started working to support his family. Luckily, there were 4 church leaders who mentored him, and he worked at his church. Then, in 2003, he decided to join the Halogen Foundation, a company that he co-founded, full-time. “I told my wife that I would give myself 6 months’ time. If I cannot find the funding, then I will quit.” Thankfully, he managed to secure the funding in only a month’s time. The rest as they say is history. Now, Halogen Foundation has 12 full-time employees, 4 part-timers, and many volunteers. They have also reached out to over 10,000 youths. “I want to encourage more youths to serve in the charity sector.”. He feels that the success of the SYA is not only a testament to his efforts, but also a source of motivation for him to continue to serve the youth sector. His efforts have also served to encourage his family and friends so much so that his entire family are now volunteers for the Halogen Foundation.
Next, I spoke to Koh Hui Ling. She looked much younger than her 34 years of age, with vibrant dyed hair coupled with a fashionable dressing sense. One look and you can tell that she would never shy away from taking the road less travelled, inspiring many people along the way. Considering her early exposure to drama during her childhood, it is hardly surprising that she became the Artistic Director of ARTivate, Dramabox’s youth section. She told me she was very happy and honoured to receive the SYA. When asked why she wanted more people to know about drama, she replied, “I feel that theater has changed my life, so I want to help other people change theirs. I got the tools, but they got the story.” Now, ARTivate is graduating its first batch of youths, aged from 19-26 years old. She hopes to recruit about 20 new members, and experience is not needed. The most memorable incident she had was about changing the emotions of a girl she coached. “She really hated her mother, but after I met her, she told me that through acting, she finally understood her mother better and no longer hated her.” Koh Hui Ling also wanted to tell youths to learn how to express their feelings, through a different medium. She reveals that she plans to use the cash prize and grant as funding for ARTivate.
I felt that this event was an eye-opener and I was happy to meet so many inspiring people. These people are living proof that age is just a number and as long as you have the passion, anything is possible.
Singapore Youth Award (SYA) is the highest accolade for youths. This is also the first time recipients would be awarded a cash prize and grant of $10,000. This is the second time there was no category for nominations. The awards will be presented at the Istana on July 7. The event also saw the launch of the SYA’s new logo named ‘Soar Above’. Now the logo is in the shape of wings, while in the past it was the shape of a man. The enhanced symbolism exudes the essence of soaring above, a testament of stellar achievement and the triumph of youth’s self-less spirit. The SYA, introduced in 1975, honours exceptional young people who have contributed significantly to the community and the nation.