Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was a young child, Ms Oh Siew May is prone to falling and have problems saying more than a few words at a time.
Yet the 46-year-old shop assistant continues to give talks in schools, runs regularly and does rock-climbing. She has even scaled Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu, the highest summit in South-east Asia.
Cerebral palsy is a condition that permanently affects muscular coordination and balance.
And to inspire others to make the most of their lives as she does, she penned an autobiography, Scaling Walls, and donated part of the earnings to charity.
She was one of three who received the annual Silent Heroes Award on Sunday (Sept 17) evening at the Shangri-La Hotel for her contributions to society.
At the event, Ms Oh recalled that a student who had done badly in his exams once approached her after a talk to thank her, saying that he will not give up in his studies.
“As long as we have a life, we can create miracles with our love to others and live life to the fullest,” she said.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing, who presented the awards, thanked all winners past and present for their contributions to building a Singapore that is defined by not just material wealth but also a “bigness of heart… to do more for others over and beyond what we do for ourselves”.
Launched in 2014, the award is organised by the Hillview Civilians Sports Club (HCSC) and recognises ordinary Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who quietly make a difference to families and communities without seeking any reward.
Members of the public can nominate individuals for the award; about 20 have been given the award since it began.
This year’s awardees were selected from 38 nominees by four judges comprising senior figures from the public and private sectors.
Another award winner is Mr Atul Ramesh Deshpande, 53, whose belief in yoga as a “service to mankind” has resulted in more than 51,000 people learning yoga for free since 1997, including those suffering from illnesses ranging from slipped discs to heart disorders, asthma and diabetes.
“I started teaching free of charge, and my students were inspired to teach it for free, said Mr Atul, a quality engineer and volunteer yoga instructor.
More than 350 of his students have since followed in his footsteps as instructors.
He told ST of one of his students who had weaned himself off his twice-daily dependence on an inhaler for acute asthma after six months of yoga, and became an instructor himself.
Highlighting the many others out there who are making a difference, HCSC president M P Sellvem said: “We are all silent heroes in some unique way, doing our own fair bit in caring – for individuals, society and the environment… We hope that they ( the winners) serve as an inspiration and motivation for each of us to make an impact to the community.”