Mrs S'pore World finalist recalls hardships at being raised by parents with hearing disabilities
Pageant finalist grateful to parents who brought her up despite hearing disabilities, financial difficulties
The Mrs Singapore World finals will be held on Dec 18 at Resorts World Convention Centre. LISA TWANG (firstname.lastname@example.org) profiles three inspiring finalists.
Growing up with parents with hearing disabilities was tough for Ms Ashlyn Thia.
Ms Thia, one of this year’s 16 Mrs Singapore World finalists, who were unveiled on Saturday at main sponsor HBI International Group’s office in Beach Road, spoke of the financial difficulties her family faced because of her parents’ handicap.
“Both my parents are deaf in one ear and this made it hard for them to pick up languages. They only speak Teochew and are mostly illiterate,” the 28-year-old secretary told The New Paper.
“Communicating with them was not really an issue, but because of my parents’ lack of education, we were not well off.”
Ms Thia’s father, Mr Thia Poh Huat, 57, is a welder, while her mother, Madam Seni, 55, works as a cleaner.
They do not use sign language, but rely on lip-reading and what little hearing they have instead.
“Primary school was challenging as I felt different from my peers. I couldn’t understand why my friends’ fathers would pick them up in a car, while my dad only rode a bicycle. I felt a bit inferior,” Ms Thia admitted.
She recalled an incident when she and her younger brother asked their parents for a computer, not knowing how expensive it was. When their parents finally bought them an old, cheap model, they complained.
“They didn’t always give us the best things, but they always gave us their best. They are such loving parents.
“When I was younger, I would get frustrated with them because I found them naggy. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt to be more patient and understanding.”
Ms Thia and her sales manager husband Thomas Ng, 34, have a two-year-old daughter, Emmalyn.
Ms Thia’s eyes brimmed over with tears when she shared how being a mother has made her more appreciative of her parents.
“I realised how hard it must have been for them to raise me with their own shortcomings. When I was younger and fell sick, they couldn’t even pick up the phone to call a doctor. And our financial situation must have been so stressful for them.
“It is hard enough to raise a child on the income my husband and I have; I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for my parents.”
Ms Thia, who has a business degree from SIM University, said her parents do not have issues communicating with Emmalyn, as their interactions are mostly non-verbal. She and her husband are teaching their daughter basic Teochew.
“I joined Mrs Singapore World to gain more confidence in myself and to be a good role model for my daughter.
“If I win, hopefully my daughter will see me as something more than just a mother,” said Ms Thia, who is joining a pageant for the first time.
“Through the pageant, I have also learned about organisations like the Singapore Association for the Deaf. I hope to work with them to increase social awareness about deafness and help people like my parents overcome their disabilities.”
Long-distance sailor calls S'pore home
Ms Kira Pecherska holds Ukrainian and British citizenship, but she considers Singapore home after she and her husband moved here for work in 2007.
"I love everything about Singapore, but I appreciate the people most," the 39-year-old Singapore permanent resident said.
"Singapore is an amazing multicultural melting pot and there's nothing like it in the world. There are many cities that are multicultural, but the level of tolerance and respect for other cultures here is impressive."
Ms Kira Pecherska.
She added: "I enjoy the food, too. I love fried oyster omelette, laksa, char kway teow, frog's legs, everything."
Ms Pecherska, a life coach and principal consultant for her own business development company, has been married for 13 years to 50-year-old Briton Misha Arefiev, the head of logistics and supply chain for Asia at a pharmaceutical company.
They do not have any children.
TRAVELLER: Ms Kira Pecherska on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race last year. PHOTO COURTESY OF KIRA PECHERSKA
She joined Mrs Singapore World to "celebrate womanhood and help women build confidence to make their dreams a reality", something Ms Pecherska is well familiar with.
A keen sailor who joked that she "learnt to sail at a young age, possibly before I could walk", Ms Pecherska has participated in the Asian Yachting Grand Prix series with her team from Singapore four times.
She will join the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta leg of this year's Grand Prix in Malaysia this month.Last year, she became the first Ukrainian woman to sail around the world. She was in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race as a navigator, covering over 64,000km and visiting 16 cities across six continents. The journey took 10½ months.
"It was definitely challenging and I trained really hard to learn about long-distance racing strategies.
"I'm glad I managed to complete the race and I consider it one of my greatest achievements.
"While I was sailing around the world, when people asked where I was from, I always said Singapore," Ms Pecherska added proudly.
Her next project is to start a local charity to provide free sailing and training programmes for people with disabilities.
"I met the founder of Australian charity Sailors with Disabilities and I was inspired by how the organisation has used sailing as a tool to build confidence and self-esteem. I hope to make a similar contribution in Singapore, the country I now call home."
At 19, she juggled work, school & motherhood
She's only 28, but Ms Karine Estelle Cheong is the owner of three companies. But her path to success was initially rocky.Married at 18, she had her first child at 19 while studying for a diploma in marketing and public relations at Thames Business School here.
"It was really tough back then as we got married while I was still in school and I was so immature," Ms Cheong said.
"Because we were both students, we had to work part-time to save money for our child.
Ms Karine Estelle.
"I would go to school in the morning and give private tuition and teach at tuition centres at night while still pregnant."
Still, Ms Cheong recalls that period as one of the happiest times in her life.
"That Christmas, my husband gave me a simple card written with very touching words, telling me he would work hard to provide for our child. It made me happier than any other gift."
Ms Cheong said they struggled in the beginning as they were "very poor", but are now happy.
She and her marketing manager husband, Mr Ang Junming, 34, have two children, daughter Raeann, nine, and son Jaedon, six.
"At a stage when my peers are starting to marry and have children, I can now relax," she said.
Ms Cheong owns three companies, including Singapore's first halal-certified skincare brand, Klarity.
Although she is not Muslim, Ms Cheong, who is a Christian, believes that halal skincare is for everyone because it is ethically produced.
"Halal products do not involve animal testing and there are strict rules against ingredients with animal origins. Instead, they use botanical ingredients."
Officially launched a year and a half ago, Klarity is available here, in China and in Myanmar, and has been featured in magazines such as Cleo and Singapore Women's Weekly.
Ms Cheong wants to inspire married women to step out of their comfort zones and do more for society.
"I'm very encouraged by past beauty queens I've met through Mrs Singapore World, as they are people with good hearts."