Young Singaporeans hailed for giving back
They received Singapore Youth Award, nation's top accolade for young people
Surrounded by bad company while growing up, Mr Daniel Teh was an angry youth with repeated brushes with the law for drug offences and getting into gang fights.
He ended up in the prison's reformative training centre five times - the final time was when he, in trying to take revenge for his incarceration, decided to vandalise the centre with red paint. Now, Mr Teh is a far cry from the delinquent he used to be, receiving the Singapore Youth Award 2018 at the Istana from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.
The award is the nation's highest accolade for young people who have excelled in their fields of pursuit and demonstrated a strong passion to make a difference in the community.
Mr Teh, 29, runs Thai restaurant chain Pope Jai, a social enterprise. The staff consists of mainly at-risk youth and people with special needs, physical disabilities and mental health issues.
The award cited his commitment and perseverance in serving underprivileged groups.
Mr Teh said he got to know troubled youth with special needs when he was at the reformative training centre.
"I had full control of my mind and all my limbs were intact, so what was wrong with me back then? It was there, when I was in the centre with other youth-at-risk for my fifth time that I realised all I lacked was a heart," he told The Straits Times.
The other five winners of the award are state counsel Amanda Chong, 28; SingHealth associate consultant orthopaedic surgeon Hamid Rahmatullah, 32; singer-songwriter Inch Chua, 29; para-athlete Jason Chee, 34; and Lien Foundation co-lead of early childhood development Jean Loo, 33.
They embody resilience, courage, service, leadership and inspiration, said chairman of the award panel Sudha Nair.
"These six extraordinary young Singaporeans have purposefully charted their own path in pursuing their passion while being committed to contributing selflessly back to society," said Dr Nair.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said: "They exemplify the values that society looks at, which are so precious as we navigate the turbulent future."
Ms Chong is a lawyer in the Attorney-General's Chambers.
She started ReadAble in 2014, a weekly English literacy programme for underprivileged children and migrant women and speaks out for social justice and gender equality at events.
Citing her own privileged education as a President's Scholar, Ms Chong said it was critical for those with the means to pay it back to those without.
She was struck by how her father, who grew up in a rental Housing Board flat, told her about people who were kind to him when he was poor.
Her career as a public prosecutor also allowed her to peer into the lives of those whose less-privileged upbringing and environment led them down a dark path in crime, said Ms Chong.