SINGAPORE, 6 May 2019 - Three millennials who displayed resilience to overcome difficult circumstances in their lives have been presented with the inaugural Straits Times Generation Grit Award 2018.
The three who will each receive a trophy and $5,000 are:
Mr Wong Zi Heng, 27, who is paralysed from his chest down after a freak accident in university. He went on to graduate as the valedictorian of his batch at the National University of Singapore and now teaches physics and maths at Bedok South Secondary School;
Mr Thomas Liao, 31, a former drug trafficker who turned his life around in prison and is now a senior social work associate at Fei Yue Community Services;
Ms Zulayqha Zulkifli, 24, was once homeless after her parents divorced and had to sleep in the void deck with her siblings. She is now helping others through difficult times as a social work associate.
The trio were presented with their awards today (May 6) by Minister of Communications and Information, S Iswaran at a ceremony at the National Library.
Organised by The Straits Times and sponsored by reinsurance company Swiss Re, The Straits Times Generation Grit Award 2018 celebrates young people in their twenties to mid-thirties who have overcome major adversities in their lives – from major illnesses to troubled family backgrounds and bad life choices – to help themselves and their families and also give back to society, in their own way.
The three individuals were among 24 nominees featured in ST's fortnightly Generation Grit series. All nominees have been featured in this column between December 2017, when the series started, and December last year.
The three winners were selected by a panel of judges from The Straits Times and Swiss Re, and were guided in the deliberations by a three-week long public vote that drew about 3,000 votes.
The Generation Grit series was conceived by Straits Times Senior Social Affairs Correspondent Theresa Tan, who wanted to highlight stories of young people who were not the soft, self-centred and spoilt "strawberry generation" that some millennials have been made out to be.
Miss Tan, who has covered the social affairs beat for a large part of her 19 years as a journalist said: "It was also my hope that these stories will encourage people of all ages who are going through a tough patch in life, that others have gone through similar circumstances or much worse, survived and emerged stronger than before."
The stories and accompanying videos, helmed by Theresa and co-writers Tan Tam Mei and Cara Wong have elicited a strong response from The Straits Times print and digital audiences.
Straits Times Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the English, Malay and Tamil Media Group Warren Fernandez said that what started out as a limited series of 12 articles has grown to generate powerful moving stories that has sustained the column through more than a year now.
"Whether in print, video or through our social media, ST readers were moved and inspired by these stories and given us leads to uncover many more individuals whose lives will continue to fill the pages of Generation Grit."
In thanking ST's partner in the Generation Grit Award 2018, Swiss Re, Mr Fernandez said the partnership will give the individuals another platform to share their experiences and inspire others.
Mr Victor Kuk, Swiss Re Singapore Country President and Head for Property & Casualty Southeast Asia, said: "This award recognises resilient young people whose stories have inspired us at Swiss Re and speaks of the power that we all have within us. We are proud to be on this journey with them and The Straits Times. This award really fits into our vision to make Asia a more resilient place to work, live and thrive, no matter what your circumstances are."
The full list of nominees can be found here.
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The Straits Times, the English-language flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, is the most-read newspaper in Singapore and is followed widely in the region for its comprehensive multimedia coverage of local, regional and world news, provided by its correspondents in 12 bureaus in major cities worldwide. Launched on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times has been moving with the times in its efforts to engage and grow its audience and exploring innovative ways of story telling, as well as continuously refreshing its products to maintain quality and stay relevant to the changing needs of its readers. Its integrated newsroom operates round-the-clock, providing content as it happens on all platforms, from its website at www.straitstimes.com, Apple and Android apps to social media. The Straits Times is a member of two media networks - the Asia News Network and the Impact Journalism Day alliance of newspapers - and it has won multiple international media awards, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (Panpa), Society of News Design and WAN-IFRA. Its multimedia newsroom and innovative projects were recognised at the annual regional WAN-IFRA event in Hong Kong in November 2018 when it emerged the biggest winner, sweeping nine Asian Digital Media awards, including two golds for best innovation to engage youth audience, and best lifestyle, sports, entertainment website.