Shaky start, but he's on solid ground now

SINGAPORE - Give Mr Lim Wei Zhong a glass of water and he might have problems grasping it - literally.

The 26-year-old suffers from an enhanced physiological tremor which results in slurred speech, shaky hands, writing difficulty and slow reaction times.

But Mr Lim has no problems grasping computer programming and the complicated language it requires.

"It's a bit like talking to a friend to me, using a common language. It's easy to understand, like a normal conversation," he said.

It is to his credit that he has not allowed his physical problems to affect his studies.

Mr Lim did so well in his information technology course at Temasek Polytechnic that he was awarded the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal on Monday at the poly's presentation ceremony for its top students.

He graduated with a cumulative grade point average of 3.9, just short of the perfect score of 4.0.

But his path to this award was not an easy one.

Besides his physiological defect, he also had to deal with financial difficulties.

Mr Lim attributed a lot of his success to his 52-year-old mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Chin.

His parents divorced when he was 10 years old, and he was brought up single-handedly by his mother, a noodle stall helper.

She earns about $1,800 a month and the duo live in a three-room HDB flat in Bedok North.

It was his mother who stood by him when he was bullied in primary school.

"They would imitate my way of speech and push me around sometimes," he said of the bullying.

It made him want to skip school, but his mother would drag him to the gates and make sure that he went to school.

"I think she wanted me to have a better education than she did," he said.

The bullying stopped in Primary 4, after the bullies got tired of the attacks.

Even then, he still struggled academically.

A Primary School Leaving Examination aggregate score of 190 saw him just make the Express stream in secondary school, but he was moved to the Normal (Academic) stream after Secondary 1 due to poor results.

What turned his grades around

It was not until he discovered his love and talent for computer programming at the age of 15 that he started to turn his grades around.

The trigger? Admiration for various design layouts on websites he visited, especially those which allowed for user customisation.

"Before that, I had difficulty understanding many concepts as I was too straight-laced in my thinking and couldn't think out of the box," he said.

Mr Lim then taught himself programming using reference books and websites before enrolling in ITE College Central.

He worked hard, graduated with a merit for Higher Nitec and went on to Temasek Poly with the same attitude.

At Temasek, Mr Lim developed various applications, including a mobile application which serves as an interactive GPS system and an itinerary planner.

Poly life for him was unlike his time in primary school.

Mr Lim gets along well with his coursemates, according to his care person, Ms Lynn Ng, who is in her 40s.

A care person is the equivalent of a school form teacher.

Hard worker

"His coursemates look up to him when it comes to leading projects. He is very well respected for his analytical and technical abilities, as well as his hard work," said Ms Ng, a section head at the poly.

The future now looks rosy for Mr Lim.

He has completed an eight-month stint at KPMG Singapore and has been accepted into the National University of Singapore's School of Computing.

Despite all of these accomplishments, he is not resting on his laurels.

"I see these accomplishments not as a sign of success but just a checkpoint. One day, I want to see my apps being used to improve people's daily lives."

And his secret to his resilience and determination?

"I have a strong character and wanted to show the rest that I'm capable of living like a normal person," he said.

Also, he wants to make his mother proud of him and repay her for all the things she has done for him.

"I just want to give my mum a good life where she doesn't have to work so hard.

"But it's not about something like a big house. To me, giving her a comfortable life is about being responsible so that she doesn't have to worry about me anymore."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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