SINGAPORE - Abandoned by his father, and made fun of in school, Mr Muhammad Diroy Noordin never had it easy. The 22-year-old, who like his mother has dwarfism, sometimes wondered why he was not born "normal".
With few friends, art became his source of expression.
Now that passion has helped see him through Temasek Polytechnic (TP), from which he will soon graduate with a diploma in visual communications.
Yesterday, he was one of three recipients of the Youth Aspiration Award from the SPD, an organisation which represents Singapore's disabled.
Also honoured were 15-year-old Gregory Ong, who did not let cerebral palsy stop him from dreaming of representing the nation at the Paralympics, and Mr Sim Yu Xiang, 20, a first-year National University of Singapore sociology student who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a muscle degeneration illness. Mr Sim is passionate about singing and his videos are on YouTube.
They received $5,000 each to help them pursue their talents.
Mr Diroy is the youngest of three children. His parents divorced when he was in secondary school. His mother had to bring up the family on a cleaner's salary. His older brother and sister, who do not have dwarfism, have since moved out.
In primary school, his classmates would ask why he was born that way. "I didn't know the answer," he said. "I thought, 'Why can't I just be taller?' "
Studies were also a struggle because of family difficulties. "In primary school when I knew I was going to fail in English, I would draw sad faces on the exam paper," he said.
The Normal (Technical) student joined the art club in secondary school, designing logos and posters for events. He picked up photoshop skills in Secondary 4.
He went on to study interactive media design at the Institute of Technical Education, before joining Temasek Polytechnic in 2011.
"TP is my dream school, even though I have to take three buses to get there," said Mr Diroy, who lives in a two-room Sengkang flat.
"School is still quite tough, especially when I have to give presentations, because I'm not confident. But now, when some people still ask about my condition, I don't mind so much because they are only concerned."
He wants to use his $5,000 for a new laptop and graphic design software.
Mr Sim, who plans to use the money for singing lessons, paid tribute to his mother, Madam Janet Woo, a housewife. "She is my greatest support because she helps me every day, from taking me to school to showering me."
At yesterday's event at Safra Jurong, the SPD also gave out $35,700 in bursaries to 73 low-income students with disabilities and those whose parents have disabilities.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Hawazi Daipi, who gave out the Youth Aspiration awards, said the Government has been providing more training for special education teachers and expanding the capacity of special education schools to help those with special needs.
But it was also valuable when the community came together to "build an inclusive society where persons with disabilities are recognised and empowered", he said.
This article was first published on January 1, 2015.
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