Ex-VJC student with dwarfism won't limit himself

Ex-VJC student with dwarfism won't limit himself
Mr Lee Ci En

Former Victoria Junior College (VJC) student Lee Ci En has never allowed himself to be limited by his physical condition.

He was born with achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that causes dwarfism, and doctors told him last year when he turned 18 that, at 1.25m, he had reached the limits of his height.

But Mr Lee, who will be 19 in August, has pushed his other limits. He was a member of three CCAs when he was in Year 1. He joined the debate team, the political affairs society and the Interact Club, which takes part in community service projects.

Mr Lee, who has an interest in current affairs, said: "I was ambitious and wanted to be well-informed. I did not want to limit myself."

Yesterday, the determined young man received his A-level exam results.

While he declined to reveal his score, Mr Lee said that he was relieved and grateful for the support he received.

He hopes to pursue political science or psychology at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore.

MAN U FAN

Mr Lee enjoys playing football and supports Manchester United Football Club. His favourite Red Devil is former midfielder Paul Scholes.

He struggled with his studies when he first entered junior college and mugged for long hours before the A-level exams, Mr Lee recalled.

There were also some special arrangements that had to be made. His parents hired a carpenter to build a customised table to suit his height, so that he could be a "studious student," joked Mr Lee.

His school arranged for all his lessons to be conducted at the first storey, instead of the fourth storey class he was originally allocated.

His former civics tutor, Mr Lee Keng Hoe, 54, who also taught him economics, said: "He reads widely and would ask many interesting questions. Despite his condition, he is always very optimistic and cheerful. He is an encouragement to his classmates."

Mr Lee admitted that there were occasions when schoolmates would taunt him, but he chose to ignore them.

His mother, Madam Ang Kim Hong, 54, a tuition teacher, was five months pregnant when she found out that her child might be born with the condition.

She said: "It was painful to find out (about his condition), but we had a lot of support and advice. We were told to bring him up in a normal way and not to hide him at home."

So Mr Lee was exposed to the stares of strangers from young.

Madam Ang said: "He was frightened at first, but we wanted him to learn how to handle it. It's still a long road for him, especially now that he is a teenager and self-image is critical.

"But I have also realised over the years that if you shower your child with love and support, they will take off."

Madam Ang's husband is an accountant and they have another son, 16, who does not have the condition.

Mr Lee considers his parents as his role models and an inspiration for shaping him to be the confident person he is today.

"The human spirit is adaptable, I don't see the point of wallowing in self-pity."

linheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Mar 3, 2015.
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