Thirteen Singaporeans with intellectual disabilities will take part in their first ever National Day Parade this year, in performances that include drumming and marching.
During the third National Education Show yesterday, eight beneficiaries of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) beat taiko drums as part of a military band and precision drill squad display which will open next week's parade.
The preview for Primary 5 pupils at the Marina Bay floating platform was attended by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who was there as the reviewing officer.
Twelve of the representatives from Minds, who are between the early 20s and mid-40s, also marched in a contingent with Onepeople.sg, a national body focused on promoting racial and religious harmony.
"The caregivers are very proud (of them)," said Mr Keh Eng Song, chief executive of Minds, a voluntary welfare organisation. "The guys are also very proud because since they are exempted from national service, for them, it's a chance to march and salute. To them, it's something very thrilling."
Mr Keh said that the idea to involve Minds in the parade arose after he learnt from parade and ceremony committee chairman, Colonel Joseph Tan, that inclusiveness was a key message in this year's celebration.
"We really want to show that they are also capable, that they also have some talent of their own," said Mr Keh. "This group of people is as able as any one of us."
The participants are no strangers to a stage. As part of the Minds performing group, they have made numerous public appearances, including one at the Chingay parade in 2006.
Minds training officer Ramlan Rasidi, 51, who trains the performing group, believes that its members have benefited greatly from performing.
"Before, they were very quiet and kept to themselves," said Mr Ramlan. "But now they have become more verbal, more inquisitive and independent."
Yet, for some of them, the real reward is the simple thrill of being watched on Aug 9 after nearly four months of training.
"I'm excited to be on TV. My family can see me on Suria," said 36-year-old Khairullizam Omar, beaming. "I like marching. I like waving the flag. I feel happy."
This article was first published on July 27 2014.
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