Musical made teen 'more courageous'

Musical made teen 'more courageous'
DOING WHAT SHE LOVES: Jia Xuan, a 13-year-old student at a school under the Association for Persons with Special Needs, with her mother, Madam Oh, after the matinee of A Nation In Concert.

SINGAPORE - When Kweh Jia Xuan was younger, she would lose control of her emotions. Once, at the age of nine, the special-needs child created a scene at a library because she could not borrow as many books as she would have liked.

With a heavy heart, her mother, Olivia Oh, chased her out of the library to help Jia Xuan learn how to control her feelings.

Learning to deal with snide remarks made by others of her daughter and brush them aside was something Madam Oh also found challenging.

But Jia Xuan, now 13 and a student at a school under the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN), is more aware and in better control of her emotions.

While she took some time to learn her dance steps for a musical on Saturday called A Nation In Concert, she was able to keep her emotions in check.

It was with pride that Madam Oh, a 43-year-old housewife, saw her daughter come so far onstage and receive applause from the audience.

Backstage after the performance, she gave an ecstatic Jia Xuan a big, warm hug. "I was very proud and thrilled to see my daughter onstage doing what she loves," said Madam Oh.

A Nation In Concert seeks to empower "differently abled" people and show that they can rise above their disabilities.

Held at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands, it featured more than 100 differently abled volunteers from APSN, Handicaps Welfare Association, the Singapore Association for the Deaf and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

Joining them was a voluntary cast of theatre professionals including Patricia Mok and Nora Samosir.

Set in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the musical centred on a conflict between native animals and migratory birds - a play on locals versus foreigners - and on not judging people but accepting their differences instead.

For Madam Oh, A Nation In Concert was a rare opportunity for Jia Xuan to perform, something she is very thankful for.

"Jia Xuan is passionate about such events but there are not many opportunities for my daughter to perform," explained the mother, who also volunteered for backstage duties such as make-up and costumes.

Madam Oh hopes there will be more of such opportunities for the differently abled, as it can make a difference to them.

"A Nation In Concert has taught my daughter how to perform in front of a large audience and that definitely made her more courageous as a person."

Presented by The Rotary Club of Pandan Valley, A Nation In Concert drew a crowd of about 2,300 for both its matinee and evening performances. Proceeds from ticket sales will be channelled to the participating charities.

At the 3pm show, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), a sponsor for A Nation In Concert, and SPH Foundation donated $500,000 to the Community Chest.

With the Government matching this dollar for dollar, a total of $1 million will go towards 50 charities, including the four whose volunteers performed in A Nation In Concert.

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