Brittle body, resilient mind

PHOTO: Brittle body, resilient mind

You may remember him as the adorable boy with brittle bone disease.

But Jeremy Lim Hon Lee is no longer a child.

He is now 21 and a resilient adult.

Mr Lim's determination to make the most of his life reflects the qualities required to make Singapore resilient.

It's a notable quality today since it is Total Defence Day, which this year commemorates the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.

This year, it focuses on getting Singaporeans to give back to the community in their own individual way.

Doing his part, Mr Lim has written a book, Beyond Bone Breaking, which was published by Mindchamps Publishing last June.

He also contributes regularly to the local media, highlighting the plight of the handicapped, and calling for them to be more integrated into society.

He was the Young Ambassador for the National Kidney Foundation Children's Medical Fund and gives inspirational talks at youth-related events.

The New Paper featured him in 1999 after he won medals in English and maths at an international competition in Australia, and again in a 2001 report on the challenges he faced as a boy growing up with the disease.

Mr Lim, born with a genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta, now studies at the Faculty of Arts and Social Science at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He is majoring in Japanese Studies, and the irony is not lost on him.

Why study the language of our former occupiers?

He said: "I admire Japanese culture. They are a very polite society, and have an inclusive attitude towards the handicapped. They are definitely a very different society from the one back then in 1942."

And studying the culture of others has helped him appreciate the importance of being a socially resilient country.

Social defence

He said: "The Japanese are a very close knit society, and are very united. They have a group mentality that is extremely important for the social defence of a country. We can try to emulate them in that respect."

Mr Lim gets help from his parents who send him to university daily. His friend, Mr Sherman Wee, 22, a business major at NUS, helps him move around campus when his mother is unable.

NUS has also helped Mr Lim integrate.

Mr Lim said: "The dean and the vice dean are very accommodating and will often schedule tutorials in classes that are more easily accessible to me, and in classrooms that don't require me to travel too much."

So his family, friends, and teachers are giving to the community by helping him.

Mr Lim also has a message to readers for Total Defence Day.

He said: "Every day is Total Defence Day, as we have to continue maintaining our strengths and enhancing our capabilities. It is the responsibility of every Singaporean to do so."

More than 1,000 people are expected to gather at Kranji Memorial today to commemorate the event.