His own ordeal drove him to help others

Mr Divesh Singaraju, 21, co-founder of Youth Comm, had a relapse of his cancer of the lymph nodes after his O Levels, causing him to delay the start of his polytechnic education by a year.
PHOTO: His own ordeal drove him to help others

Not only did Divesh Singaraju survive cancer to come out tops in his course, he also found time to to serve the community both locally and overseas.

Part of his efforts to give back to society was co-founding a cancer support group for youth called Youth Comm. "We want to encourage and support physically-challenged children during their cancer treatment, empowering them with hope, faith and strength during the difficult times," he explained.

"When I was in the hospital for my treatment, I saw children as young as a few months old, going through the painful chemotherapy. They weren't even aware of why they had to go through all that pain and it made me want to help them in any way I could," he added.

The co-founders, aged 14 to 26, are cancer survivors themselves and had met each other at hospitals or support events. They organise talks at hospitals and visit young patients to encourage them.

Mr Divesh was first diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes at the age of 10. With treatments, he beat it and life returned to normal. But just as he was about to start his Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering course at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), he had a relapse.

"I had to defer the course by a year as I had to go for fortnightly chemotherapy sessions," said the 21-year-old. Mr Divesh's lecturers helped him get the deferment after learning about his illness. During his treatment, he said, his family and friends were very supportive and caring.

Did he face any difficulties because of the deferment?

He was quick to say: "No. The recovery process was difficult and the treatment made me weak, but by the time I started my course, I was feeling much better." He added: "The course was extremely tough, but passion makes things easier. I had a strong passion in this field and it was my driving force."

With SP's holistic engineering curriculum and motivation from his lecturers, Mr Divesh persevered and challenged himself to get the best out of his poly education.

"I don't come from a rich family, and so we did have financial concerns, especially after my treatment. I knew that I had to study hard in order to have a stable future," he explained.

On May 22, his hard work paid off and Mr Divesh graduated top of his course and clinched the Lee Kuan Yew Award, making him one of the eight institutional medallists this year.

Speaking about winning this award, he said: "It was totally unexpected. When I joined the course, all I knew was that I wanted to obtain a GPA 4.0, and so I worked really hard to maintain that score. This is a changing point in my life."

Following his exceptional academic performance, he has been offered a place in Imperial College London to study aeronautical engineering, the Global Merit Scholarship from National University of Singapore to do mechanical engineering, and the Nanyang Scholarship from Nanyang Technological University to read aerospace engineering.

Mr Divesh is now an intern in the Research and Development department of DSO (Defence Science Organisation) National Laboratories. He was one of 5,510 students who graduated from SP this year.


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