Song-sign for Singapore
By Lee Ci En, a Youth Corps Advocate.
Remember “dancing” along to the famous National Day song, Home, during the National Day Parade (NDP) this year?
If you caught this year’s NDP, chances are you followed the actions made by Ms Neoh Yew Kim, the lady who led the song-signing segment at the parade.
“I’ve always wanted to sing the popular songs for Singapore,” she said, not realizing that one day she’d actually stand on a national platform leading Singapore to sing using sign language. “This is the beauty of song-signing, it allows everyone to enter a common world and sing in one voice.”
Her Early Years
Born with profound deafness, Yew Kim underwent an operation when she was just 3 years old to insert a cochlear implant in her ear. She also wears a hearing aid on the other ear which enables her to hear to a certain extent.
She recalled, “When I was studying at a mainstream secondary school, I discovered that I was unable to hear my peers and teachers. I had to learn to lip-read but it wasn’t easy as I could only do so if I faced the teacher directly.”
While narrating her experience, Yew Kim stroked her chin and started giggling. “It was more difficult when the male teachers had thick beards which made it hard for me to see their lip movements clearly!” she said, tickled by her own memory.
“Before I came to terms with my lack of hearing, I felt negative and pessimistic. I thought that I was an imperfection. I had a lot of questions about myself and lacked confidence as I couldn’t hear or speak well.”
She remembered how her classmates lent her their notes and helped her during lessons by repeating to her teachers’ words that she couldn’t catch. They also taught her how to pronounce and articulate her words better. Since then, Yew Kim steadily adapted and became more self-assured.
Now, she no longer lacks confidence or feels negative about herself – instead she uses her experiences to make a difference by helping others. “There must have been a reason for me to be here even though I was born deaf” she said.
Growing up in a Mandarin-speaking family, the highly motivated girl also took on the challenge of being proficient in English and Sign Language.
“I volunteered to song-sign for StarHub’s SG50 video – ‘Home by Homes’. I made many new memories and learnt something new,” Yew Kim said.
Pursuing her love for music, she rose to the occasion by song-signing at this year’s National Day Parade. She shared enthusiastically, “I wanted to use sign language to raise awareness and bridge the gap between the deaf community and others.”
“People should not discriminate the deaf or those with disabilities. Do not speak too fast and be loud enough to be heard. Don’t be afraid to approach us. Have patience, and be understanding,” she shared.
Many may have witnessed Yew Kim’s elegance and mesmerising smile on television, or in person at the parade. I, however, caught a glimpse of Yew Kim’s inner grace, resilience and positivity during my relatively short chat with her at The Singapore Association for the Deaf. She has become an inspiration to me, and to all of us.
Hopefully we’ll all be song-signing with Yew Kim in future. This way we can also help achieve her dream of an “inclusive SG100”!
Volunteer with Youth Corps Singapore at www.youthcorps.sg