SINGAPORE — A spinal cord malformation may give him physical challenges, and finances may be tight for him and his ageing grandmother, but 24-year-old Alex Lim is determined to lead a normal life.
The national para-archer, who was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth, relies on crutches to move around, making walking long distances a taxing task.
His 73-year-old grandmother, his sole guardian since birth, also has mobility issues. She became jobless after suffering from a bad fall when he was in secondary school and now relies on a wheelchair to get around.
“She used to work everywhere … like in the catering line as a cook, but due to her health and (being) wheelchair-bound, she’s less active now,” said Mr Lim, who lives in a one-room Government rental flat with her.
To lighten her financial burden, Mr Lim took on a part-time job as a customer service officer in Pizza Hut to cover his food and transport expenses, totalling about S$50 a week. Since her fall, he also stopped taking pocket money from her.
But his earnings are hardly sufficient to pay his school fees at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) — where he is a first-year student undertaking a diploma in advertising — amounting to about S$4,400 per academic year.
“School fees is one of my main concerns because it is a very large number … To be honest, it’s quite scary,” he said.
In May, he received S$3,000 from the TODAY Enable Fund, which took a huge load off his mind.
“With this funding, we are able to cover one semester’s fees (for me) to proceed to the next level of studies, and can be used to buy some materials for future projects,” he said.
Mr Lim is one of nine beneficiaries supported by the fund, set up last December to support efforts aimed at enhancing the education, skills and employment prospects of people with disabilities.
He is one of the many individuals who refused to let his medical condition deter him from his passion. Although he had never taken up any sport, three years ago, on the recommendation of a hospital staff during one of his orthopaedic appointments, he decided to give para-archery a try.
“(The staff) told me there’s a coach at the CC (community club) who is willing to teach para-archers … so I thought, why not give it a try?” he said.
Today, he is a national athlete under the Singapore Disability Sports Council. Earlier this year, he represented Singapore at the 2017 Para Archery World Ranking Event.
Training up to three days at the field and two days at the gym weekly during the holidays, Mr Lim has his sights set on the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020.
But the NAFA student makes sure to not neglect his studies as he has his heart set on landing a decent-paying job after graduation so he can support his grandmother.
“Even though my grandma is not rich or educated, she tried to provide me with the best she can when I was young, so I was not deprived,” he said. “I think that was very great of her.”
Specifically, he hopes to repay her by upgrading to a more spacious apartment.
“(The house now) is very small; it’s hardly (possible) for a wheelchair to actually (go through) to the bathroom.
“Once I find a proper job with a decent pay, I (hope) to provide myself and my grandma with a better living environment,” he said.
“(She) is old, and I’m not getting younger. I need to plan forward.”