Thursday, 4 February 2016

Good Samaritan is first Straits Times Singaporean of the Year

By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 3 Feb 2016

Good Samaritan Noriza A. Mansor was named the first Straits Times Singaporean of the Year yesterday.

Madam Noriza, 50, beat nine other contenders - including philanthropists, athletes and environmentalists - to the inaugural title.

The award, sponsored by the bank UBS Singapore, recognises Singaporeans whose extraordinary acts of goodwill, ingenuity or perseverance improved their community and the lives of others last year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented a stunned Madam Noriza with the Singaporean of the Year trophy during a ceremony at the UBS Business University. She also won a $20,000 cash prize.

Madam Noriza, who works as a sales promoter, made headlines in October 2014 when she went to help the elderly Mr Tan Soy Yong. He had soiled himself while buying groceries with his wife, who uses a wheelchair, at a supermarket.

The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year nominee: No blood ties but 'I see them as my parents', says Madam Noriza A. Mansor. about the award here:
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, February 1, 2016

Others flinched from the stench, but Madam Noriza knelt down to wipe the mess off his legs and bought him new shorts. Her acts even moved one bystander to tears.

The judges for the award noted how she had not been deterred by the barriers of age, gender, race or language to step forward to help a stranger in need.

Since then, she has been regularly spending her days off visiting Mr Tan and his wife, Madam Lee Bee Yian, both 76, even after they were hospitalised and moved into nursing homes.

The single mother of five hopes her win will inspire others to help those in need. "Please help these people, as maybe they don't know how to speak up. Please help them whether they are old or poor or handicapped. Don't neglect them."

Her win was decided after a public vote and deliberation by a 15-judge panel, including Straits Times editors and writers, as well as figures such as youth leader David Hoe, social entrepreneur and activist Saleemah Ismail and restaurateur Willin Low.

The other nominees each received $5,000 from sponsor UBS.

Congratulations to Noriza A. Mansor for being named The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year! This new award...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

She first made headlines in October 2014 when she stepped forward to help an elderly stranger who had soiled himself at...
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, February 1, 2016

Winner's joy tempered by news of man's severe illness
She had rushed from ceremony to visit elderly couple, only to find one of them was hospitalised
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 3 Feb 2016

Madam Noriza A. Mansor was speechless with joy on hearing she had been named the first Straits Times Singaporean of the Year - but it turned out to be a bittersweet occasion.

The saleswoman, 50, won the inaugural award for her good deed in helping an elderly stranger, Mr Tan Soy Yong, when he soiled himself in public.

But the thought that Mr Tan - who is seriously ill in hospital - could not be there with her brought tears to her eyes.

"I am very happy but also a bit sad because uncle (Mr Tan) could not be here today," she said. "But when I went on stage to take the award, I could feel like he was here with me, somehow."

The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year: Her selflessness has touched the lives of many. Good Samaritan Noriza A. Mansor has emerged as the winner of the inaugural award. Congratulations! on our live blog:
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, February 1, 2016

Madam Noriza met Mr Tan in October 2014 in a Toa Payoh supermarket, where he had soiled himself while buying groceries with his wife, Madam Lee Bee Yian, who uses a wheelchair. Both are 76.

After helping to clean him up, she befriended the couple and has since spent nearly all of her days off visiting them - initially at their three-room flat in Potong Pasir, and later in the various hospitals and nursing homes they have been moved to.

The couple are now staying at a Serangoon nursing home.

Good Samaritan Noriza A. Mansor has emerged as the winner of the inaugural Singaporean of the Year award by The Straits Times. "I'm very happy but sad also. When I took the award I felt that the uncle was beside me." on our live blog: OLIVIA HO
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, February 1, 2016

After yesterday's ceremony, Madam Noriza rushed to see them, stopping only to buy fried rice and coffee for them at a nearby hawker centre.

To her dismay, she discovered Mr Tan had been taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital with a high fever.

When she visited him there, she found him lying in bed with a tube in his nose. He did not respond to her attempts to speak to him.

"He has lost so much weight," said a distressed Madam Noriza. "Seeing him like this makes me want to cry."

Having lost her parents when she was 21, she now treats the elderly couple as her "father and mother".

"I think God sent them into my life," she told The Straits Times on an earlier visit to Mr Tan last year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who presented her with the award, later congratulated her in a Facebook post. "Glad her selfless act was acknowledged," he wrote.

ST editor Warren Fernandez, one of the award's 15 judges, said they had been moved by her readiness to cross the barriers of age, language and race to help a complete stranger. "None of these mattered to her. She saw someone in need of help and stepped up to do so.

"All the nominees were worthy finalists, but there was something quite special and inspiring about Noriza. I think all of us have something to learn from her."

Madam Noriza, a bedsheet promoter, often works 12-hour days and usually gets one day off a week.

Asked what she will do with the $20,000 cash prize, she said she would use some of the money to renovate her four-room HDB flat in Tampines, especially the kitchen, which she has not upgraded in 20 years. She plans to save the rest for her five children, aged 12 to 27, whom she has raised single-handedly. Three of her children, along with her son's fiancee, attended yesterday's ceremony.

Her eldest son, airport relations officer Muhammad Nazri Zul, 27, said: "My mother really sacrificed a lot for our family.She was the only one with us throughout all the hardship.

"There is no 'me-time' for her. That's why when she is free, she will visit uncle and auntie. She doesn't understand having her own time to spend on herself.

"You know what they say, that good things happen to good people? I guess winning this is her reward for all the good things she's done in her life."

A diverse field, with inspiring tales
Air of warmth at award ceremony as finalists share stories of how they made a difference in the community
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 3 Feb 2016

They were nominated for the first Singaporean of the Year award.

But at the award ceremony yesterday, there was nary a competitive spark among the nominees, who had all contributed to the community in significant ways.

They greeted one another warmly, and left inspired by the stories of their counterparts.

Ultramarathoner Lim Nghee Huat, 62, was touched by the selflessness of former businessman Ben Cheong, 56, who has built 22 schools in Thailand and Myanmar, with three more under construction in Nepal, after starting a charity more than two years ago.

"It must have been very difficult for him to soldier on quietly in his work, so far away from home. But he did what he did because of his heart, and not because he wanted to win," he said. The media producer has his own inspirational story - he marked SG50 by running 2,500km in 50 days last year with Mr Yong Yuen Cheng, 44, a teacher.

Mr Ang Thiam Hock, 52, was struck by the sheer diversity of the finalists - who included a Paralympian, a conductor, environmental activists and a volunteer nurse.

"Each of us has a story to tell, and this has shown me that we can all contribute in our own ways," said Mr Ang, who gave up his sales consultant job to do grassroots work with at-risk youth in Taman Jurong.

He said it was a rare opportunity for them to meet people like finalist Peter Ho, 37, an engineer who co-founded a start-up that put Singapore on the world map after pulling in big-name clients like Airbus.

The firm also designed the Red Rhino emergency vehicles for the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

"He'll be a great person to introduce to my kids, " quipped Mr Ang.

Meanwhile, owners of French restaurant chain Saveur Joshua Khoo, 31, and Dylan Ong, 29 were thrilled to pose for a picture with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had given out the award. PM Lee chatted with them about their business, known for serving French cuisine at affordable prices.

Mr Ong said: "Not many people have the opportunity to meet PM Lee in person and the experience of the whole awards ceremony is something that we can live to tell our grandchildren about."

Celebrity chef Willin Low, 43, said the stories of the finalists put everyday grievances in the proper perspective.

He said: "We often like to grumble about little things like trains being late, but these people have accomplished so much despite adverse circumstances - what is our excuse for complaining?"

Award about ordinary Singaporeans who inspire
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 3 Feb 2016

The organisers of The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award had initially grappled with what the award should be about, said ST editor Warren Fernandez.

But the response to ST senior writer Wong Kim Hoh's award-winning interview series in The Sunday Times, It Changed My Life, which tells the stories of "everyday people doing extraordinary things", provided an answer.

"We decided that The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year should not be about simply picking a top newsmaker, businessman, social worker, or some other paragon of virtue or achievement," said Mr Fernandez at the awards ceremony at UBS Business University in Bukit Timah yesterday.

"Rather, we wanted the award to showcase the stories of Singaporeans, who by their actions, and lives, inspire all of us... They show us that it's not only those who perform heroic feats who can be heroes, that you don't have to be great or grand to do good. You might not be a saint, but you can still do your part to put things right."

Mr Fernandez made special mention of a group of good Samaritans who rushed to help South Korean tourist Kim Sung Mo last July when he was trapped under a truck: "Because this was a large group, we decided not to nominate them, but there's no doubt that their spontaneous and courageous response to help someone in urgent need made us all proud to be their fellow men."

The award is supported by the bank UBS Singapore. Mr Juerg Zeltner, president of UBS Wealth Management, said the award is part of its gift to Singapore for its jubilee year. "Singapore has come a long way over the last 50 years. Its remarkable progress would not have been possible without the support, commitment and dedication of ordinary people determined to make Singapore a better place.

"Their efforts are a testament to the power of the human spirit and its capacity to enhance the quality of life across communities."

ST Singaporean of the Year: 'I don't think I'm special'
Recipient of the first The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award Noriza Mansor has sparked soul-searching with her act of uncommon kindness
By John Lui, The Sunday Times, 21 Feb 2016

The first thing that strangers say to Madam Noriza Mansor when they recognise her is: "Are you the woman who washed the man who soiled himself?"

The second thing they say is: "I could never do what you did."

Each day, someone will approach her, shyly. Often, to say they could never be as good as her.

Madam Noriza, named the first The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year, never asked to be the spark that triggered national soul-searching, with people asking themselves online and in real life if they could ever do what she did.

"Today, two people recognised me and talked to me," she tells The Sunday Times.

At 1.5m tall, she is petite, and sitting on a playground bench outside her four-room HDB flat in Tampines, her feet just about touch the ground.

It is 10pm. She is tired after a 12-hour workday. The 50-year-old has worked in stores, selling everything from pots and pans to, now, bedlinen, since she was 15.

She works on commission and chooses to stick around for the peak shopping hours till closing time at 9.30pm.

"A bad person can change. Maybe they come from families where they didn't get any love. They missed that. I give everyone a chance," says ST Singaporean of the Year Madam Noriza Mansor.
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, February 20, 2016

Talking to strangers and befriending them is the best part of her job, she says brightly. She thinks of herself as naturally social.

"They tell me, you look like a happy person. You must have a happy family," she says. That is when she tells them that she has five children who make her happy and that she is a twice-divorced single mother of five children aged 12 to 27.

What she does not mention is that both ex-husbands were drug addicts. Her second husband was jailed for wielding a knife and threatening to kill her and harm her children.

Once, when he was high on methamphetamine, an illegal drug, he beat her with a broom, but later apologised. She forgave him, but the knife incident was the limit and she divorced him 12 years ago.

"I wanted to find someone to be with, but in the end, they made use of me," she says softly of her ex-husbands.

I ask why she gives so much, even to people who do not deserve it.

"A bad person can change. I never look down on others. Everyone has problems. Maybe they come from families where they didn't get any love. They missed that. I give everyone a chance," she says.

That simple equation - if I have enough, I share it - has been part of her life since she was born. She is the fifth of eight children, born to parents who ran a Malay chicken rice stall. The family lived in a three-room HDB flat in Redhill Estate.

She dropped out of school after Secondary 2 to work at the Isetan department store and has been in sales since.

Both her parents died within months of each other - her father of a heart problem and her mother, in a traffic accident - when she was 18. Their deaths have cast a long shadow on her life, she says.

She does not describe herself as particularly religious and she is not superhuman, she says.

Like everyone else around her on that day in October 2014, she was repelled by the stench from Mr Tan Soy Yong, 77, who was buying groceries at a Toa Payoh supermarket with his disabled wife when he soiled himself.

Madam Noriza was working in the supermarket.

"It was horrible. It was like I was going to vomit," she says.

She thinks about why she was moved to clean Mr Tan, a stranger, and buy him a pair of shorts.

Her answer is practical: "Because his wife is in a wheelchair and no taxi driver was going to allow him to board the taxi in his condition.

"The two of them would be stuck on the street, unable to get home or anywhere else," she adds. She thought of her parents and what she would have wanted others to do for them if they were in need.

So she took him to a lift landing and cleaned his legs. A passer-by, currency trader Goh Rong Ren, then 32, chipped in money for Mr Tan's taxi fare and later tipped off The New Paper about Madam Noriza's act of kindness and how it restored his faith in humanity.

It is a feeling that she has stirred in many people, especially after she won the inaugural Singaporean of the Year award, sponsored by the bank UBS Singapore, earlier this month. She took home a $20,000 cash prize and a trophy.

At the ceremony, when she received the award from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, she was close to tears.

"Why me? Who voted for me? I don't think I'm special. I've had struggles in my life. I'm a normal person," she says.

She thinks for a moment, then adds: "I have a house, my five children are good people. I am better off than other people. "

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