56 year-old Teo Khai Seng had a difficult childhood growing up, earning a meagre monthly salary of $40 as a child labourer in a plastics factory with only a day’s leave every month. Mr Teo took on two jobs as a butcher and an insect catcher to support his fledging fish farm. Later in life, he strove to overcome his illiteracy by reading novels, Chinese history books and subtitles on TV programmes.
Mr Teo’s life story is just one of the many featured stories of our pioneers in ‘The Greatest Gift of a Generation – Life Stories’, an exhibition currently running at the Woodlands Regional Library from now to May 2016. The exhibition features the stories, anecdotes and memories of 39 pioneers that pay tribute to the strength and perseverance of our pioneer generation in overcoming the odds. Touching on the universal themes of love, loss, separation and hope during Singapore’s founding years, their life stories are told through first-person narratives on text panels and video displays located across the library and complemented by portraiture shots taken by students from the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Arts, Design and Media.
“The stories featured are drawn from the pool of memories that the Singapore Memory Project has captured and documented through road shows, interviews, campaigns and the Singapore Memory Portal since the project began in 2011,” said Mr Yee Yeong Chong, Manager, Engagement, National Library Board. “The pioneer generation has a wealth of experiences that the young can learn from, and we hope that they serve as role models for young Singaporeans.”
The exhibition also includes video installations of five pioneers sharing their stories of personal struggle. One such story is that of Helena Mahesan’s, as she recounts her childhood grief of losing a parent at the age of five, being sent to live in a convent and losing her brother to childhood cancer. Now an Assistant Director of Nursing and Nurse Mentor at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Helena shared that her inspiration to be a nurse was spurred with each loss she had witnessed, and this led her to take on a role that allows her to go beyond bedside care and focus on more global health issues such as cancer. Currently leading the hospital’s Nursing Mentorship programme, Helena draws on her extensive experiences to mentor nurses facing similar challenges of patient care.
“The National Library Board is happy to preserve our pioneer generation’s memories,” said Mrs Elaine Ng, Chief Executive Officer, National Library Board. “These add a human touch to Singapore’s history that will inspire our future generations.”
‘The Greatest Gift of a Generation – Life Stories’ is open to the general public for viewing during the library’s opening hours of 10am to 9pm (closed during Public Holidays), and will be on display till May 2016.