RGS student who had learning disability pays it forward
International Women's Day falls on Thursday. TAY CHECK KING speaks to four women who have made a name for themselves in their respective fields
When she was a child, most kids her age were easily singing their ABCs, but Miss Mint Lim would jumble up the words without even realising it.
She was six when a Sunday school teacher at her church noticed her learning disability and helped her learn phonics.
Now, the 31-year-old wants to pay it forward.
The early intervention of her Sunday school teacher helped give her a leg up - Miss Lim even scored close to 270 for her Primary School Leaving Examination and managed to get into Raffles Girls School.
When she was studying for her A levels, Miss Lim decided to start tutoring younger children in her neighbourhood in the Bedok Reservoir area for free - some of them even stayed with her all the way to making it to university.
Miss Lim told The New Paper: "I believe in empowering children, especially through literacy. It's a motto I live by because I believe we should all be treated the same."
Miss Lim started her own tuition business midway through university by helping children in low-income areas.
But her business was unsustainable as her students couldn't pay tuition fees.
I believe in empowering children, especially through literacy. It’s a motto I live by because I believe we should all be treated the same.Miss Mint Lim
Undeterred, she continued teaching at tuition centres after she left university at 24, and in November last year, she started School of Concepts at Paya Lebar for preschoolers.
Miss Lim runs it as a social enterprise, charging market rates for her enrichment courses, but not turning away those who come from poorer financial backgrounds.
Instead, she pro-rates fees according to their financial background, sometimes charging as little as $10 for four to eight lessons.
The school has about 100 to 110 students.
Said Miss Lim: "For children who enter school without much linguistic ability, their confidence can be easily crushed when compared to others who have received extensive preschooling.
"It is important we empower them so they want to go to school."
This mother of four can't sit still
As a marketing director with Nike, Mrs Christine Amour-Levar rubbed shoulders with football's biggest stars, such as Real Madrid duo Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo Nazario and Arsenal's Thierry Henry.
That all changed in 2012 for the mother of four children - Yasmine, 17, Malcolm, 15, Louis, 10, and Angeline, eight.
That was when she met Ms Valerie Boffy - who had climbed Everest and unfurled a banner supporting Women for Women International UK, a charity that helps female survivors of war rebuild their lives.
Inspired, Mrs Amour-Levar co-founded Women on a Mission (WOAM) in 2012.
The Singaporean permanent resident, who was born in Manila, is married to Mr Steve Levar, the founder of iRace Media, a publishing company specialising in horse racing.
She has organised and led expeditions to Africa, the Arctic and the Himalayas to raise awareness and funds for victims of war and abuse.
She then founded HER Planet Earth (HPE) last year to raise funds for underprivileged women affected by climate change and organisations such as Zero Waste SG and World Wildlife Fund Singapore.
Today, the social entrepreneur continues using her marketing expertise to run both WOAM and HPE, raising funds for its partner charities.
She told The New Paper: "When researching Antarctica, I was shocked to learn how global water levels would rise 10cm due to climate change."
To prepare for expeditions, Mrs Amour-Levar trains by running and biking.
To prepare for a bike expedition in Ethiopia late last year, she and her team rode mountain bikes across Pulau Ubin.
She also led an international team of six women on a self-funded mountain-climbing trip to Antarctica.
Braving temperatures as low as -30 deg C, the team completed the first-ever ascent of two mountains, which the women named Mount Gaia and Mount Malala, the latter in honour of Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai.
She said: "Becoming the first to summit unclimbed peaks as an all-female team was without a doubt empowering.
"Antarctica forces you to ponder your own insignificance and re-evaluate all you know and feel."
Mrs Amour-Levar also published a book, The Smart Girl's Handbook to Being Mummylicious: A Motivational and Practical Guide to Getting Your Body (and Your Groove) Back Post Pregnancy, in 2010. It was to help mothers get back in shape through exercise and healthy eating following childbirth.
She plans to lead a team for WOAM on an expedition on horseback in Mongolia this year.
She said: "We hope to continually step out of our comfort zone.
"That way, the stories we tell will have meaning."
Inspired by family, now heading a food empire
As a child, Ms Christine Kaelbel-Sheares attended many of her parents' dinner parties.
And since her paternal grandfather was the late Dr Benjamin Sheares, Singapore's second president, there were many parties to attend.
She was fascinated by her mother, who managed to cook, clean and entertain her guests seamlessly.
Ms Kaelbel-Sheares, who declined to reveal her age, said she tried to help her mum.
She told The New Paper: "I'd like to think I was helping out."
She was certain, however, that it made her want to pursue a career in hospitality. She is now vice-president of food and beverage (F&B) at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), leading a team of about 2,000. She has also worked with celebrities such as David Beckham, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
Ensuring people enjoyed their meals is something she strives for, ever since she was an F&B rookie starting out at The Ritz Hotel in London.
Ms Kaelbel-Sheares said: "When I started out I had to do anything and everything. But it was a new and exciting time learning new things."
Breaking into a male-dominated field was not easy.
She recalls while working at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, a boss told her she had become the first Asian - and female - maître d there.
Said Ms Kaelbel-Sheares: "For me, I have been lucky to work in companies that always rewarded based on merit."
When she heard of MBS' opening in 2008, Ms Kaelbel-Sheares applied for the post so that she could return home. She would become part of MBS' pioneer team in 2009. The key, she emphasises, is hard work.
She said: "First, you have to find what you love doing. Persistence is everything. You just have to keep working at it."
From the newsroom to Antarctica
For seven years, Ms Jessica Cheam championed sustainability from a newsroom.
Today, she tells the story of where the sun almost never sets.
As a political and environment correspondent with The Straits Times, she covered national development, business and energy issues.
Ms Cheam said: "It wasn't till I started reporting at The Straits Times that I realised climate change was a critical issue that was under-reported by the mainstream media."
While at the newspaper in 2009, she received the Earth Journalism Award in Copenhagen from Madam Mary Robinson, Ireland's first female president.
The award recognises the year's best climate change stories.
That year, Ms Cheam established Eco-Business, a social enterprise that supports and hosts social and environmental initiatives. She devoted her time fully to Eco-Business as a managing editor in 2013.
Ms Cheam then won the 2017 City Development Limited E-Generation Challenge, a competition targeted to empower the youth in devising urgent solutions to climate change.
And last Tuesday, she and fellow Singaporeans Inch Chua and Anthea Ong embarked on a two-week expedition to Antarctica. The expedition is part of ClimateForce: Antarctica 2018.
Led by Mr Robert Swan, a renowned British environmentalist and explorer who was the first man to walk to both the North and South poles, they will observe wildlife and visit the Vernadsky Research Base.
The base is a Ukranian Antarctic Station, which has been the subject of scientific research studies on long-term temperature trends.
Ms Cheam, a mother of two - 51/2-year-old Tristan and 31/2-year-old Emma - said: "I have two kids and I do not want them to live in a world fractured by war, division and resource scarcity - these are real threats and outcomes."
Ms Cheam, together with Scottish videojournalist Fraser Morton, will produce a photo collection and short documentary for the Eco-Business campaign, Changing Course.
Mr Morton has previously worked on film projects for National Geographic.
The campaign will be exhibited from June 1 to July 12 here, in support of Singapore's 2018 Year of Climate Action.
Ms Cheam said: "It starts with getting every citizen to care and feel a certain responsibility towards our planet and society."
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