Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson
Here’s the story of Salihin Bin Nawi who rose above everything because the fire inside him burned brighter than the fire around him.
1. He became his own guiding light when he lost his father
Salihin’s father died of a heart attack when he was only 6 years old. It was a huge blow to his whole family especially his mother who took a long time to get over it. The weight of taking care of everyone eventually fell on her shoulders and since then she’s been working as a cleaner at a coffee shop to make ends meet. Salihin often felt alone and neglected because his mum was busy at work, but that just pushed him to become independent at a very young age and fend for himself.
2. When he had his back against the wall, he found his way out
Salihin attended a mainstream primary school until he was 9. It was a challenge catching up for him as he couldn’t understand his lessons. His schoolmates did not realise that he has an intellectual disability and made matters tough for him by taking away his things and making fun of his father’s name. This pushed him to lash out in frustration and throw things at them and vandalise school property. He felt alone and dreaded going to school which he tried avoiding most of the time. He eventually confided in his mother who understood his problems and moved him to a special education school. That was when things started looking up. He has also introduced to Special Olympics Singapore where he became actively involved in floorball and bocce & won medals at national level competitions.
3. He finally found his voice
After joining Special Olympics, Salihin started to realise his own worth and found friends and coaches who rooted for him and celebrated his achievements. In 2017, he represented Singapore in floorball at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. He made friends from all over the world and brought back the silver medal for the Singapore team. Salihin is now 21 and trying to give back by helping to coach other athletes in sports. He hopes to be a leader and role model so he can help people with intellectual disabilities achieve the same sense of empowerment.
4. From a lost boy to a pillar of support.
Apart from sports, Salihin also tried to get a job to help ease his mum’s financial burden. He recently completed his internship at Pizza Hut and learned a lot during the stint. He was nervous at first about not meeting the expectations of his colleagues, but they were kind, patient and happily repeated instructions for him when he did not understand. Salihin is currently studying at the Institute of Technical Education where he’s enrolled in a web application course. He’s also interning at Special Olympics Singapore as an administrative assistant and is grateful that employers have focused on his abilities & not disabilities.
‘To all employers out there, please don’t judge us based on the traditional measure of intelligence. Give us time to think and process instructions, and allow us to modify things at the workplace to help us to work well. Be patient with us. We have gifts and talents that will surprise you.’