14 July 2021
Twenty-five years ago, Audi launched the world’s very first premium compact car – the Audi A3.
We check in with three inspirational young Singaporean adults who are also turning 25 this year to learn more about the great strides they have made in their respective fields. Over a cup of coffee, we discussed about what inspires them, their hopes and ambitions for the future and their personal take on what “Living Progress” means to them.
Nothing gets in the way of Syakirah, who leads a physically active lifestyle despite being born without any hands.
Unfazed by her disability, she lights up the floor every Tuesday and Thursday with her energetic gym classes. She teaches Salsation, a rigorous workout programme centered on salsa-spicy and sensational moves that infuse fun and dance into fitness.
Outside of the gym, Syakirah hustles on the side by doing food delivery, where she lugs around heavy bags of food on her own in Singapore’s unforgiving tropical heat and rain daily.
Finding Her Groove Amidst Challenges
Syakirah had it tough growing up. To avoid glances and awkward questions about her condition from those around her, she developed a habit of folding her arms in public. When she applied for retail work, she was frequently turned down by employers, presumably over concerns of her physical appearance.
During her upper secondary school, she realised that she could not keep hiding her disability forever. Over time, she gained confidence in herself and became comfortable in her own skin, vowing never to fold her arms to hide her disability ever again.
After she landed her job as a receptionist at the gym, her positive can-do attitude won over her superiors, which opened many doors for her to further herself at work. After trying out various workouts, including Zumba, yoga and even martial arts, she found her groove in Salsation and gone on to teach and empower many of her students to improve their fitness through dance.
Perspectives on Performance
For Syakirah, “Living Progress” means never giving up and constantly working to become a better version of yourself.
She firmly believes that no matter how bleak the circumstances may be, we all have it within ourselves to persist and soldier on. She says, “Whenever you feel like you’re about to give up and just sit around doing nothing, you have to tell yourself, ‘No, there will always be a way.’”
When gyms were closed due to the pandemic, Syakirah took on the challenge doing food delivery to maintain the physically active lifestyle she desires. Even after her delivery bicycle broke down earlier this year, she continues doing her delivery runs on foot, clocking over 20 km of walking in any given day — adding another personal achievement under her belt.
Syakirah told us that she considers herself blessed to have had exceptionally supported superiors who encouraged her to become a fitness instructor despite her disability and had her back at every step of the way.
Grateful for all the support that has inspired the self-confidence she has today, Syakirah hopes for a future in which we see disability not a sign of weakness, but as a symbol of strength that drives us to confront challenges head on and emerge stronger from our struggles.
Blake is a travel photographer driven by wanderlust. He travels the world with a camera always strapped around his shoulder, ready to capture the picturesque sights and scenes he encounters along the way.
Blake picked up his photography skills along his travels and has since perfected his craft, which led him to open his “The Print Shop”, a blog shop which sells a variety of photo merchandise, including postcards, tote bags, yearly planners and notebooks.
Apart from his photography work, Blake is all-round creative with an impressive portfolio ranging from wedding photography, travel guides, to opinion pieces on fashion and style.
Weaving Tales and Narratives in Photographs
A few years ago, Blake would never have imagined running The Print Shop as a career path. What started out as a search for a creative outlet during his days in National Service blossomed into a burning passion to showcase the beauty of the world in his travels.
His photographs never fail to dazzle the imagination and speak a thousand words. On The Print Shop, his postcards, which showcase some of his best travel snapshots from destinations such as Barcelona, Okinawa and San Francisco, stand out. What’s unique about the postcards are the intriguing quotes scribbled at the bottom, in a font closely resembling subtitles of an indie or vintage movie.
According to Blake, his quotes represent an honest expression of the thoughts and emotions that come to mind when he relishes in the beauty of these places and are meant to invoke a unique cinematographic lens in how we admire them.
In capturing the heart and soul of the landscapes pictured, the quotes aptly weave in reassuring tales and narratives of hope, nostalgia and adventure. They inspire us to take a pause and reflect on the precious moments in our lives that have brought us bliss and serenity that are almost all but forgotten.
Perspectives on Design
In Blake’s view, “Living Progress” is creating good designs that achieve more than just an aesthetic standard.
When crafting merchandise for The Print Shop, Blake aspires for them to be functional and pragmatic. He explains, “Whenever I design something, I ask myself how I am going to use this and I make sure to always hear people out on what they want in a product.”
What matters to Blake is that his products serve people as everyday essentials that address unmet needs and solving real problems. Hence, when sourcing for suppliers, he does not compromise on quality as he believes that regardless of how aesthetically beautiful his products might be, they would not be valued if they come apart easily or are just thrown away after brief use.
Recently, he has come to realise the importance of gathering extensive user feedback after discovering how even something as simple as a notebook may vary widely when used by a sketch artist and a diary writer, as both require different paper qualities for drawing and bullet journaling respectively.
Driven by this perspective, Blake hopes for a future in which designers pay closer attention to the creative demands of their audiences and strive to create works of art that empower people to live well.
Rebecca is an entrepreneur featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2017 list for founding Freedom Cups, a feminine hygiene company making waves for selling highly reusable menstrual cups.
Started in 2015, for every menstrual cup purchased, Freedom Cups donates one cup to women in underprivileged communities worldwide, especially those who cannot afford pads or tampons, or even toilets and running water. To date, Freedom Cups has run 30 distribution projects changing the lives of thousands of women across 10 different countries in Asia and Africa, such as the Philippines, India, and Nigeria.
As a dolphin trainer and a marine biologist in training, the work of Freedom Cups means a lot to Rebecca as it plays an integral role in reducing plastic waste in our oceans and conserving marine mammals and aquatic life for future generations.
Saving the World, A Cup at a Time
According to the World Bank, half of a billion of women across the world lack access to sanitation, leaving them to use anything from old cloth, socks, leaves and tree barks during their periods. For those women in lesser developed regions well-off enough to purchase sanitary pads, they often dispose of their pads by burning them next to rivers, leading to soil and water pollution that hurt both their health and the environment.
The menstrual cups developed by Rebecca and her sisters are better for our bodies, wallets and the planet. They last for 10 years on average and replace over 5,000 non-biodegradable disposable sanitary products that make up a bulk of the trash in our oceans.
Despite the immense benefits of reusable menstrual cups, many women in conservative societies have been slow to catch on due to the stigma against using cups before marriage. Nonetheless, positive experiences have kept Rebecca going strong and determined in her cause. She recounted one trip to the Philippines where some mothers approached her in the middle of the night to discreetly obtain cups from her for their unmarried daughters.
Perspectives on Sustainability
To Rebecca, “Living Progress” means noticing the little things that make a difference in our environment. She observes that many of us hold the notion being sustainable is a hassle and demands making inconvenient sweeping changes to our lives, which only hinders or delays many of us from taking action. Instead, Rebecca thinks that, “We don’t need to be perfect at what we do, but we just need to make incremental improvements and be more conscious about our decisions.”
Adopting even simple practices such as eliminating the use of disposables and reducing our plastic waste contribute to cleaner oceans and a lesser carbon footprint.
Based on her experience in the field of marine conservation, Rebecca believes that the best way to overcome our inertia towards sustainability is education. In the Dolphin Discovery Programme where she works as a dolphin trainer, she notices the positive shift in attitudes towards sustainability whenever parents and their children get into the pool with dolphins to learn about them up close and get educated about the threats posed to them by ocean pollution by their dolphin trainers.
With much optimism, Rebecca hopes for a future in which we are better informed about our human impact on the environment and are more mindful of choices we make today that would have a ripple effect on tomorrow.