Photo credit: SHALOM LIM

IMPACT 0293: SPREADING AWARENESS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Shalom Lim, 26, is an award-winning artist and disability advocate who lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a progressive muscle-wasting disorder. Along with his brother, Isaac, who had autism and DMD and passed away in 2019, he published his art book, Live Your Dreams, in 2007 to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore), or MDAS. He wants to pursue a career where he can have the opportunity to support the well-being of persons with disabilities and mental health issues, especially those living with autism and muscular dystrophy. Today he answers some questions for us!

Tell us more about what you do!

Isaac and I were artists, and we produced many paintings from 2002 until 2016 when we stopped painting due to DMD. Our mentor, Mr Ng Geok Seng, who teaches at Pathlight School, coached us during that period and enabled us to discover our talents. Isaac’s abstract artworks won many competitions and one of them hung in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s office for several months. My Chinese paintings sold widely, and I presented two of them as gifts to Mr Yaacob Ibrahim and Mr Lui Tuck Yew. In 2007, my mother, Grace, and I spoke about how we could use them to support those with muscular dystrophy. We decided to publish me and Isaac’s art books and hold a book launch on 10 March to raise funds for MDAS’ transport service. We managed to raise more than S$100,000 for MDAS through book sales and donations.

What inspires or motivates you to start/do this?

When I was a child, my parents would drive Isaac and I in our accessible van to attend activities organised by MDAS and we observed that many of their members with muscular dystrophy did not have access to the kind of transport we had because MDAS did not provide a transport service then and most of their families could not afford to purchase an accessible vehicle. In 2007, the Land Transport Authority donated an accessible van to MDAS, but they lacked the means to pay for the costs associated with providing a transport service including hiring a driver, fuel, road tax, servicing, and repairs. So, that is how we came up with the idea of a book launch to raise the S$100,000 needed to support the van’s expenses for three years.

Have you faced any challenges so far? And how did you overcome it?

The main challenges we faced involved the planning and execution of the book launch. Firstly, was finding a publisher for the books – Not A Wasteland (Isaac) and Live Your Dreams (Shalom). My mother’s friend, Ms Jacqueline Khoo, introduced us to Mr Goh Eck Kheng and his publishing house, Landmark Books, who printed them, and she sponsored them. My mother curated the art and wrote their captions, while her former university lecturer, Dr Lee Tzu Pheng, wrote the books’ preface. Secondly, was finding a venue for the launch. Art curator, Agnes Lim, recommended us to the now defunct Singapore Art Café and the adjacent library@esplanade also allowed us to use a part of their premise for the event. Thirdly, was finding an emcee and performers for the event. My cousin, James, volunteered to host the programme while my mother and I delivered a song item and engaged some friends and MDAS members to perform. Lastly, was the schedule. It was very hectic and stressful, but we pulled through in the end.

If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?

Focus your abilities, resources, and strengths on causes that are meaningful to you and use them to be part of something greater than yourself for the benefit of others in the community.

What is your hope or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?

I want to display and merchandise Isaac’s art so that others can appreciate his life’s work. I also hope to write a book about him in the future. My more immediate plans are to embark on a career in the disability sector so that I can support my fellow PWDs and I also wish to contribute my spare time towards volunteering with the autism community in honour of Isaac.

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