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Compassionate deaf, who has been empowering less privileged

Lily Goh is a deaf , passionate about music and the founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. It offers deaf awareness through their sign language courses, workshops, interpretation/translation services, and performances - all in line with its mission of bridging the communication gap between the two worlds.

She has won Singapore Woman Award 2014. This award is a celebration of an ordinary woman who has made the extra ordinary achievements. It recognizes women who have relentlessly helped others and benefited society and the public. It aims to encourage them to keep the passion going and inspire others to do the same.

She has also received an award for the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World 2017 under Humanitarian and Voluntary Leadership, which is honored by Junior Chamber International (JCI) Singapore, a non-profit organization whose mission is to contribute to the world by preparing better leaders, who will, in turn, create better societies.

Watch 2 mins video to get glimpses of her life journey so far.

Please do read her full interview with Inspirational Beings team to know what all challenges she had to go through during her journey, what are her mantra, what keeps her going, and what is her message to our readers.

Please tell us about your childhood and personal background?

My deafness was discovered when I was two. Its cause remains unknown; the doctor and my parents didn't know how I became deaf till now. When I was very young, I was enrolled in a deaf school for primary education. I did not feel different from other children, though we used sign language than words. My school adopted the Total Communication philosophy of including every mode of communication. It means every deaf child learns to write, speak, and read.

From there, I acquired sign language as my first natural language. I learned how to read, speak, and write English. Having the ability to speak English was tough; it took me 13 years to perfect my pronunciation.

I had a happy childhood. But later, when I enrolled in the mainstreamed secondary school, I felt very much challenged – excluded. I started to have issues in my studies and social interaction. At that time, I was not aware of the needs, and I did not know that every deaf student has the rights to access, by engaging sign language interpreters and note-takers.

Now I study the BA in Sociology with Communication; doing the part-time study at the SUSS. I am going to complete my graduation this year.

How did you manage to develop your musical skills?

As a child, I had a dream of becoming a vocalist, later it became difficult, as even after treatment of many years my hearing capacity was only 10%, and with my little residual hearing, I can hear a few sounds.

I worked hard for my music passion. By touching and sensing vocal cords, the vibrations of piano keys and other musical instruments, I learned to understand and differentiate different tunes. I can play the xylophone and marimba, two mallet percussion instruments that I began learning when I was ten years old and for which I have a Grade 8 certificate from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

I learned to communicate and sing songs. In 2004, I participated in 'Singapore Idol', a music reality show, and became the first deaf participant to cross two rounds. I attended to achieve my passion for music and sign language; I wanted to prove that deaf people are capable of doing anything except hear. Many people got inspired by my music and sign language. I was featured on TV shows such as Channel 5's, The Unsung Heroes' (2004), Channel U's 'The Youth Decode' (2005) and in magazines such as 'Her World,' 'Lime' and assorted newspapers.

I won a marimba, my first award under the Talent Development Program by the Very Special Arts (Singapore) in 2007. I used the musical instrument to identify and develop my skills.

What’s the inspiration behind ExtraOrdinary Horizons?

I set up ExtraOrdinary Horizons to continue my passion in music and sign language; My real inspiration is to bring the awareness and knowledge about the Deaf community to the rest of the world, and help Deaf to better integrate into mainstream society and to be accepted for who they are.

We aim to promote deaf awareness through our sign language courses, workshops, interpretation/translation services, and performances. We also aim to help Deaf better integrate into mainstream society and to be accepted for who they are.

Revenue from courses, workshops, and performances are used to sustain this social enterprise and fund Deaf employment. The achievements also contribute to the development and support of deaf performing arts scene in Singapore. The hiring of the disadvantaged helps them to gain self-confidence to overcome life challenges through their attained skills and knowledge to become contributing members of society.

To create an inclusive society where the disadvantaged attain confidence in their abilities.

To transform lives through teaching a positive mindset and realization of each's potential in pursuit of their dreams.

What are some of the critical challenges you handled, and how did you overcome them?

I face communication and language barriers every day. I have to keep up with my English skills by reading, writing, and communicating. Also, I have to type out whatever I want at my convenience/ease.

As for running the business, I have experienced the ups and downs myself. It is not easy to balance my studies and work. I can’t wait to complete my studies, especially when I am deaf.

What is the definition of empowerment to you?

Empowerment is freedom and equality while participating in every event/activity.

Tell us about your project of Deaf Cambodia?

Project Deaf Cambodia was initiated by a group of deaf youths, including myself. That was in 2013. We had achieved it by teaching the group of deaf students about entrepreneurship and music. Also, we have learned how to organize service-learning project in a deaf way, without having to take much help or relying on others. We got a higher degree of empowerment from the YMCA and other hearing peers

How do you keep your motivation up in your low time, when you feel like giving up?

I keep reminding myself that it is alright to fail in many things, but I learned from those failures, and these useful lessons will guide me further. When I feel like giving up; I ask myself, why I started this work and think about the objectives of that work.

What’s your mantra in life?

I will live my life to the fullest. Sometimes, I feel pleasant and happier when helping myself and others. My teacher shared one quote when I had my music lesson, "Success is made up of 90% hard work and 10% talent”. I know I am not very talented so I will work hard to achieve many things in my life.

However hard it may seem, never stop dreaming big!

What's your plan?

I will try my best to run ExtraOrdinary Horizons as this is my passion. It does not bring profits, and it is very challenging, but this mission supports deaf in gaining confidence and pride.

In the meantime, I continue my advocacy for the deaf community with the ExtraOrdinary Horizons. It could be seen through my performances and other forms of promoting awareness.

What’s your message to viewers?

Make efforts to include everyone. Inclusion could contribute to integration. If we don’t understand and accommodate others need, then they will be neglected. It will be better to empower less privileged people, and we may shine well together with the others.

Please be allied with persons with special needs, be friends with them with an open heart and mind. It will make you more patient and mindful. You will discover different things about them; they are not there as the pitiable, less served people. They are lovely and unique human beings.

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