In a tangerine dress and lissome scarf as bright as her personality, Ms. Lily Goh accepted this year’s Singapore Woman Award, beating hundreds of nominees. The achievements of the inspirational women’s laureate are owed to far more than luck.
SING A SONG FOR YOU
When she was only two, Lily was diagnosed with a hearing impairment. Even after years of medical treatment, her hearing ability is only 10 percent. Learning to communicate became difficult for Lily, let alone pursuing her dream to become an international musician and vocalist.
By touching and sensing her vocal cords, the vibrations of piano keys and other musical instruments, Lily learnt to distinguish the frequencies of different sounds. Little by little, she learnt to communicate and sing songs. In 2004, Lily took part in Season 1 of ‘Singapore Idol’ and became the first deaf participant to get through two rounds, winning copious public admiration. “I participated to achieve my passion in music and sign language. Also, I was there to show what deaf people are capable of,” she said. “I inspired many people through my music and sign language along the way.” She received vast media coverage, appearing 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. She then won a marimba as her first award under the Talent Development Programme by the Very Special Arts (Singapore) in 2007. She used the musical instrument to explore and improve her skills and techniques in percussion.
At present, Lily teaches percussion music to deaf children at Canossian School in Singapore, and is known to the public as a seasoned performing artiste as well. Now that her girlhood dreams of music-making have come true, Lily could sit back on her laurels, but there are yet many more melodies to be sung.
CROSS NEW HORIZONS
In 2011, Lily co-founded ExtraOrdinary Horizons, a social enterprise that aims to promote deaf arts, culture, heritage and sign language. Within this project, her focus is to help deaf young people who have a love for music, hiring and training them in the production and performance of musical items to help them pursue their own dreams.
Last year, Lily initiated the first ‘Project Deaf Cambodia’ to empower the nation’s deaf. After this well-received campaign, she plans to hold more sessions to assist the deaf in Cambodia by sharing knowledge and skills on entrepreneurship and performing arts.
Awarded the trophy and bombarded with questions from audience members and the press, Lily merely smiled coyly. “I didn’t expect myself to win. I feel this award is really meaningful to the deaf people, because it gives a big hope to them,”
she said. “They can continue to work very hard for their dreams.” She added that with this award she hopes to achieve even more for the deaf community, such as training interpreters. “With this award, I hope to create more jobs for the deaf and also give them more confidence for whatever they can do.”
Even though her biggest challenge, language barriers, is always standing in her way,
Lily never gave up her dream. She knows that being deaf means constant learning to improve literacy. Lily’s pride shows when she talks about her project: “I hope to elevate ExtraOrdinary Horizons to greater heights by running our first annual nationwide event, the Deaf Arts Festival. This would showcase artistic talents and skills to the public and allow an appreciation through interactive outreach activities. If we have sufficient budget, we can invite one country or a few to have similar exchanges with Singapore.”
Lily Goh is a woman like any other, but she has something different. She will always sing her songs wholeheartedly, her hands gesticulating, her face lighting up. She will always play her music as if the dulcimer sticks are dancing in her hands. With a bright smile that is easily summoned, Lily exemplifies the simplest life wisdom: however hard it may seem, never stop dreaming big!