24 Sep 2016

Speech by Hairul Hakkim, Student Representative at The SINDA Excellence Awards 2016 on 24 September 2016 at ITE College Central


Guest of Honour, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong;

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam;

Senior Minister of State, Ms Indranee Rajah;

CEO, SINDA, Mr K Barathan;

Dignitaries, Distinguished Guests, Parents and Fellow Recipients;


A very good afternoon to all of you!


  1. It is my pleasure and honour to be here today. My name is Hairul Hakkim and I graduated from NUS with a Bachelors of Law.
  1. Allow me to first congratulate my fellow student recipients for their achievements. And on behalf of the award recipients… we are truly humbled by the presence of all the distinguished guests who have taken time off today to celebrate our achievements.
  1. I would like to share with all of you today my life journey and three important lessons I learnt from it. I come from a humble family background, where life was not always that rosy. When I was 6, my father fell ill with advanced stages of diabetes and kidney failure. He had been my family’s primary breadwinner and when he fell ill, things started to go downhill.
  1. All of my family’s savings went towards footing my father’s medical bills and we also had to move to a smaller home. Our situation worsened when he had to amputate his right leg at the knee level as well as amputate his left toe. As his condition worsened, he also developed hypertension, permanent blindness, lung collapse, heart failure and a brain tumour. Eventually, I lost my father when I was just 14. Thereafter, my mother, who was in poor health herself, had to work very hard to make ends meet in order to support my older sister and myself.
  1. There were many days I had to attend school without having a meal because good canteen food was a luxury. At that time, I remember feeling very frustrated – frustrated that I did not have much pocket money while my other schoolmates did; frustrated that I had to wear old shoes and old clothes; frustrated that my mum had to work so hard and tirelessly just to support the family. Basically, I was filled with frustration.
  1. It was not an easy time for my family. But going through and enduring these difficult circumstances have provided me with three important lessons that I would like to share today.
  1. First, I realised soon enough that frustration was a negative energy, which was extremely unhealthy and crippling. With a change in mind-set, I converted this negative frustration into positive motivation. Allow me to explain further. My father’s health deteriorated the way it did because we could not afford better medical treatment, which was naturally more expensive. If my family had the money, he would not have had to suffer so much and he probably be still alive today. As such, I told myself that things had to change and I was not going to let financial troubles hold my family ransom again—I did not ever again want to be made a victim of my circumstances.
  1. This translated into a hunger to continuously improve myself and succeed in my work. I worked very hard in school, burning the midnight oil almost every single day and managed to perform well in my studies. Thus, the life lesson I learnt here is to discover one’s own source of motivation. Each and everyone of you is likely to have a unique motivation but all that matters is that it is powerful enough to spur you into action.
  1. Second, my family circumstances have taught me how to achieve my goals using the limited resources at my disposal. For example, since I couldn’t receive academic help from home or afford private tuition, I sought constant assistance from my school tutors. I also utilised the services of SINDA through its STEP programme, which helped me greatly in my studies.
  1. Then came the challenge of financing my law degree. My mother’s monthly salary did not allow her to pay for my tertiary education. However, I did not let this get in the way of my ambition to study law. I knew I had to become financially self-sufficient. An estimate of my university fees, textbook and living expenses came up to about $100,000 over four years of education. Thus, I started to save up by teaching tuition and doing healthcare sales. With the help of these savings and a bond-free scholarship from OCBC, I was able to independently support myself throughout university. What I learnt from this experience is the very familiar and trite (air)adage, “When there is a will, there is a way”. Thus, no matter how shallow your bank of resources might be, just don’t give up!
  1. Third, the benevolent guidance and financial support I received throughout my difficult times have constantly reminded me not to forget my roots and lend a helping hand to others who are not as fortunate. During my time at NUS, I volunteered in various pro-bono activities. One such example was the Legal Awareness Workshop, an interactive session specifically organised for Primary 6 students from underprivileged backgrounds. In this project, topics such as dealing with family violence and the criminal consequences of drug abuse were covered. It was a very fulfilling experience to share my legal knowledge with these students.
  1. After graduating from law school, I had the opportunity to join the public service, serving as a Deputy Public Prosecutor in the Attorney’s General Chambers. This now gives me the opportunity to make a positive impact upon the lives of people. It has been a very satisfying experience to play a role in keeping Singapore a safe and secure place. If each and every one of us is willing to give back in ways that we can, it will go a long way in building a compassionate and inclusive society.
  1. In concluding my speech, I just wish to summarise the three points that I shared: first, find a motivation that works for you and make full use of it; second, don’t call it quits until you have exhausted all avenues and lastly, always remember to give back to society in any way that you can. All of us can make a difference to our community and our help, even if it is something small, can make a big difference to someone who needs it.
  1. To my mum and sister, I am thankful for your support at every step of the way. Without both of your unconditional love and guidance, I will most certainly not be where I am today.
  1. Lastly, I am also thankful to SINDA for providing this platform to celebrate our achievements as well as for its unwavering support through its various welfare programmes.
  1. And on that note, I thank all of you for your time and wish you have a pleasant evening ahead.

Thank you.