I was not born Singaporean.

This year marks the 50th year of Singapore and my 20th year as a proud Singaporean. Though I was not born Singaporean, I am eternally grateful for being raised one.

You see, when I was a baby, I was picked out in an orphanage somewhere in Indonesia by a loving Singaporean couple, who were very willing to share some of their love. However, what they really did was give me a second chance to live.

Growing up, I was constantly reminded of the second chance I was graciously given by the family I was adopted into – an education, safe streets and a roof over my head — all of which, would be impossible without the hard work of the late Lee Kuan Yew and the many individuals that shaped the country we live in today.

I do not think I’ll ever have the capability to fully appreciate the work he has done, seeing that I belong to the generation that is reaping the rewards our parents and grandparents put into building this perfect little dome we’re encased in.

Many may not agree with the way Mr Lee Kuan Yew may have built this nation (i.e. throwing people into jail, dismissing culture). Still, I think one should always take a step back to appreciate our skyline, be it Marina Bay Sands or the blocks of flats that line roads. All this would not be possible without this one man being so incredibly determined to stick it up to anyone that tried to beat him down.

Spot me.

Spot me.

You become more thankful knowing where you are from and what situation you could have been in if you were not given that second chance.

I imagine not being able to get an education or even having to struggle to grow in a difficult environment – I was born in a slum. Lee Kuan Yew saw that too. He knew that he had to make sure that Singaporeans could be in an environment where they could thrive and take the nation to another level.

As I start to pack my bags to embark on a new journey in my life, I have become so fond and grateful for the hawker centres that make satisfying hunger pangs at ungodly hours possible, the bins that line the street that make clean streets happen (sekali Stomped for littering, then how?) and the abundance of opportunities this city constantly gives.

I say this on behalf of the many children that have been adopted into Singapore: thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew for giving us the second chance that we so desperately needed.

Photos: From the photo archives of Isabelle Chan and family