Born hearing, many questioned for Suzana Slemat on her business model – a social enterprise that aims to bring light on the Deaf community in Singapore. But the then 19-year-old Graduate in Business Studies from Ngee Ann Polytechnic is not paying heed – for all the right reasons.
Founded in 2017, Puzzles SG is the brainchild of students Suzana and Shazlina looking to bridge the gap between the hearing and the Deaf. By encouraging students to order in Sign Language and hiring employees who are Deaf, this initiative excited many eager students and piqued the interest of many others into the realm of the Deaf community. When asked about her motivation behind this “aha moment”, Suzana shares, “I often ask myself…What can I do that can impact people positively for the long run? This question triggered the idea of a social enterprise.”
An initiative borne out of a noble deliberation, Suzana’s altruism for social responsibility was unlike any her age. While there are many marginalised communities in Singapore, you’d probably have the same question as we did – why specifically the Deaf community?
“I’ll tell you why..being involved in the Deaf culture is really enjoyable. When one person is talking, all eyes and focus will be on him/her to get the message across. It’s a beautiful and respectful culture that many of the Hearing should experience. At the same time, I want to ease the isolation that the Deaf face by spreading interest in Sign Language.”
Her words hit us hard – there was so much truth there. It hits us that respect in communication has often been trivialised to even points of disrespect in this day and age.
Having to grapple between creating a sustainable business model and impacting a community for a great good, Suzana admitted there were many challenges. One of them was a self-limiting belief that she was “too young”. But what struck us was the fiery passion in her eyes – she’s certainly not caving in to these thoughts.
Have you ever felt your young age is a limit or barrier to your role here?
Suzana: “To overcome my lack of experience in years, I sprint towards any opportunity to listen to the stories and tips that the experienced have. Mentors are an essential resource for us. If there is an opportunity to contribute or make a difference in someone else’s life, there’s your chance. Decide, and follow through. And if that doesn’t work, you learn and grow.”
While there are still many detractors in the road ahead, Suzana’s grit and determination has shown us what it means to channel your passion for a greater good. Her noble quest to ease isolation that the Deaf faces, for one, is indeed a humbling reminder to us in the Hearing world. Speaking beyond her years, Suzana’s inspiring last words certainly left a deep impact in us.
How would you encourage other youths to be a change maker?
Suzana: Instead of asking “why should I”, many in my generation already has the mindset of “why not?”. And that’s a great start already! We have to remind ourselves once in awhile, “Are we okay living in comfort while others are not?”. That leads to the discussion of the definition of comfort according to different people. “Everyone has the potential to be a changemaker. It is not my place to advise other youths, so just do what you’re passionate for, and once you can support yourself emotionally, financially, physically – reach out to those around you and get to know about their life. For me, it’s the Deaf community.”
It is indeed selfless people like Suzana Slemat that truly makes the community a better place. The everyday heroes, right amongst us.
Everyday Heroes is an online series that captures stories of youths creating impact and embracing possibilities to build a more positive community in Singapore. Most importantly, they help stand as positive reminders that doing good doesn’t have to look a certain way!
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