When Mr George Lee Song Choo was seven or eight years old, he witnessed a child around his own age drowning in a pond near his home.
There were no lifeguards around, but a well-meaning passer-by who worked as a spirit medium tried to use psychic powers to revive the child, recalled Mr Lee, 64.
Unfortunately, the child died later in a hospital.
"I watched that person dancing around here and there as if possessed. I remember thinking, this is not the proper way to help drowning victims. There had to be a better way," he said in Mandarin.
"After that, I became interested in learning to swim and wanted to become a lifeguard to save people."
Mr Lee's life experiences partly inspired a three-minute short film titled A Lifesaver's Passion, which was launched yesterday as part of a series of four such films celebrating the Merdeka Generation of Singaporeans born in the 50s.
In the film, a man in his 60s known as Uncle Robert takes up a lifesaving course and faces scepticism from a younger course mate.
But Uncle Robert, portrayed by Mr Lee, later saves the younger man during a training session gone wrong and gains his respect.
Unlike his character, Mr Lee has been a lifeguard since his youth, he said at a media preview for the series, held at the Temasek Shophouse yesterday.
Spurred by the memory of the drowning child, Mr Lee joined a lifesaving course as a teen before entering national service.
Mr Lee later became a registered swimming coach under the then Singapore Sports Council. In 2001, he started his own company, Sports Eagle, to provide swimming lessons and lifesaving courses to the public.
Now retired, he continues to volunteer as a lifeguard in his free time as he finds the role meaningful.
Also at the launch was Ms Barbara D'Cotta, 60, a special education teacher who inspired another short film, titled A Teacher's Education.
The film features a teacher who gave up her further education when she was young to support her family, and returns to university to get her degree after the age of 50.
Like the character she inspired, Ms D'Cotta obtained her bachelor's degree in special education in 2016, when she was in her 50s.
She could not do so when she was younger as there were no local courses in special education at the time, and she did not feel she could go overseas as she was newly married with young children. Ms D'Cotta said she is now pursuing a master's in the same field, which she expects to complete by next July.
"Many of my friends and peers in the Merdeka Generation went through similar hurdles in their lives when they had to hold back, whether it was for family or because of finances," she said. "The message is that it's never, never too late."
The films were written by playwright Jean Tay, who has written more than 20 plays and musicals and was the scriptwriter for two National Day parades.
The new series is a sequel to four earlier short films launched in January, also written by Ms Tay, which featured members of the Merdeka Generation growing up in the 70s and 80s. This time, the focus is on the Merdeka Generation's experiences today and their continuing contributions, added Ms Tay.
The films were directed by Ms Wee Li Lin, Mr Bertrand Lee, Mr Sufyan Sam'an and Mr Don Aravind.
They can be viewed on the Gov.sg YouTube channel and on free-to-air television.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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