Already 73, but this retiree still works hard to provide meals for special needs athletes

Leanne Chua
The New Paper
20 May 2017

Since late last month, retiree Priscilla Theseira, 73, has been on her feet, sometimes for up to 12 hours a day.

She is helping to supply 4,000 meals to more than 680 athletes, coaches and volunteers participating in the Special Olympics Singapore National Games.

The Games are held once every four years.

This year's will see Singapore hosting athletes with intellectual disabilities from the Philippines, Myanmar, Brunei, Thailand and Indonesia.

Opened on Friday by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, the Games will run until Sunday at the Temasek Club, the National University of Singapore and the United World College of South East Asia Dover campus.

Over 650 athletes will be competing in seven sports such as swimming and table tennis.

Madam Theseira has been volunteering at the Games for the past 36 years along with about 30 others, who are mainly her family members and friends.

"Some volunteers even took leave from their full-time jobs to be at the Games," said the grandmother of four and godmother of 10.

One of this year's youngest volunteers was her eight-year-old grandniece.

Madam Theseira said: "I am hoping that (volunteering at the Games) will rub off on her, to see that it is no different from any other sporting event."


Madam Theseira is no newcomer to the special needs scene in Singapore - she has almost two decades of experience as a teacher and principal at special needs schools.

She began as a teacher in 1976 at a special needs centre in Buangkok run by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore before it merged with two other centres to become Towner Gardens School.

She later headed Jurong Gardens School, now renamed Woodlands Gardens School, as principal for four years.

As a teacher at Towner Gardens School, which had about 300 students in each batch, she taught daily living and self-help skills, such as washing the dishes and buttoning a shirt.

"It was frustrating at times, because they took a long time to learn the things we take for granted every day," she said.

As principal, she sometimes played the piano to teach the students through music and movement.

She has seen her students grow into adults with careers, and she still keeps in touch with some of them.

"They would tell me about their year-end bonuses and wish me on Christmas or Teacher's Day. That really makes my day," she said.

Asked how many more Games she intends to volunteer at, Madam Theseira said: "I won't stop for as long as I am able to."

For live updates on the Games, visit