Honouring our pioneers: Ms Elizabeth Khoo

Ms Elizabeth Khoo received the SADeaf Lifetime Achievement Award during the annual Deaf Achievers’ Award Day held in conjunction with the IWPD (International Week of Deaf People) 2021.  

Photo shows Ms Khoo seated at her desk. She is looking at the camera, has glasses on, and a black SADeaf shirt on. Behind her are files, pinned notices and drawings. On the desk beside her are the award plaque, certificate a soft toy.
Elizabeth at her desk, a familiar sight at the SADeaf office for decades.

The following is the citation for the award.

Ms Elizabeth Khoo Chye Tiang joined SADeaf as a staff in 1965, just ten years after the Association was established and in the same year Singapore gained independence. After her retirement in 2021, she would have worked at SADeaf for a total of 56 years and become the Association’s longest-serving staff. 

During Elizabeth’s long career with SADeaf, she had worked tirelessly at both the Singapore School for the Deaf (SSD), SADeaf’s affiliated school, for 20 years. She then transferred to SADeaf, handling administration, coordination and event organisation. Her last position was as an executive undertaking social work-related tasks in the Community Services Department. 

A familiar face to generations of Deaf clients, SSD alumni, and volunteers, Elizabeth has contributed much to the Association and community in various capacities. She was involved in key committees and pioneering projects over the decades, as reflected in the many varied positions she held: Secretary and member of the Social Group of the Deaf from the 1970s to the 1980s, as well as being the staff liaison of the SADeaf Family Day organising committees. 

Elizabeth was active as a member of the then Adult Education Committee during the 1980s. She had a vital role in running the Adult Outreach Programme which catered to Deaf clients with little formal education who benefited from learning basic English and life skills. Elizabeth was also a Deaf interpreter who was comfortable interacting and working with Deaf people from the Pioneer generation and those who were from the lower education group. She also interpreted for Deaf clients in various settings such as police cases and in medical, legal and court cases. 

In the later part of her SADeaf career, Elizabeth was a key member of the social work team handling home visits and supporting counselling sessions in sensitive cases. Despite the confidentiality and sensitivity of her work, she was able to carry out these challenging tasks well and enabled clients to have proper access to welfare services, as they had trust and confidence in her professionalism. 

Elizabeth also maintained good working relationships with colleagues and helped them to develop their signing skills. Though she is with the Community Services team, she also stepped up to volunteer to raise funds for SADeaf through her creative initiatives and involving the Deaf community to support these.

As one of the pioneer staff of SADeaf who has been with and witnessed the changes in the Association for almost 60 years, Elizabeth has a unique place in the organisation as well as the local Deaf community’s history. Even after her much-deserved retirement in 2021, Elizabeth has pledged to continue serving as a Community Interpreter and work with the Association on its plans to develop a heritage centre.  

Watch the full video of our online Deaf Achievers’ Awards ceremony here!

All the staff at SADeaf wishes Elizabeth a happy and well-deserved retirement as at October 2021, and look forward to seeing her back at events as a much-welcomed volunteer and participant.

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