Achieving greatness in life

Achieving greatness in life
Caption: Shoban flanked by his colourful display of artistic work

Shoban Pillai, 46, breaks into a smile whenever he sees his favourite movie heroes in ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Avengers’. As an avid movie buff, he loves story plots that see good triumph over evil. Being young at heart, he enjoys playing with soft toys, and is drawn to things that are bold and colourful.

Diagnosed with intellectual disability at 26, Shoban needed help in taking care of himself. He then joined TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL). His mother, who suffered from kidney and other health issues, faced constraints caring for Shoban. She passed on in 2023.

At TCIL, Shoban learnt basic life skills such as self-care and cooking. Towering at 1.82m, he was also affectionately referred to as a gentle giant among the staff at the centre.

Drawn into the artistic world
Shoban slowly opened up as he started making friends and became more expressive. He also started taking art lessons under TOUCH SpecialCrafts. It was through drawing and painting that helped him to be more attuned to his emotions. The things he drew and colours he chose reflected his mood. With this knowledge, Shoban’s life skills coaches were able to reach out to him. As he started drawing and painting, they discovered his exceptional artistic talents and selected him to be part of the Special Artist Programme.

Caption: Shoban immersing himself in one of his paintings.

Gaining employment
After graduating from TCIL, Shoban subsequently moved on to TOUCH Ubi Hostel (TUH), a stay-in residential programme for persons with intellectual disabilities. He was then 35 years old. He continued his passion of painting, drawing inspiration from his love of animals, flowers, mountains and lakes. His work was also displayed at TOUCH Giving Art, a charity art exhibition in 2019. Shoban achieved a key milestone when he could earn an income through the creation and sale of his unique artworks under JOURNEY, a brand under TOUCH Community Services that represents the creative talents of people with intellectual disabilities.

Shoban is now more confident and independent. He can do his own laundry, tidy his bed and even shave well! During his free time, he would listen to the greatest hits from Bonny M and ABBA together with his good friend Philip Wong, 43 from TUH. When Shoban goes home during the weekends, he enjoys spending time with his sister and relatives.

In 2022, Shoban took part in the Hydrangea Holidays exhibition at Gardens By The Bay, which displayed JOURNEY special artists’ artworks. It was a meaningful experience for Shoban and his loved ones.

Just like Shoban, people with intellectual disabilities can be given a second chance to achieve greatness in life. Because everyone can be someone.


Story published in 2021
Updated in 2024