Two pivotal moments propelled Jean Loo to start Superhero Me, an inclusive arts movement that aims to empower children with special needs as well as those from less‐privileged backgrounds.
The first was a chance encounter with Chua Ai Liang from the National Arts Council, who encouraged her to get involved with community arts despite Loo not having an art background.
The second involved a six-year-old boy called Reiziki, who had attended a festival Loo had a part in organising. Despite having cerebral palsy and using a Kaye Walker, Reiziki refused any help going up a flight of stairs. “That shifted my perception of what inclusion meant,” says Loo. “I think we’re starting from a context where there’s a lack of opportunities to have meaningful relationships with those who have special needs.”
Superhero Me, a non-profit that organises art, crafting, performance and other creative activities for kids, grew from a programme for preschoolers by Lien Foundation, where Loo works with social service partners to pilot new solutions that address childhood adversity and encourage inclusion in the formative years of children’s lives.
She says a mission of Superhero Me is for the children to build friendships as well as develop a strong sense of self: “We see these children as equals that we ‘spar’ creatively with. In the end, they help us as much as we help them. Isn’t that what inclusion is all about?”
While her work has earned her accolades – such as the Singapore Youth Award in 2018 and the Nanyang Outstanding Young Alumni Award this year – what keeps her going are the relationships she has forged with the children, their families and her colleagues. “It’s been a wild adventure, and I treasure both the ups and the downs.”