Most people don’t think twice about their ability to speak. Then again, they’ve never woken up to find their voice almost gone. That’s what happened to singer-songwriter Crystal Goh in 2011. She discovered that she had a rare neurological condition which caused the muscles in her vocal cords to spasm, and was devastated when she realised that she would no longer be able to perform.
It took a close friend’s wedding to change her perspective. The bride was adamant that Crystal should perform at the dinner celebration. “I felt terrible while singing,” she said. “I felt like my struggles were amplified.” She was shocked when guests teared up and hugged her. “I went home and cried, because I didn’t see what they saw,” Crystal continues. “But later I asked myself: Why did they cry? And I realised that it wasn’t about my performance – it was about hope.” Realising that it was important for her to have faith that her voice would return, she wanted to help others similarly in need of hope.
In late 2012, she founded Diamonds on the Street, a social enterprise that uses music to help at-risk youth express themselves, and turn their problems into a positive message. Music is restorative, she believes. “In lyric writing, you get to choose the message and emotion you want to present. We can see ourselves as survivors instead of victims.”
Today, Crystal and her team conduct programmes (each lasts two to three months) with organisations that help at-risk youth, giving them a platform to tell their story through self- composed songs.
Her programme is about creating a safe space for the teens to reflect and perform without judgment, whether it’s through an album or a graduation concert, held at arts centres
or the shelters. To date, Diamonds on the Street has helped close to 200 vulnerable young people.
Crystal is slowly recovering her voice, though it’s not back to what it was. “My loss is not replaced, but my life is richer for it,” she says. “I understand what it feels like to lose and then to gain.”
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