A few weeks later TJILI was adopted by a British couple, James and Vik Grant Wetherill, and has since lived in dynamic Singapore, relaxed Malaysia, and the less-tropical but equally beautiful county of Hampshire, UK.
TJILI was diagnosed in her infancy as profoundly deaf and having athetoid cerebral palsy after an early brain trauma.
Medical experts said TJILI's challenges may prevent her from sitting, standing, walking, even managing everyday living activities such as feeding herself.
Oodles of occupational therapy greatly helped her core strength, stability and fine motor skills (eternal thanks Sanjay!). Particularly important when learning to hold and master a pencil or paintbrush.
ABOUT TJILI (PRONOUNCED ‘CHILLI’)
Born in Cambodia in 2001, at just 1kg TJILI was the only survivor of triplets abandoned on a hospital doorstep in Phnom Penh.
After a month of intensive care she was transferred to Kien Khleang orphanage on the banks of the Mekong River.
Tough years of love, physio, sit-ups, yoga and swimming followed. Plus a homemade bamboo walking frame.
TJILI took her first steps at 5 years old and she now runs, cycles, swims and horse rides.
Coupled with a cochlear implant and speech-language therapy TJILI communicates through a combination of sign language, gesturing, reading and writing.
TJILI'S UNIQUE ART-STYLE
TJILI is able to overcome her physical challenges to create beautiful pieces of art in her own unique style. Completely self-taught, the world through TJILI’s eyes is a wonderful explosion of colour and beauty.
Check out this short video of TJILI at work. You'll be fascinated by her unorthadox technique and amazed at the quality of artwork that she is able to produce.
TJILI's art-style has evolved to compensate for her physical issues - her wobbly torso and head, the lack of control over her fingers, and so on.
Somehow TJILI manages to grip her graphite pencil, Wax Aquarell watercolour pastels and paint brushes in the palm of her hand, and produce firm strokes onto the art paper that she steadies with her other arm.
The result is distinctive and beautiful; a blend of bold lines, somewhat random but somehow cohesive shades of graphite entwined with bright aquarell colours, and brush-stroked rainbow water swirls.
Every stroke that TJILI puts to paper is testament to her creativity, determination, and the great effort she makes to overcome her challenges. #Inspire.
TJILI'S FAVOURITE HOBBIES
Outside of art, TJILI’s other pursuits include sport, swimming, yoga, origami, making paper planes (you should see her F16's!), and an amazing ability to create patterns and solve a wide array of Rubik’s cubes and other multi-dimensional puzzles (including a 17x17 cube, when most adults struggle with the original 3x3 version). #DifferentlyAbled
Check out this short video of TJILI tackling the 3x3 Rubik's Cube using her distinctive and original technique.
TJILI has always adored animals, especially lions. TJILI has visited the wonderful Singapore Zoo at least 200 times. Watching lions and other big cats was a highlight and you can see this feline passion reflected in many of TJILI's pictures.
In Singapore there were often humming birds flitting fearlessly around TJILI's tropical garden, always building nests and coming to feed their chicks, enabling TJILI got to see them very close up. TJILI's colourful interpretation (Bird.Humming.) blends her amusement at their antics and her lively rainbow mind.
TJILI is a huge Jungle Book fan, with Mowgli (herself) and Baloo (daddy) being her favourite characters. At one point TJILI thought she was Mowgli, signing her art accordingy and even changing her name on her school books. TJILI is certainly as fearless as Mowgli. Mummy and Daddy are sure she would hug and stroke a lion if possible and TJILI loves having snakes draped around her neck. That said, the funny girl jumps out of her skin and squeals at the sight of little gecko or lizard!
Given her animal adoration, it's not surprising that TJILI also loves watching wildlife programmes.
She was a huge fan of Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter", and her dream was to meet him. When Steve sadly died far too young in 2006 while filming an underwater documentary TJILI was inconsolable for months and still talks about him today. In 2013, on her 12th birthday, TJILI was lucky enough to meet Steve's lovely family when his daughter, Bindi, was in Singapore with her mother, Terri, and brother, Bob, to promote Bindi's new "Animal Adventures" show. More about When TJILI met the Irwins coming soon.
TJILI has since become a huge fan of Bindi, and cheered her every step and spin en route to winning season 21 of Dancing with the Stars. And while Steve Irwin will always be TJILI's idol, the mantle of rugged, fearless, likeable, handsome, dashing adventurer and nature guru now - in TJILI's eyes - sits with Steve Backshall of "Deadly 60" fame.