Last year, good friends Ashok Kumar and Ashik Ashokan thought of a way to raise funds for the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), but couldn’t get people to support their idea.
“It was hard to reach out to people as they had never heard of us. We had to speak to a lot of people about our cause, do up a social media page and even design a website, for which we had no skills and had to learn from scratch,” said Mr Ashokan, a communications and new media student at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The two 24-year-olds, who were schoolmates at Innova Junior College, said the idea to climb mountains for a cause came after they scaled the 3,210m-high Poon Hill in Nepal in May 2013. They completed the climb without proper winter wear and survived on only one meal a day.
When they came back, they were featured in Tamil Murasu and a show on Vasantham Central, where they shared their gruelling experience of climbing the mountain.
They then decided to embark on a project to trek 220km in the Nepali Himalayas to raise funds for the SPD, last year.
Going by the name Heart2Climb, the duo chose that particular beneficiary as they felt that their trek reflects how the “disabled literally have to climb mountains each day”.
Last month, they climbed Asia’s highest volcano, the 5,671m-high Mount Damavand in Iran, to raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF).
The cause has since raised over $50,000 on www.heart2climb.com and will support the various programmes run by CCF to help the children and their families with their educational and medical expenses.
The experience hasn’t been easy for the two friends, who said they had to endure harsh temperatures of more than 40 deg C at the bottom and sub-zero temperatures at the peak. They also don’t engage porters to help them carry their equipment up and down the mountain. Hence, they carry a load of 15kg which makes the whole process of climbing an “excruciatingly painful experience”.
Explained Mr Kumar, a business student at the Singapore Institute of Management: “High altitude mountaineering requires good fitness and that in turn requires hours of intense training. We faced a huge problem juggling our studies and finding time to train. Our days were packed and we had to sacrifice time spent with family and friends.”
Despite that, the undergrads also set aside time to provide mentorship and advice to schoolmates and friends who have started their own fundraising events.
One particular event that was directly inspired by them is a vertical marathon in January, organised by students from the College of Alice and Peter Tan at NUS titled Heart2Climb. Participants of the marathon, which raised funds for the SPD, had to climb up and down 17 floors of two buildings in the school.
The inspirational figures, who have a passion for mountaineering and raising funds for charity, said: “Mountains are a beautiful metaphor to show human struggle and as we climb it, it portrays our willingness to help the underprivileged in our society as we’re putting ourselves at great risks and facing life or death scenarios.”
Calling all Flag Day Ambassadors!
The theme of YMCA’s upcoming Flag Day is “Love starts with Giving”.
Giving is the cornerstone of love; it is about taking concrete action.
Share the love of giving and help the needy.
Mark this date in your calendar and be sure to sign up to give back!
To volunteer for he Flag Day, please call 6839 8359 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Her first taste of fund-raising was through a funfair in her primary school that raised money to help the less well-off students in her school. That experience sparked Ms Dhanashree Shelgaonkar’s passion to help the less fortunate.
The 25-year-old was particularly interested in humanitarian efforts outside Singapore. So when she started her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) four years ago, she joined the NTU chapter of the Red Cross Youth.
“The first time I got to be in charge of a fund-raising campaign on a large scale was when I was on the management committee of the Red Cross Youth,” said Ms Shelgaonkar, who was in charge of the International Projects division.
She added: “This was something I could see myself excelling in and I was looking forward to seeing the impact of our fund-raising efforts first-hand and knowing exactly what the funds are being used for.”
In December 2012, Ms Shelgaonkar (above with one of the children she helped in Myanmar) led a team of 35 students to Yangon, Myanmar, where they taught children in a Red Cross school in a village near Yangon, helped to build a library and refurbish the school as well as a clinic in the village and installed solar panels for sustainable and efficient energy for the villagers’ needs.
The fund-raising efforts included approaching alumni and corporate sponsors for donations, setting up booths within NTU for bake sales and donation drives, and going door-to-door across NTU’s halls of residence to get donations from schoolmates. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. The team ran into hiccups along the way.
For instance, one of Ms Shelgaonkar’s team members overlooked applying for the National Youth Council’s Youth Expedition Project grant. This “placed a huge amount of stress on our fund-raising” and meant that they had to make up for the grant by holding a second round of door-to-door donations. They also had difficulty getting approval for public fund-raising activities.
Going door to door was also a challenge. They first had to get approval from NTU’s Student Affairs Office. Then, “getting enough volunteers to dedicate the time to carry this out was challenging”. The students also had to deal with “rude and unsupportive people”.
In the end, though, the team managed to raise around $8,000 and received sponsorship for crucial parts of the project.
The project itself was successful. The team managed to achieve their objectives, and the students and villagers were appreciative of their efforts.
“They put together a huge farewell ceremony for us on the last day and even people from neighbouring villages came to show their support,” said Ms Shelgaonkar.
Since her return from Myanmar, she has not simply been resting on her laurels.
She spearheaded the founding of a society in NTU, and recently got together with her friends to raise money for the recent Nepal earthquake.
“It was an independent initiative, with me and my friends holding a bake sale,” she said on the fund-raising for the Nepal Earthquake Relief project. The group raised around $500.
She also volunteers at Willing Hearts, which runs a soup kitchen that cooks and distributes daily meals to the needy islandwide.
Explaining why she is so passionate about helping the needy, Ms Shelgaonkar, who will be graduating soon, said: “The world isn’t perfect. We could use more helping hands, especially from those of us who are living comfortably and are fortunate enough to have our basic needs covered.”