Riding for Rainbows to give back to charity

Ms Chia (centre), 25, a former beneficiary of Club Rainbow, at the flag-off at Asia Square yesterday. The preschool teacher had biliary atresia and started attending Camp Rainbow, an annual camp for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesse
Ms Chia (centre), 25, a former beneficiary of Club Rainbow, at the flag-off at Asia Square yesterday. The preschool teacher had biliary atresia and started attending Camp Rainbow, an annual camp for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, when she was 11. She became a camp volunteer at 16.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Cyclists, including a former beneficiary, raise over $650,000 in Club Rainbow fund-raiser

Diagnosed with a rare liver disorder as a baby, Ms Chia Yi Wen's childhood was unlike those of her peers.

Besides frequent hospital visits and two operations, she was also unable to take part in any sporting activities in primary school, leaving her feeling excluded.

But life become brighter when she started attending an annual camp specially for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, run by non-profit organisation Club Rainbow.

"It made me feel good about myself," said Ms Chia, now 25. "I could take part in activities such as captain's ball and hockey, and I didn't have to sit at the side and feel sad."

Yesterday morning, the preschool teacher returned the support she had received by taking part in Club Rainbow's cycling fund-raiser and, together with 400 other riders, helped to raise more than $650,000.

The funds will help the organisation's 700 beneficiaries - from newborns to youth up to the age of 20 - through programmes such as financial subsidies, education assistance, counselling and outings.

GRATEFUL

It is my way of giving back. I had so much fun back then and I want to ensure that the children today benefit.

MS CHIA YI WEN, on volunteering for Camp Rainbow. She began doing so when she turned 16.

Ride for Rainbows, now in its fifth year, was also attended by Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who handed out awards at the event as the guest of honour. Cyclists rode distances of 35km, 55km and 105km for charity, starting at the crack of dawn from Asia Square and ending their routes there.

Ms Chia said she often questioned why she had biliary atresia, a condition in which the bile ducts, which carry bile from the liver to the gall bladder, are absent or damaged. This results in bile becoming trapped in the liver, building up and damaging the organ.

At just three weeks old, Ms Chia underwent an operation to attach the small intestine to the liver so that bile could be secreted into it. Complications in her illness led to a second operation when she was seven and, until the age of 12, doctors advised her against participating in strenuous activities, she said.

But Ms Chia said she was fortunate that the procedure, which has a 30 per cent chance of success, worked for her because, in other cases, a liver transplant was needed.

In her teens, Ms Chia's condition improved, but she still visited the doctor every six months. When she turned 16, she become a volunteer for Camp Rainbow which she had attended regularly since she was 11. The three-day, two-night camp, which aims to build self-esteem and confidence, is supervised by a team of doctors and nurses.

"It is my way of giving back. I had so much fun back then and I want to ensure that the children today benefit," Ms Chia said.

Keven Chua, 17, who has a rare skin disorder, also benefited from Club Rainbow. "The programmes helped me to step out of my comfort zone," the Secondary 3 student said.

Other events to raise money or increase awareness were held across the island yesterday.

More than 1,000 people took part in a community walk in Yishun, organised by the Sree Narayana Mission to help raise awareness on dementia.

And at East Coast Park, over 7,000 UOB employees, their families and customers took part in a charity run and walk. Another more than 4,000 participants in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand also did the same in the UOB Heartbeat Run/Walk.

More than $1.1 million was raised to help underprivileged children in Asia and those with special needs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Riding for Rainbows to give back to charity'. Print Edition | Subscribe