South Pole trek

South Pole trek: 1,100km journey in aid of kids’ charity

Ms Eirliani will need to pull sleds weighing more than 60kg, over 60 days, in temperatures which can drop to minus 30 deg C.
Ms Eirliani will need to pull sleds weighing more than 60kg, over 60 days, in temperatures which can drop to minus 30 deg C.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MS EIRLIANI ABDUL RAHMAN

For five days a week, Singaporean Eirliani Abdul Rahman pulls car tyres around a park and runs up stairs at a metro station in New Delhi while carrying a 25kg backpack.

The 39-year-old is not a professional athlete or training for any ordinary sport.

Instead, the fitness drill is to prepare her for a 1,100km trek to the South Pole, which she hopes to start in January next year, to raise awareness on the issue of child abuse.

Ms Eirliani, who is based in India as director for campaigns at the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation, will pull sleds weighing more than 60kg, over 60 days, in temperatures which can drop to minus 30 deg C.

The training, which she described as "hardcore and intense", started about a month ago.

She said: "Why not trek to the South Pole, get media attention and use that opportunity to raise issues that are close to my heart?"

Formerly a political counsellor at the Singapore High Commission in Delhi, Ms Eirliani left a 10-year stint with the Singapore Foreign Service to fulfil what she said was "her dream".

"I had a brilliant time at the foreign service. But I've always harboured this dream to do something about child rights and child protection.

"You read about it, you know about it. But I feel it's the right time now, especially with the people I've met over the years who are willing to help."

Shortly after leaving her job in December last year, she founded Yakin - Youths, Adult Survivors and Kin In Need - together with Professor Daniel Fung, chairman of the Institute of Mental Health's medical board.

The organisation, which is based in Singapore and provides support and protection to victims of child abuse, holds creative writing workshops here, as well as rock climbing camps for abused children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

While Ms Eirliani, who is single, admits the trek will be the "most difficult thing I've done physically", she has been keeping fit through rock climbing and CrossFit, a strength and conditioning programme that focuses on constantly varied movements such as squatting, pushing and pulling executed at high intensity.

"Growing up, I was not much of an athlete. I was in fact more of a geek. But I fell in love with fitness and the outdoors about two years ago."

She has completed mountaineering trips to the Himalayas, and recently returned from the Zanskar valley in Ladakh, India, where she walked on a frozen river and camped under Arctic conditions.

In 2009, Madam Sophia Pang, a mother of three, IT consultant and freelance fitness trainer, became the first Singaporean woman to ski from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole.

If successful, Ms Eirliani will be the first Singaporean woman to make the trek on foot.

She will be joined by two other women - her rock climbing partner from Lithuania, as well as a polar guide.

Ms Eirliani, who has two brothers, said: "I've told my mum about it. She's okay. My family has always been very supportive of what I do.

"As much as it is an individual endeavour, I really hope it will bring attention what I do to help children that have been abused. I want people to start talking about it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline '1,100km journey in aid of kids' charity'. Print Edition | Subscribe