YMCA challenge raising money, promoting inclusivity for those with special needs

Mr Shiaw Lun (left) leads a hike to Fort Canning Park for the YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge on June 4, 2022. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

SINGAPORE - When Mr Siau Ek Jin was a primary school pupil, he would refuse to get into the pool during compulsory swimming lessons.

The 30-year-old, who has global developmental delay, only overcame his fear in his teens with help from a patient swim instructor.

In the years since, he has represented Singapore in swimming internationally and even won a bronze medal at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games.

On Saturday (June 4), hoping to raise awareness for their peers with special needs, Mr Siau and six other individuals hiked from the YMCA building in Orchard Road to Fort Canning Park as part of the charity's Special Needs Inclusive Challenge.

This year's challenge is a continuation of the YMCA Inclusive Climb 2019, where 10 people with special needs trained intensively before attempting to summit Mount Fuji in Japan.

They were about to reach the summit when weather conditions suddenly worsened and they had to turn back.

However, there are plans to return to Mount Fuji next year to summit the landmark, said Ms Sharon Chan, programmes division head of YMCA.

This year, 10 special needs ambassadors will attempt to cover the same distance as scaling the 3,776m-tall Mount Fuji and going around its 120km perimeter.

They will be climbing stairs, hiking up hills and going on treks.

Ms Chan said that by completing the challenge in this manner at public locations, the ambassadors hope to show others with special needs that they can do the same day-to-day things as everyone else, and perhaps even more.

The challenge, which will run till Aug 31, aims to raise $150,000 in donations, which will be directed towards YMCA's community services fund.

The fund supports its vocational training and social development programmes, like art and sport classes, for their clients with special needs. About $35,000 has been raised so far.

The public can register on the YMCA website to take part in the challenge for a participation fee of $50. Donations can also be made directly to the cause on fund-raising website giving.sg.

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