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People with disabilities, cancer survivors to take part in 72km wheelchair trek to raise funds for charity

SINGAPORE — When Ms Fathima Zohra was left paralysed from her neck down after a car accident in 2017, life as she knew it was not the same again.

People with disabilities, cancer survivors to take part in 72km wheelchair trek to raise funds for charity

Some of the participants of Beyond Expedition’s 72km Coast-to-Coast wheelchair trek: (From left) Mr Mansor Ali, Mr Scott Tay, Ms Fathima Zohra and Mr Amal Luqman.

  • The team of eight will go up and down the Coast-to-Coast Trail on wheelchairs
  • The use of wheelchairs aims to raise awareness on the difficulties of living with disabilities
  • The organiser hopes to raise S$10,000 in donations from the public, which will go to a local charity

 

SINGAPORE — When Ms Fathima Zohra was left paralysed from her neck down after a car accident in 2017, life as she knew it was not the same again.

“I was an athlete my whole life, and suddenly being confined to a wheelchair became very scary to me,” said the 24-year-old.

“The first year after my injury, I didn’t want to do anything, I basically lost hope.”

But come next month, Ms Fathima will be participating in a wheelchair trek across Singapore spanning 72km.

While Ms Fathima was active in sports such as football and track and field before her accident, she has had to painstakingly build back mobility in her arms over the years through physiotherapy and strength training at the gym, which she visits at least twice a week.

This was the period where she regained hope as well as the strength to move her arms.

“I didn’t want my love for fitness to be taken away by this injury,” said Ms Fathima, who is now the programme manager at Running Hour, an inclusive running club.

“An expedition like this is a great opportunity.”

She will be joining several other members on this trek, most of whom are physically disabled or are cancer survivors. The team will go up and down the Coast-to-Coast Trail on wheelchairs, from Jurong Lake Gardens to Coney Island Park in Punggol.

The trek was organised by Mr Scott Tay, who will lead the team of eight on this journey at the end of August.

The use of wheelchairs aims to raise awareness on the difficulties of living with disabilities and in the process, Mr Tay hopes to raise S$10,000 in donations from the public, which will go to SPD, a local charity which supports people with disabilities.

“The fact that (able-bodied people) are willing to get on wheelchairs and experience what we do, it inspires me as well in wanting to do more for my community,” said Ms Fathima.

This is not the first such expedition that Mr Tay, who owns travel agency Beyond Expeditions, has organised. In 2017, he went on a solo trek across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, trekking 800km and raising money for the Singapore Cancer Society.

He organised two other similar trips in 2018 and 2019 to Mongolia, this time with about 15 participants each, including some who are cancer survivors. Altogether, Mr Tay and his expedition mates have raised over S$125,000 for various charities.

Mr Scott Tay demonstrates moving up a slope on a wheelchair as part of a training session at Upper Seletar Reservoir on July 18, 2021. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

FINDING THE COURAGE TO TURN HIS LIFE AROUND

Mr Tay said that he was inspired by a friend, Mr Mansor Ali, who suddenly lost his vision in 2019, when he was 25 years old. This was the impetus for him to continue these expeditions in the form of a local trek, having halted them last year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Mr Mansor said that he had lost almost all his vision over a span of three-and-a-half months due to a neurological condition.

He had lost his job in a media firm due to his disability. For more than a year, he was depressed and had suicidal thoughts.

“I didn’t want to accept the fact that I am blind, I didn’t want to pick up the white cane (a device to aid the visually impaired), I stayed in my room most of the time and was in denial.”

He then began listening to podcasts and videos of visually impaired persons who had found success. One such inspiration was reality TV show MasterChef winner Christine Hà, a Vietnamese-American who was the first blind winner of the show.

Seeing that it was possible to thrive with a disability, Mr Mansor said he found the courage to “turn his life around”. Gradually, he tried to adapt to life without sight by learning how to use the computer, and picking up a white cane.

Like Ms Fathima, he had been active prior to his disability, running 5km about twice a week. It was only at the start of this year that he began exercising at home after a friend gave him a yoga mat.

Knowing that he would be participating in this trek gave him additional motivation to be more active, by doing 15-minute cardio workouts.

“I definitely see it as a challenge. For a blind person, navigating is already a challenge, and when you remove my foot from the ground, I will have no tactile feedback,” he said. “I will try my best to navigate on my own, with as many audio cues as possible.”

Mr Tay said that he will be aiming to complete the entire 72km journey over two days and two nights.

“This is a different challenge… for able bodied people, to be on a wheelchair is not my first nature, but I believe the human mind is powerful and able to manifest anything that it desires,” he said.

To train for the trek, the team met for the first time on Sunday to try out being on a wheelchair and wheeling themselves for 2km. Of all the team members, only Ms Fathima is wheelchair bound.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge and I am really excited,” said Ms Fathima. “My lungs are not that strong… but I hope to go for as long as I can.”

Added Mr Mansor: “I’m really excited to see how much I can push myself, I want to push myself to my limits.”

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