|Photo Credits: Tamil Murasu
‘Caring Climber’ is the title aptly attributed by tabla! (a Friday free weekly English tabloid catering to the Indian diaspora of Singapore published by Tamil Murasu) to the first Singaporean born Indian to reach the summit of Mt Everest and the recipient of the tabla! Community Champion Award 2012. Dr Kumaran Rasappan is that ‘Caring Climber’ because; this 28 year old orthopaedic uses his passion for mountaineering to help people. The tabla! Award came with a generous donation of $10,000 from the State Bank of India. With this he has raised $45,000 and all for Tan Tock Seng Hospital Community Charity Fund. This in turn is to be used to give financial aid to patients through more than 70 programmes in the hospital.
Dr Kumaran’s other plans of altruism include: give respite to caregivers by giving them a break for a day or two by creating a group of volunteers who can take over their jobs. Another is a programme for amputees to help them rehabilitate and regain confidence. He has been able to inspire students of Singapore Prison Schools and prisoners of higher security clusters through his motivational talks. He has done tremendous good work in Nepal too.
Definitely he has made his parents proud. Another person who shares his interest is his fiancée, Dr Gayathri Nadarajan. Dr Gayathri Nadarajan, herself a doctor in emergency medicine has accompanied him in his expedition to Mt Everest. Here are some excerpts from her article in Sree Narayana Mission Annual Souvenir Publication 2012 of her experience in Khumbu Valley that lies in the Northeast of Nepal.
…….. During his practice climbs in Nepal, Kumaran visited a village called Phortse (at a height of 3840m), where his Sherpa came from. He noted that the 300 odd villagers living there were served by a rundown health post, which had 2 bamboo poles for a stretcher, no running water, and only basic medications such as ‘panadol’. The nearest hospital for these villagers was a day’s walk away, uphill and downhill. Upon hearing of this situation, we decided to help improve this health post and make it more like a clinic. Over the months, we succeeded in collecting and transporting medication and equipment from Singapore.
….Excited to have a foreign doctor as well as new medications, these villagers flocked to the clinic. Besides treating the villagers, my main aim was to train the nurse as well as educate the villagers. I conducted regular tutorials on ‘How to conduct safe deliveries at home’ ‘Basic first aid’ and ‘Nutrition’. ….From Phortse I moved to two other villages….also to Gorkha village…….
To my personal queries:
To Dr Kumaran
How motivating is this Award for you.
I’m very gracious to have been presented this award. I feel it is a token of recognition for my charity efforts and it has indeed motivated me to carry on and expand my work in the community. It goes
to prove that young people, though how small their contributions may be perceived, are still being recognised and that is very important to boost more young people to do good in our society.
What do you plan to do with the prize money?
I have donated the $10,000 cash prize to my charity of choice which is the Tan Tock Seng Hospital Community Charity Fund for the needy patients.
To Dr Gayathri
How fulfilling has this been for you?
This has been a very long journey. I was studying medicine in the UK when he told me about his plan 4 yrs ago. I was very excited and supportive about it. He wanted to climb Mt Everest and I wanted to do medical charity work in Nepal. I was planning to do the charity work while he climbed. Instead we both got to plan and execute the charity work ourselves and start off our own mini project. After 4 yrs of planning, everything fell into place. And the work there was incredibly fulfilling. I leant so much from living and working with the Sherpa people in the Khumbu valley.
With regards to Kumaran reaching the summit of Everest, I am extremely relieved he is back safe and sound. You had asked me if he had faced dangerous situations. Well, during his 1 yr off work, he climbed several mountains and had many near misses. While he was climbing, I realised how dangerous and harsh the environment can be. He was on one of the mountains where an earthquake hit Nepal last year. He felt the earthquake and witnessed several avalanches. His family and I were rather distressed by this event. It is a dangerous sport… I believe his family and I were visiting the temples more frequently while he was away on his climbs.
How long and how have you been able to support his ventures?
I took 2 months of leave to go to Nepal with him. Linking the climb and charity work was an idea I had thought of (as in the UK, it’s a rather common concept.) While he was away on his climbs, together with his sister I was his ‘acting’ secretary, liaising with his sponsors and managing his emails and flight bookings. I was helping to organize the ‘Clinic’ aspect of things while he focused on the climb. I helped to plan the goals of our Clinic in Khumbu Valley. My plan was to visit about 3 different villages, improve the existing health posts .We managed to execute the plans which was great.
Kumaran reaching the summit is just the icing on the cake. What he has achieved in this 1 yr is incredible.
What are the future plans?
To continue to improve the medical health posts in the villages of Nepal. Establish a regular volunteer program with the Gorkha school where, with the help of Brand’s Essence we had set up a computer lab. Also to start or support a project at our local community level.
And to Patrick Jonas, Deputy Editor, tabla!
What made tabla! choose Dr Kumaran for the Community Champion Award why not somebody else?
It is not too often you come across a youngster who uses his personal achievements to help the less fortunate in our society. Dr Kumaran’s deeds serve as an inspiration to our youth and hence the selection by the Committee.
The Award was presented by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, the guest-of-honour at the ceremony held on Oct 20th, 2012 at the Singapore Expo in conjunction with Deepavali Mela jointly hosted by tabla! and Tamil Murasu.