A mountain-top experience on Gunung Batur in Bali led Simon Chan to organise overseas trekking trips that give back to the locals.
Before 2012, I had never climbed a mountain. But when my father was diagnosed with liver cancer that year, I decided to go on a trekking trip to Bali with my then eight-year-old son, Nicolas, to climb a mountain to pray for my father. Also, I was looking for a father-and-son outdoor activity with Nicolas — something that would test our physical limits and bring us closer to each other.
We climbed Gunung Batur, an active volcano located in north-eastern Bali. Our ascent began at about 2.30am, in total darkness. The only light source was from our torches. After hiking three hours in the dark, we reached the summit, 1,717m above sea level. We saw the most beautiful sunrise unfolding before our eyes as the first rays of sunlight pierced through the darkness.
The next year, I took Nicolas on another trekking trip,
this time to the Philippines. There, we visited Ivan and Maureen Ho, founders of charitable organisation Oikos Helping Hand that distributes food and provides medical aid to the poor and underprivileged in Tondo district, near Manila.
Nicolas and I subsequently went on many more trekking trips, and on these trips we met families subsisting on the bare minimum. The thought then came to me: Why not give back to these people?
That was how Trek for Hope (www.TravelledPaths.com) came about. We’re a non-profit social initiative that combines adventure trekking and climbing with charitable work. March 2014 was our maiden trip — 42 people trekked up Mount Pulag, Philippines’ second-highest mountain, for the adventure part of the trip. After the trek, we headed to Smokey Mountain, a landfill in Tondo district where people dig through trash for survival, for the giving-it-back leg of the trip. There, we distributed food parcels. We’re going back in March 2015 because there’s so much more to do, and so much more we want to give back to others.”