Stories > Inspiring Others To Scale Heights

2014 • Issue 3

Inspiring Others To Scale Heights

He is a doctor and a mountaineer who has scaled the world’s tallest peak in Nepal, in the process of raising funds for Tan Tock Seng Hospital.


he Tan Tock Seng Hospital medical officer managed to raise $35,000 with his Mount Everest feat, which was donated to the hospital’s charity arm.

But Dr Kumaran Rasappan, 29, has a greater mission in life — to continue the charity work he started while in Nepal and to do more to help needy students in a village there.

His intentions, he said, stemmed from a trip he made there in 1999 with a group of students and his then-secondary school teacher to help do up a library, paint a school building and stay with families who hosted them in the town of Aahale.

“I wouldn’t say this trip inspired me tremendously …we were too young to appreciate it at that time…. But now looking back, you know that these were very precious, very important moments in your life,” says Dr Rasappan.

“That was my first experience of Nepal — the mountains, and overseas community service. That trip had an impact for many years to come.”

He credits his former teacher Pillay Krishnan, 48, for not only being a mentor in his education but for inspiring him to reach greater heights in life. As a young teacher in 1996, Krishnan volunteered with the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) to teach in Nepal for a year.

So fulfilling was his time at the Saraswati School in Gorkha, that when he returned to Singapore, he rallied a group of 28 teachers and students from Raffles Institution to return with him to the school. Dr Rasappan, who was then 15, was one of the students who went on that trip in 1999. Fast forward to 2012 and Dr Rasappan was poised to take on Mount Everest.

The expedition’s sponsor, food company Cerebos, not only backed his attempt to climb Everest but wanted to donate computers to a school in Nepal.

Dr Rasappan is warmly welcomed by his Tan Tock Seng Hospital colleagues on his return from climbing Mt. Everest, which helped raise funds for the hospital’s charity.

They asked if he had any particular school in mind and Dr Rasappan knew exactly which one to suggest and just the person to help him get in touch with the school — Krishnan.

Dr Rasappan said: “I knew he was the man who had all the connections and I knew he was the man who knew the ground.”

For Krishnan, the invitation to return to Saraswati with his ex-student was “out of the blue and mind-blowing”. Krishnan said: “I was not prepared. I had kept everything, you know, in the lowest drawer possible — all the past memories, because I had to move on.“

“He could have just embarked on this journey…but he thought about how it would be special for me too.

The two men revisited the school just days after Dr Rasappan safely descended from Everest, and helped to set up a computer laboratory. Since then, Krishnan said he has seen photos of the lab on Facebook and was glad to see school children using it too.

He said: “Such a different world this has become, because 20 years ago, the students didn’t even go to school. With this opportunity, the kids get to be included in the wider world. And the opportunities and their outlook have changed and people will look at them differently.”

Krishan and Dr Rasappan’s time spent together during that trip also served to bolster their deep sense of mutual respect and affection.

Dr Rasappan and his teacher, Krishnan (right), reunited to provide more assistance to the Saraswati School in Nepal.

Dr Rasappan said: “He paved the way for others to follow and that was a courageous thing for him to have done. Every student wants to be inspired by his teacher and I’m glad I crossed paths with him.” He credits Krishan for helping him “realise my full potential”.

Dr Rasappan, who emulated his teacher, has given talks at his alma mater. He also inspired a group of students to follow in his footsteps. They helped to set up a science lab at Saraswati School in Nepal late last year.

Dr Rasappan with students at Saraswati School in Nepal, where he taught for a year, when he was 15 years old.

Krishnan is now the vice-principal of West Grove Primary School and his students wrote 300 pen-pal letters which Krishnan and Dr Rasappan delivered to the students in Nepal during their trip in 2012.

“You should have seen how they got excited because they could read those letters,” Krishnan says of the Nepali students. He added that the day after the children received the letters, they wrote back 150 letters addressed to their new Singaporean pen-pals.

Krishnan has a word of advice not just for Dr Rasappan but others hoping to be inspired to do good. He says: “Even if you do not immediately see the returns of what you do, somehow others with you will find their way. And maybe oneday, they will express their thanks. The important thing is to be sincere and to want to help others.”

“I can’t believe that our work as SIF volunteers would have such ripple effects 20 years down the road, bringing together a new generation of volunteers who lend renewed energy to contribute to many more small efforts that amount to a never-ending story of new adventures and a broader outreach to our wider community,” Krishnan says.

“There’s always hope for a better tomorrow.”

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