Scaling Mount Fuji: A special hike for a special cause

Scaling Mount Fuji: A special hike for a special cause
  • 4 Minute Read
  • October 24, 2023

There is truly no mountain too high when it comes to making a positive impact. In support of YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge, Sreekumar N Sarma (Sree), a Senior Manager with our Deals Advisory practice, took his disability inclusion volunteering journey from Singapore to Mount Fuji.

What inspired you to go on this hike, and what was your mindset?

Throughout my late wife’s one and a half year-long battle with cancer, I was moved by the resilience and strength she displayed. It also made me realise that it takes a lot of support from friends, family, and at times, complete strangers to keep up the battle. Her journey inspired me to make a positive difference to those who are facing prolonged challenges. 

Volunteering and hiking with youth with special needs through the YMCA of Singapore became a way of channelling my energy into something meaningful. I wanted to dedicate my free time to helping others while honouring her memory, and this allowed me to empathise with their struggles and offer support.

Last December, I came across the opportunity to be part of this cause through PwC Singapore Foundation’s collaboration with YMCA. Every Saturday, we explored and hiked green spaces in Singapore. I had the privilege of getting to know the Special Needs Ambassadors and their caregivers well, and one of the milestone events was to accomplish this Mount Fuji hike.

A regular Saturday hiking session

A regular Saturday hiking session with YMCA Special Needs Ambassadors and other youth with special needs at Bukit Timah Hill.

What did you do to prepare for the hike?

To qualify for the hike, shortlisted volunteers were asked to climb 47 storeys of stairs at SkyVille@Dawson three times. I definitely was not the fastest nor fittest person there, but having two of my colleagues around definitely motivated me to take on the challenge.

Following the selection, there were relatively intense hikes scheduled over 12 Saturdays, including stair training on the Skyville@Dawson (5 laps of climbing up 47 storeys this time) and at the hiking route from Dairy Farm to Bukit Timah.

Group photo

Group photo from one of the training sessions at Skyville@Dawson

Saturday training session at Fort Canning park

Sree, together with the YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge team, during one of their Saturday training session at Fort Canning park

Doing lunges to build up lower body strength in preparation for Mount Fuji

What’s something that surprised you - either about yourself/ the people you hiked with?

One of the hikers had a fear of heights and halfway through the first day of hiking, he had to be physically carried by the guides for about 10 to 15 mins. We were not sure if he would make it to the summit, but the next morning, he overcame his fears, gave another try and impressed all of us. Some others braved the altitude sickness and in the end, all 26 of us from Singapore reached the summit of Mount Fuji together.

Group photo at one of the rest stops at Mount Fuji

Group photo at one of the rest stops at Mount Fuji

What’s something you’ve learnt from the Special Needs Ambassadors?

Sree and his hiking buddy, Weng Siong, a YMCA Special Needs Ambassador, on Mount Fuji

The invaluable traits of tenacity and discipline. Despite their jam-packed weekly schedules filled with activities like runs, hikes, bowling and art, they stay committed to them. It’s inspiring to see them embody a never-give-up attitude, even when stepping out of their comfort zones.

Sree and his hiking buddy, Weng Siong, a YMCA Special Needs Ambassador, on Mount Fuji

If you can help change the world, what is it that you'd like to do?

To heal the emotional and physical pain of others.

What’s a defining moment on your hike?

It might sound a bit cliché, but there wasn’t a single moment - it’s really about the holistic experience. Regardless of who we are and our own limitations, summiting Mount Fuji reaffirmed that anything is possible when determination, grit and a supportive community come together. It was a triumph we celebrated as a team, and it was the camaraderie and support between the volunteers and families that made the entire journey unforgettable. From the outstanding Japanese guides and their breathing and climbing technique, getting vegetarian food in the huts of Mount Fuji to the perfect weather, each added up to the success of the hike.

The whole team at the summit of Mount Fuji!

The whole team at the summit of Mount Fuji!

How would you continue your volunteering journey?

I did take a couple of weeks’ break and slept in till 9 am on Saturdays. But nothing’s different! I’d still continue to go on regular hikes / runs with special needs individuals with YMCA and keep a lookout for other opportunities where I can be of any help.


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