MARATHONS have a tremendous power to bring people from all walks of life together to achieve extraordinary things.
The surfeit of positivity that runs through a marathon event can be harnessed to affect positive changes in the communities it touches.
The Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon (SCKLM) has endeavoured to do just that under its Run For A Reason (RFAR) charity initiative. Since its inception in 2009,15 charities have benefited from the RFAR programme, improving the lives of thousands of individuals.
In the 11th edition of SCKLM, a total of 1,173 RFAR race participants will be running to raise funds for three charity beneficiaries, namely National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM), Dignity for Children Foundation and Hospis Malaysia.
Fighting cancer and raising funds
Rene’e Aziz Ahmad is a 58-year-old retired civil engineer from Kuala Lumpur who is living with metastatic breast cancer.
She is running to raise funds for NCSM – the first not-for-profit cancer organisation in Malaysia – which provides education, care and support services for people affected by cancer as well as the public.
This is the second time that Rene’e is participating in SCKLM’s RFAR programme, with the first being in 2011.
Since then, she has learned more about NCSM’s work and built relationships with the people there along with other cancer survivors who depend on society financially, and more importantly, emotionally.
Rene’e has suffered two types of cancer but decided that she would remain active in running and hiking to live life to the fullest.
“I hope to help other cancer patients and survivors in some small way by sharing my story with them through events such as this. It’s not about living forever, it’s about making the most of the life we have been given, ” said Rene’e.
This approach has taken her to many places and helped her accomplish a number of things that would inspire anyone, especially those suffering from serious illnesses.
After being diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2001, she summited Uhuru Peak on Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in 2005. Two years later she led a team of five on the Pride Aconcagua expedition to scale the highest peak outside of Asia and the Himalayas (Mount Aconcagua in Argentina), to impart a message of hope and inspiration to breast cancer sufferers and survivors.
More recently, she raised AUD1,676 (RM4,786) for the Australian Breast Cancer Network through her participation in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival in 2018.
She celebrated National Day pursuing her second attempt to reach the summit of Mt Elbrus (5,642m) in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe.
At SCKLM2019, Rene’e will be running in the 10km category to raise funds for NCSM. She understands the importance of keeping a positive attitude and surrounding herself with family and friends who are caring and supportive, noting that illness is hard on them too.
“Keep doing the things you love to do for as long as you can. Don’t let anyone try and tell you that this is some kind of divine punishment because it’s not... it’s simply one of life’s challenges.
“Most of all, be true to yourself and follow your heart in coming to terms and dealing with your situation, ” she advised.
Support for a dignified end
Hospis Malaysia is a charitable organisation providing complimentary professional community palliative care to those with life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, organ failure or progressive neurological conditions.
For Norwati Baharuddin however, Hospis provided more than just medical support and pain management to her father, Baharuddin Nafi, fondly known as Pak Din, a retired police officer with a zest for life.
Pak Din was suffering from cancer, which had already claimed the life of his wife. He was referred to Hospis when his cancer spread to other parts. He did not want to be put on life support, so his family started his end-of-life journey with Hospis’ support.
“We just wanted him to be comfortable and not in pain, ” said Norwati.
What endeared Hospis Malaysia to Norwati was the psychological care provided by the nurses there.
Stephanie On Chew Soong in particular was kind and attentive which helped Pak Din articulate his fears and hopes for his family after his death.
“Stephanie said my father told her how lucky he was to have his family, ” said Norwati.
“It was additional support that we were not able to give. We are glad that my father had someone he could turn to, ” she added.
This was echoed by Nur Aliza Zainul Abidin, whose mother Sharifah Noora’askin has been under Hospis Malaysia’s care since last September.
After her mother was diagnosed with cancer last year, the devastating news was offset by a renewed strength within Nur Aliza, especially after she received an outpouring of support from friends and family, coupled with the generous help from Hospis.
“Hospis Malaysia has been a blessing to us in terms of emotional support, medical equipment and guidance.
“I will be running in the Half Marathon category at the SCKLM2019 to raise funds and create awareness for Hospis Malaysia, ” said Nur Aliza.
She hopes that in some small way, her efforts would help others know about and benefit from its services too.
Caring for children in need
Dignity for Children Foundation is a non-governmental organisation that provides holistic care and education for urban poor children in Kuala Lumpur.
Dignity has been helping underprivileged children for the past 20 years with the aim of nurturing and empowering them to be world changers through transformative education.
Zau Hkun Ring Lahpai (David), whose family fled persecution in Myanmar, is a 16-year-old who is following in the footsteps of his elder brother who has since completed his education in Dignity and is currently studying in the University of Nottingham Malaysian campus under a full scholarship.
Inspired by his brother’s education journey, David appreciates the opportunities provided to him by Dignity through the funds raised under RFAR.
“Dignity not only focuses on the academic side of education but also offers skill-based education through its social enterprises such as make X dignity (Woodwork) and eat X dignity (Café).
“I’m currently taking skills classes at eat X dignity where I learn how to prepare and cook some amazing dishes served by the cafe, ” said David who hopes to become an engineer someday.
He loves to figure out how machines work and hopes to build his own in the future while indulging in other passions such as photography and cooking.
Just like David, 17-year-old K. Dansika’s family left Sri Lanka for Malaysia 11 years ago, to escape the civil war.
She started her education in Dignity when she was nine, after being told about the school by a friend.
“I like studying at Dignity because they provide quality education and I get to learn skills that can help me in future.
“In Dignity, I learn how to be independent, ” said Dansika who suffers from type one diabetes and needs three shots of insulin a day to regulate her blood sugar, compounding her family’s financial struggles.
She is one of many children at Dignity who benefit directly from the funds raised through SCKLM and hopes to become a teacher.
“I want to teach people what I have learned and to be a role model to others. Many children are not able to go to school because they do not have the financial capabilities.
“So I want to work hard to provide free education or tuition to these who really need it but are unable to do so, ” she added.
From a classroom of just 20 students, Dignity has now educated more than 8,000 students, with 1,700 enrolled this year.
Both David and Dansika are very grateful to those running to raise funds for Dignity without whom they would not be able to pursue their education dream.
“Thank you so much for helping me and I am grateful knowing Dignity and SCKLM support me and my friends. I appreciate all the runners who believe in us, and I will do my best in my studies, ” said Dansika.
“I am very grateful and appreciative of SCKLM runners’ support of children and youth who are less fortunate by helping them obtain a proper education, ” David said.While the SCKLM is the premier competitive distance running event in Malaysia, the RFAR initiative shows the strong community element running through.
“Run For A Reason is an integral component of SCKLM, as we have always believed that the event should strive to give back to its communities.
“Since its inception in 2009, we are proud to have raised close to RM6mil in funds for a variety of charities and helped to improve the lives of thousands in the process, ” said SCKLM project director Rainer Biemans who is also the director of Dirigo Events, the owners and organisers of the event.
SCKLM2019 will take place on Sept 28 and 29 at Dataran Merdeka. A total of 40,000 runners are expected to participate in various categories.
The Run For A Reason charity programme is ongoing and will close on Sept 15.
If you want to do your bit to help these runners raise funds for their respective charities, go to https://www.kl-marathon.com/charity/run-for-a-reason/runners-profile/2019/
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