I just came back from a tiring, but most meaningful event.
I joined a team of mountain climbers from ACS International, flying to Kota Kinabalu on November 24th to scale Mount Kinabalu. This was an unusual trip, as it was undertaken in memory of Darren Loh, the 17 year-old ACS International student who unhappily passed away of heart failure while building a house at Kota Kinabalu. The original team was supposed to have completed the house, and then climb Mount Kinabalu as a follow-up activity. This trip was put together by Darren's wonderful teacher, Mr. S. Sivarajan.
This time around, the team consisted of 4 of his team mates (17 year-olds), a brother of a team member, 3 teachers, parents of Darren Loh and another pair of parents of 2 of the boys; plus me, the second oldest team member. All team members wore a blue t-shirt with the ACS International logo (please don't tell my RI school mates), with the name "Darren" boldly printed at the back.
Above: The team at Timpohon Gate, the starting point of the climb
The climb was tough, but do-able for those who are physically fit. I thought it could be summarized as "seemingly endless steps, seemingly endless rock formations, seemingly endless waterfalls"! As per the routine, the team reached the Laban Ratan Resthouse located at 3,270 meters; rested the night and started the final assault to the summit at 2.30 am to catch the sunrise. At the summit, the team displayed the t-shirts with "Darren" at the back, as a tribute to this wonderful young man. After that, it was a descend all the way back to Timpohon gate. It was challenging, but very meaningful.
Above: Up, up, up and up...
Above: The team near the summit (Teacher Mr. Sivarajan on left; Darren's dad Mr. David Loh in the middle).
Above: In memory...
After the descend, I accompanied Darren's mother Angela to the site where he collapsed (thanks to the help from Allen Tong, Habitat for Humanity Malaysia's President), so that she could pay her respect and meet Justin, the owner of the house Darren was helping to build. It was a very emotional moment, as Angela placed a bouquet of flowers where Darren fell. But there was also much comfort for Angela to meet with Justin, and see that the house Darren helped build was almost completed, and for her to hear of more plans to help others.
Above: Angela holding a photo of Darren, with home partner Justin, his brother and their boys.
Out of this terrible tragedy came a renewed determination to keep working at making this world a better place, what Darren was attempting to do. Angela shared with me Darren's determination to join the build trip, knowing his own precarious medical situation. With the help of his parents and friends, we have started a Darren Loh Memorial Fund, so that more young people can experience a build trip, and join Darren's dream of helping others.
While we are all sadden with Darren's untimely demise, we are seeing some light from the good that has come out of that terrible situation. We will continue to work hard to keep the memory of Darren Loh alive, as we strive to make this world a better place for all.
Love, Joy Peace.
Yong Teck Meng
2nd December 2013
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