Saturday March 16, 2013
Mount Kinabalu their target
By ZORA CHAN
KUCHING: As a visually impaired school boy, James Bandang has never let his disability prevent from doing well in his studies and sports.
Today, the 40-year-old teacher is determined to set a new record for the Malaysia Book of Records by scaling Mount Kinabalu with 50 other visually impaired friends this September.
The expedition, organised by the state’s Society of the Blind Malaysia (SBM), will mark the 50th anniversary of Sarawak progressing in Malaysia.
“I was a paralympic athlete representing my school, the state and country since 1990s. My last competitive outing was in 2008,” said James.
He said he had hiked up Gunung Serapi many times before and hoped that he could do the same at Mount Kinabalu.
“I’m inspired to climb Mount Santubong because I want to share with other people with disabilities, or OKUs, that being disabled does not mean we cannot take part in outdoor and extreme sports.
“The Government has done a lot for the OKUs in the state, especially in giving financial and moral support in many paralympic outings, so now is our turn to thank the Government through this expedition,” he told The Star here yesterday.
James is one of the 60 visually impaired persons who had signed up for the first training session held at Permai Rainforest Resort, Santubong.
The event was launched by Santubong MP and Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
Another aspiring mountaineer, Nor Kalsum Fadil, 21, said she signed up for the climb because she wanted a new challenge in life.
“I want to see how far I can go and achieve in life,” the partially blind youth said.
Junaidi who spoke at the ceremony, appealed to policymakers and developers to build buildings and public facilities that were friendly to OKUs.
He also urged the public and private sectors not to discriminate against OKUs but gave them opportunities to prove their capabilities and self-worth.
Earlier, Sarawak SBM president Maoh Janting said the branch had been meaning to climb the mountain since 2011.
He said the body would need to raise at least RM109,000 to fund the whole expedition which would include training.
He hoped that the public, particularly corporate bodies would come forward with their donations to ensure that the event would be a reality, adding that the Welfare, Women and Family Ministry had pledged RM20,000 and Junaidi, RM5,000 to the movement.
“We want to scale Mount Kinabalu to motivate our members and the public that the visually impaired can excel in anything and by doing so, create history,” he said.
Maoh said they also hoped to break the present Malaysia Book of Records of 26 OKUs having successfully climbed Mount Kinabalu.
He said they planned to get 52 of them for the record-breaking attempt.
“The climb will also be a gift to the state government when we celebrate Malaysia Day,” he said.
On a separate matter, Maoh urged the public and private sector to give jobs to the visually impaired as most of them possessed at least SPM qualification.
SBM has 260 members but slightly more than half are gainfully employed in the public and private sector.
The majority, numbering about 80, work as masseurs, according to Maoh.
SBM is a national-level non-governmental organisation set up by the blind aimed at fighting for the betterment of the visually impaired and creating a useful and productive community for them.
It also aims at promoting sports and recreational activities among the visually impaired.