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A group of inexperienced kayakers will be braving 144 hours of intense rowing along 700 nautical miles of stunning yet unpredictable Sarawakian coastline, in a quest called “Kayak for Humanity” later this month. NATALIE HENG has the story.

IT was a “mad” idea – to kayak along the coastline of Sarawak in a bid to give back to society by spreading awareness about various causes – but paddler Chew Hoong Ling and her mates believe they can make a difference.

Chew is part of the 10-member Kayak For Humanity expedition organised by the Persatuan Sukarelawan Muda in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

In fact, the idea for the expedition was germinated at a youth lab organised by the ministry.

Chew, 30, Ravichandran Balasubramaniam, 25, Chee Cia Cia, 23 and Koh Wan Sin, 25 will be among the 10-member multicultural team that will be undertaking the 18-day journey along the 700 nautical miles of South China Sea.

The other team members include Mohamad Rahiman, a human capital training consultant, Ziahul Asraf, special officer to a royal family and Harris Taufieq Zafri, a sports officer.

The interesting thing is that only one of the team members, Ziahul, has experience in sea touring kayaks.

(Sea touring kayaks are much bigger and sturdier, being 20 ft long, compared to recreational kayaks, which are generally less than 12 ft.)

Ziahul has set three Malaysian Book of Records in sea kayaking and will be leading the expedition.

He has been preparing the team, giving them grueling training drills on land and in the kayaks at Port Dickson.

“After the lab, we used to gather at the mamak stall, talking about things we were passionate about,” explained Chew, who is a passionate organ donor advocate.

“Then we thought, how can we combine all this and do something together? That’s when the idea for ’Kayak For Humanity’ came up.”

The goal is to spread awareness about each of their passions and educating the public and 18 villages they will be dropping by en-route.

“Primarily this is an expedition with the motto being ‘to inspire’, so we will be giving short presentations and having informal chats to local indigenous communities about these issues,” said Chew.

They also intend to capitalize on the opportunity to use social media to bridge the village communities and the public at large.

“We will be tweeting throughout the trip so people will get an insight into life in the villages.

“The trip will involve about eight hours of rowing a day,” said Chew, who admitted that she cannot swim.

It is also a feat for Chew who has one functioning ear, one lobe of liver and was born with one kidney.

The team will be wearing special life jackets that are able to keep the wearer buoyant for up to 72 hours.

“The Marine Operations Force, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and a land convoy will also be following us en route,” she added.

The entire trip is scheduled to take 18 days and has so far cost about RM250,000.

“The Ministry of Youth and Sports has been incredibly supportive and for most of our expenses we have tried to get sponsors. For example, FireFly is paying for our flight tickets.”

The team sets off to Mukah for more training tomorrow, although the departure date has yet to be determined.

The team have big ambitions for the trip, and hope to turn this inaugural mission into an annual event.

“We want to turn this into a social enterprise, which basically means that profits are ploughed back into humanitarian projects,” said Chew, who added this could be done by running kayaking workshops throughout the year so subsequent expeditions could be self funding.

“We are looking for sponsors to print a photo journal that will document our experiences and the people we meet during the trip, so people can learn about the expedition and its causes, with proceeds from the book also going back into the project.”

In terms of what they can bring to the indigenous communities they would be visiting, Chew said it was about building awareness around the five key causes, namely kayak sports, humanity projects, environment and nature conservation, organ donation, and unity – through informal presentations and chats with the villagers.

“We will be also promoting our causes through Facebook and Twitter for example, with posts in conjunction with World Kidney Day on March 10 and Earth Hour on the last Saturday of the month.”

To find out more about the Kayak For Humanity Expedition, visit their website at http://www.kayakforhumanity.com

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