YMCA Strong Ambassador with Cerebral Palsy to Challenge Mt Fuji
From Running Away to Running In, Headstrong
Over concerns for his safety, Harun Rahamad was rejected from the football team in primary school. Years later, 30-year-old Harun has represented Singapore in international competitions in Cerebral Palsy Football, conquered multiple Spartan Races, and proved his abilities time and again. This August, he will challenge his boundaries yet again in the YMCA Inclusive Climb, which will see him attempt to conquer Mt Fuji.
“Nobody could answer these questions in my head.”
Even though Harun was born with Cerebral Palsy, a condition that has resulted in physical impairments on the left side of his body, he did not understand what it was or why it was happening until he was older. What he did understand what that people saw and treated him differently.
“People won’t look at you the same, they won’t understand you. I wondered why I was born like this, why I couldn’t have a normal, able-bodied body and not be discriminated. It was really depressing and even your parents won’t have answers to your questions,” he shares.
In school, his peers made fun of him. He said, “They teased me, called me names you can’t even imagine. They imitated the way I walked and tried to annoy me”. The bullying from his peers got less common as he grew older and entered tertiary education, but he continued to face discrimination in his daily life, especially when he was trying to enter the workforce after graduation.
“Sports was once my escape, but now, it is my passion.”
Harun loved sports from a very young age. He dabbled in a variety of activities including running, basketball, table tennis, sailing and woodball. In particular, he enjoyed feeling the wind in his face when he ran.
“It was a getaway for me, to distract my mind from the negative things. When you are running, you don’t think about anything. I feel like I’m flying and I only think about running. I had fun doing all those sports. It’s very addictive.” he said.
Having been rejected from the football team in primary school, Harun jumped at the opportunity to join Singapore’s first-ever team in Cerebral Palsy Football. There, he formed strong bonds with his teammates and worked together to improve their skills.
He shares, “I have a hunger to achieve greater heights. Whether it’s to get a medal, trophy, or just a token to prove my participation, the hunger is there.”. His team eventually represented Singapore in multiple international competitions including the 27th SEA Para Games, where they clinched a Silver medal.
“It was a very emotional experience for us to represent our country and do well. A lot of us cried. The bonds you create with fellow athletes is strong as you all know that everyone has contributed what they could to the team’s achievements.”. Harun also participated in competitions in Germany, Austria, Dubai, Korea and the Philippines.
“I want to show the world that we are actually more capable than you think.”
Harun’s personality drove him to pursue the things he wanted to do regardless of the limitations others placed upon him. Having proven his athletic potential, it was discouraging to find himself once against faced with prejudice when looking to enter the workforce.
“People judge you and don’t even give you a chance. It was very fortunate that I found a manager that had a lot of faith in me. She told me she hired me not because of pity, but because she saw the potential in me. Eventually, I did get recognition and good feedback for my work,” shares Harun.
He constantly seeks to push against his boundaries and achieve greater heights, leading him to become a veteran participant of the Spartan Race, known to be among the world’s more strenuous obstacle races.
He said, “I want to live life to the fullest and do what I can while I can still move my limbs… Go outside my comfort zone and push the limits of what I can do and prove people wrong.”.
“We will put our 100% into it!”
As part of his journey to change societal perspectives on persons with special needs, Harun is attempting to climb Mt Fuji this August. He is doing it as part of a team of 10 special needs climbers in the YMCA Inclusive Climb. His teammates include persons with visual impairments, autism and physical impairments.
“I think it is important to be inclusive even in sports, so that people with special needs don’t feel left out. They are also part of the community. We can engage them to get out of their comfort zone and experience what life is all about,” he shares.
For Harun, seeing the efforts of his teammates encourages him. He said, “Going through obstacles, getting injured and overcoming fears are all parts of life. I’m happy that there are people who are giving us a place to shine, to show that we have abilities and that no matter what we do, we can give our 100%.”.
Harun hopes that his participation in the climb will inspire others with special needs to go beyond their fears in pursuing active lifestyles. He also wishes to advocate for inclusiveness for persons with special needs in employment and in sports.
Find out more about the YMCA Inclusive Climb and how you can contribute here!
Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang.