We speak to Johann Annuar, co-chairperson of the Let's Take A Walk 2023 committee.
Q. How did you hear about Raleigh and which expedition did you go on?
So I heard of Raleigh back in my uni days, and really wanted to take on an expedition, but raising a few thousands of dollars then seemed like an insurmountable task. (I come from humble beginnings and in my family, a four-digit expenditure was limited to white goods once every few years), and truth be told... I was preoccupied with other things lah)
(Ed's note: Jo was indeed busy! He was also part of Singapore's first successful Everest summit in 1998 as the expedition communications officer.)
After my 18-month long cycling trip from Turkey to New Zealand, I got really interested in humanitarian work. After the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, I signed up with the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) to do post-tsunami work. Unfortunately, SIF decided to can the expeditions because of the aftershocks.
Somehow, Yew Wing (the then President of Raleigh Singapore) was in the know about this and offered that Raleigh take them over (or something to that effect). So began my journey with Raleigh, and several Nias expeditions. Operasi Ya'ahowu (which means "hello" in the local language) still stirs up fond memories, and gave birth to great friendships, like all Raleigh expeditions do.
Q. Your most memorable experience from your Raleigh expeditions?
Sunsets in Nias, teaching the kids how to brush their teeth, aunties how to boil water... but one incident was when we told an uncle who had a 140/200 blood pressure that he had to cut his salt intake, and he said, "cannot... then my food will not taste good..." At that point it was hammered into my brain that the biggest obstacle to improvement and progress is oftentimes not training or capacity, but culture. There is nothing more toxic than the words "this is how we've always done it".
Q. What did you do after returning from the Nias expeditions?
Coming back, I did the usual round of talks and advocacy, getting others to join Raleigh and the general humanitarian effort, which took on greater relief when, inspired by my work with Raleigh, I joined Doctors without Borders and spent a few years running an eco-village in Malaysia. But I suppose my real community contribution began when, together with a small group of friends, started Engineering Good, through which we've helped countless Persons with Disabilities and the disadvantaged with bridging their digital divide.
Q. Do you remember who introduced you to Raleigh?
Wow, honestly I don't remember. But the one who springs to mind is Rahayu (former President of Raleigh in the 2010s), who has, in her own way, shaped Raleigh to what it is now.
Q. What motivated you to take on the co-chairperson role of LTAW 2023?
Adrian (the other co-chairperson) promised me food.
Q. In turn, who have you introduced Raleigh to?
I got Tai Tng, whom I got to know during Eusoff Hall days, to join our LTAW 2023 committee as Event Day coordinator. He was previously a venturer on the Raleigh Singapore Tashi Deleg expedition to Tibet in 2001. I've also managed to convince Lin-Li, another Eusof Hall mate, to take on the publicity role.
P.S: Johann is a founding member of Engineering Good and there's a swanky pic of him in this article.