Me, just before jumping into a polynya, that stretch of water behind me as part of my North Pole training, Nunavut, Arctic Canada, March 2017. Photo credit: Erik Boomer
I am skiing 100 miles (161 km) from 13-25 April 2019 to the North Pole to raise awareness on child sexual abuse. Each day, over 10 days, I will ski about 10 miles (16 km) while dragging a sled with food and gear behind me, weighing some 100 lbs (45 kg). The temperature will drop to minus 40 degrees while I'm out there in the Arctic, and I hope to avoid the polar bears! I've been training over the past two winters in Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic where I've battled white out conditions and gale force winds of up to 43 mph (70 kmh). I am the first Singapore national to have circumnavigated the frozen Frobisher Bay in April 2018, skiing 63 miles (101 km) over 5 days, while dragging 190 lbs (86 kg) on a sled behind me.
If I succeed in skiing to the North Pole, I will be the first Singaporean to do so.
Me, pulling my sled with strong winds blowing across the Hudson Strait, Nunavut, Arctic Canada, March 2017. Photo credit: Erik Boomer
In the US, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused. According to the US Department of Justice, 100,000 to 300,000 children every year are at risk of being trafficked for sex in the US. In India, every hour, 9 children go missing and 2 children are sexually abused.
I am currently based in Colorado, the US, where I've been training. I wrote "Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse" with Prof Daniel Fung, Chairman, Medical Board of the Singapore Institute of Mental Health which was published in November 2017. Over the past year, I've co-organized 12 book readings in 11 cities including at Concordia University in Montreal, NYU Steinhardt and Yale University. The adult survivors of child sexual abuse who contributed to the book come with me to these book readings to read excerpts from their respective chapters. It is very powerful to witness their raw emotions, especially that of the male survivors who have been abused at the hands of their mothers or even grandmothers. Often, I see people in the audience crying and afterwards, would speak to me in private about what abuse they've gone through as children. Or I would meet others, including men, who are asking what they can do to help their loved ones who were abused as children. My hope, and the hope of those adult survivors who contributed to the book is that those who have yet to heal can come forward and be inspired by the stories they've heard and read, and for those who are caring for their loved ones who suffered abuse as children, we hope that our respective healing journeys will inspire.
My tent out on the frozen Frobisher Bay, Nunavut, Arctic Canada, April 2018. Photo credit: Sarah McNair-Landry
The money raised will go towards the cost of the expedition to the North Pole. I have already raised US$35,000 by using my savings and surrendering an insurance policy. Anything raised beyond $15,500 will go towards YAKIN (Youth, Adult survivors & Kin In Need), a not-for-profit that I set up with Prof Daniel Fung in Singapore. I'm intending to use these funds to continue the book readings which have empowered the adult survivors I'm working with, and have helped with reaching out to other survivors who need healing, as well as their loved ones. I talk about mainstreaming the issue of child sexual abuse as well as its prevention at these book readings.
I am also working on a graphic novel (comic form) curated by children for children which they can use as a tool to start conversations about child sexual abuse, because in my experience, children do not often know how to raise the alarm and/or how to tell their trusted adult that they are uncomfortable with something that is happening at home, the gym or school. It will be accompanied by a guide for parents, guardians and educators. I have done two focus groups in Singapore and hope to do a pilot in Nairobi, Kenya and Kasur, Pakistan this year.
Follow my journey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @eirliani. Thank you!