Editorial: New Beginnings

Somewhere, over the..
Photo by Alvan Yap

Dear reader, you might have noticed the previous issue of Signal (Jan-Dec 2019) was available only as an online PDF file. Yes, we had gone fully digital. But this time and in future, we are not even doing PDFs anymore.

Instead, we are relaunching Signal as a fully online newsletter as a blog.

Why? We want to make it convenient for you, go green and be financially prudent.

Convenience: Signal’s focus will be on longer and more in-depth pieces and human interest stories – on people, news and happenings in the community. Kicking off the revamped Signal is a feature story on the grassroots-led organisation Deaf Hiking Singapore Group.

If you know of any Deaf/hard-of-hearing people and Deaf-related groups or organisations or businesses which you feel should be in this series “Deaf Stories”, do let us know. We’ll be happy to shine a well-deserved spotlight on them.

Another advantage of going online: Signal will be able to roll out SADeaf post-event reports and photos more quickly on an as-needed basis, under the new series “Dispatches from SADeaf”. This means no waiting for the next issue of Signal to be published three or five months down the road. In this issue, we focus on how SADeaf staff coped with circuit breaker measures and working remotely to serve our clients as best as we could.

Eco-friendly: Put simply, no paper is used in printing the newsletters. We reduce the usage (and wastage) of paper. Since newspapers, magazines, bills, bank statements are all becoming e-copy only, why not Signal too?

Cost: We save on design, printing, postage fees without having to compromise on the content and quality of the newsletter. This is especially important as we face cost-cutting pressures as the economy – and donations – falter.

If you have been wondering when this issue would appear, thank you for your patience! We also apologise for the lengthy wait and hope you enjoy this latest edition.

Important note: For latest news, public updates and announcements of upcoming events, SADeaf has been posting these on our social media. These will no longer appear in our Signal newsletter.

Why? These channels are more suitable for such updates and news. So do check out our Facebook page and website (for everyone/public), as well as our Mailchimp EDMs (emails to clients, members, volunteers).

Lastly, we welcome your feedback, tips and contributions, and story ideas! Just email us at ca@sadeaf.org.sg.

Happy reading!

From the editorial team, Alvan Yap & Teo Zhi Xiong

p/s: If you are a member or client of SADeaf and are not unable to access online versions of Signal, please write in to ca@sadeaf.org.sg to let us know.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Jurong Rail tunnel? Been there – underground and in darkness.

Kusu Island? They sailed, they saw, and they conquered.

A 44-km one-day hike across Singapore? Done that too.

Name any walking trail, nature park, PCN route, or obscure nook and cranny in Singapore, they have all done it. And you can also bet this group of Deaf and hard-of-hearing hikers have already left their footprints there – sometimes more than once!

Deaf Hiking Singapore (DHSG) was set up by husband-and-wife team Luo Yong Ming and Jessica Mak. It has gone from strength to strength since their first hike in mid-2018. Two years on, DHSG is a thriving community that organises regular weekend hikes popular with deafies across a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and physical fitness levels. The group even boasts its own DHSG-branded tees, neck gaiters, and bag tags!

Origins Of The Super Hikers
But how did it all come about? According to Jessica, she had come across her late father’s old travel photos which provided her and Yong Ming the spark of inspiration. Yong Ming’s abiding interest since the early 1990s in exploring and venturing to various “hidden and unfamiliar places” in Singapore was a key factor too. He was enthusiastic about planning and scouting routes as well as leading hikes.

A friend then asked them to organise an outing for a cancer survivors’ group called “Walk for Life”. This churned up interest among their deaf friends. They thought, why not organise their own outings? Things snowballed from there.

A Facebook group was created where they publicised the outings, set ground rules, gave advice on hiking matters, and allowed members (and their families and friends) to share stories of their adventures – whether hiking, mountain climbing, or running.

Describing themselves as “not hiking enthusiasts but ordinary hikers”, Yong Ming and Jessica say their goals for DHSG are to promote friendships and social interactions among deaf and hearing people.

They emphasised that everyone – deaf or hearing, friends, and family – are welcome as long as they are willing to learn and use sign language to communicate within the group. Developing a healthy lifestyle is also a bonus, they explained, because hiking also brings people out of their own comfort and give their legs and lungs a workout.

The duo has been heartened to see more people showing up for their weekly hiking fix. Each hike draws about two dozen to a record of 82 people – entire families have even shown up before. The youngest was a 4-year-old who gamely tagged along with his mother up the 394-meter-high Bukit Senaling!

The COVID-19 situation was no deterrence though DHSG temporarily halted its outings during the circuit-breaker. During the lull, they came up with other online activities as well as gave tips on routes for solo or small groups of hikers to try on their own. To the group members’ delight, the outings have since resumed – following safety measures of course – with the easing of restrictions.

Overcoming Challenges, Venturing Overseas
Teething issues in the early months include participants who turned up late, or were ignorant of safety rules or lack proper equipment. But these days, after more experience and exposure to hiking, the DHSG hikers are more prepared and responsible.

DHSG has also tested themselves by venturing overseas for tougher outings, mostly to Malaysia where members hiked various mountains such as Gunung Pulai, Gunung Lambak, and Mount Ophir. The duo cited climbing Mulu Pinnacles in Sarawak, Malaysia, and the 2,928m Mount Pulag in the Philippines (the country’s third-highest) as their most difficult hikes so far and the proudest achievements by DHSG.

The most memorable trip? Definitely, the time where five of the 14 deaf hikers on a mountaineering trip to Malaysia got lost in the dark and were stranded overnight in chilly temperatures.. thankfully all emerged safe and sound the next day.

What’s Next For DHSG?
Looking ahead, Jessica and Yong Ming hope to see the group continue to grow and have more members who can hike longer distances of 10km and beyond, as well as groomimg others to organise and lead hikes.

And true to their intrepid spirit, the couple also professes a whimsical wish.. for Singapore “to build a mountain!” (And no, Bukit Timah doesn’t count!)

Walk on.

To find out more about DHSG, visit their Facebook page and apply to join the group (subject to its terms and conditions, and acceptance by the administrators). You can also check out the DHSG Instagram page: @deafhikingsg. All photos courtesy of DHSG, with thanks.

By Alvan Yap, Editorial Team, Signal