NUS MBA 11 April 2018

Beyond the Desert and Over the Rainbow: Racing Towards Youth Mental Health

A group of nine local and international NUS MBA students and an alumnus will be giving up everyday luxuries, suffer the elements and contend with sand getting everywhere, all in the name of charity. This is part of the 7th Asia-Pacific Business Schools Desert Challenge which will see 2,000 participants from 100 top business schools from all over the world compete in this annual race in May.

The team will forego showers, toilets, as well as proper food as they hike the 70-km route through the Tengger Desert of Inner Mongolia.  They will also have to contend with limited water and get used to being inundated by lots and lots of sand, all in the name of raising awareness for youth mental health.

The team will be donating all funds raised to the WholeTree Foundation’s Over-The-Rainbow mission of transforming youth mental wellness for the 21st century. They chose this cause because some team members have borne witness to loved ones suffering depression.

According to team member Sophie Liu, “A friend suffered from depression last year when she was overloaded with work and could not handle the stress. A perfectionist, she felt great pressure and disappointment when her work did not live up to expectations. Her stress led to insomnia, the inability to function effectively, and eventually severe anxiety.  It was worrying to see her spirit collapse. Had she received help from the beginning, she would not have had to go through that personal torture.”

Research shows that one in 10 Singaporeans have been affected by a mental disorder in their lifetime.  By drawing attention to this cause, the team hopes to make society more aware of youth mental health, and how proper intervention can help those affected can reach their full life potential.

“It is most wonderful to have the NUS MBA students participate in this Desert Challenge for a purpose – raising funds to help fellow youths and bringing awareness to youth mental wellness, a clear and urgent issue in modern society. It is truly refreshing to see young people who care coming together to contribute to a cause they believe and make a difference – making the world a better place,” said Mr Chow Yen-Lu, founder of WholeTree Foundation.

The team have been striking a delicate balance between schoolwork and training for the trek. To simulate the desert conditions as best as they can, they train four hours a week at Bukit Timah Hill and Sentosa.  Another major challenge they face is the climate that can vary between minus five to 35 degrees Celsius. In spite of the challenges that lie ahead, the members believe they will triumph as a team by putting to practice what they have learnt on in the NUS MBA programme – “High pressure, high support!”

Their hard work, perseverance and good cause have already inspired corporate partners such as Mitsubishi Chemical and Azura Swim Asia to sponsor the team.

“We decided to sponsor this group of vigorous young people because of their charitable motivation. We are excited to see how things go and wish them every success,” said Mr Inoue, marketing manager, Mitsubishi Chemical.

“All of us come from different and varied backgrounds and experiences, but this race has drawn us together by a common spirit of adventure, desire for personal growth and enthusiasm to return to society. I believe the team will move forward to conquer any difficulties in the race by bearing the responsibilities together,” said team leader, Kelly Bai.

For more information on how to donate to the students’ cause, please visit

For more information on the NUS MBA programme, please visit