Christopher Schrader – man of extraordinary action
He’s the youngest person on record to have crossed the Gobi Desert on foot – from May to July 2011. He spent 52 days facing biting winds, sandstorms and ice-cold nights, knowing that life was on a knife-edge and feeling that he had never felt “more human”.
He then spent the winter in the far west of Mongolia in the Altai Mountains amid eagles and wolves, learning about the nomads’ rapidly disappearing way of life.
After that Christopher Schrader and two others rode across Canada to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. Not some little country like Luxembourg, Belgium or Switzerland. They chose Canada.
These days, Schrader, 21, an alumnus of Lee Po Chun United World College, is studying East Asian Studies at Harvard University. But he continues with his expeditions, and he has brought that taste of endurance to sheltered Hong Kong young people while giving the trips and a race in Hong Kong a philanthropic edge.
“When I was doing all these expeditions a lot of young people asked me how I found the resources,” says Schrader from Harvard ahead of a day of lectures. “There was clearly demand. Young people in Hong Kong want to make a difference to things they care about. I knew not everyone had time to walk across the Gobi Desert. How could I give people in Hong Kong a taste of endurance?”
In 2010, while still at school in Hong Kong, he and friend Aaron Sekhri organised their first 24 Hour Race. It was the inaugural event of Schrader’s Youth Endurance Network, which helps students think up their own projects for charities they care about.
Eight international schools took part in the relay-style run, along Lugard Road. Eight international schools took part, raising HK$250,000 for the Esther Benjamin Trust in Nepal. The trust fights child trafficking and helps children who have been trafficked. “The money was a godsend” to the trust and its director Philip Holmes, says Schrader.
Trafficking is one of the leading crimes worldwide, says Schrader, and 60 per cent of it is trafficking in Labourers, which, he says, is harder to raise funds for than sex trafficking. Schrader says that last year the Esther Benjamin Trust was able to take down circus trafficking, which is very prevalent in that region, and closed down a human trafficking channel into India.
“It was amazing that our money could contribute to that,” he says.
The 24 Hour Race has become part of Running to Stop the Traffik. Schrader was on the sidelines for a couple of years but is now back as CEO of the student-led initiative aimed at stopping human trafficking and slavery through endurance-type sports events that raise money for charity.
There are adults on the board, but he’s proud that the organisational side is led by the students. His next aim is to take the race beyond Hong Kong. It’s likely soon to be in Singapore, where the city has already held a 12-hour race – and he and his fellow student organisers want to take it to several other countries in Asia.
The goal is to have three countries by 2015 and keep on expanding,” says Schrader, talking of business development and getting sponsors. But his vision goes way beyond three countries, with an idea of having students all around the world running at the same time.
“You could have one day where students around the world will be all focused on human trafficking issues, because they are part of a race,” he says.