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Climbing for a Cause

February, 2010
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On the 15th of January 2010, 12 people stood together watching the sunrise from “The Roof of Africa”. They looked down at a sea of clouds and across snow filled valleys to magnificent glaciers. Their bodies were shattered, they were utterly exhausted, but they had done it; they had climbed the tallest mountain in Africa. They had started as strangers, but they reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro as friends.shelley-3
The members of this group decided to climb Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser with the Global Volunteers Network (GVN). The vision of the GVN Foundation is to support the work of charitable organizations around the world that assist children, women and the environment.shelley-6
Each participant of the 2010 Kilimanjaro trek had to raise an estimated US$ 2000 for the GVN partners in Kenya. The group was made up of 3 people from the USA, 3 from New Zealand, 4 from Canada, 1 from Australia  – and I am from South Africa. I raised the funds by selling signage on my backpack, and those signatures and words of encouragement saw it all the way to the highest point of the mountain, Uhuru’s Peak, at an altitude of 5895m. My biggest sponsors were the staff and families from Shanghai Community International School and my supportive family and friends.shelley-2
Kili, as I now reserve the right to call it, is situated in the beautiful country of Tanzania and our first day of trekking began in lush rainforest. “The weather on the mountain is undefined,” the guides warned us. Over the days, we went from sunshine to sudden rain showers, from clear skies to thick clouds, from dense mist to snow covered ground, and from ice-cold winds back to burning rays of sun. The terrain changed like the weather, with us quickly moving from vast greenery into sparse vegetation. We crossed the “Lunar desert”, and finally we climbed the loose scree to the rocky summit. We camped above the clouds below majestic snowy peaks, and under skies full of stars.shelley-4
Each day the difficulty increased as the oxygen level decreased.. By the fourth day, it became much harder to breathe and to walk. On the fifth day, when we embarked on the final summit, we did so in utter darkness and mostly in silence. With a bitter cold wind on our faces, we climbed for six grueling hours. With numb hands and feet we took one step at a time, trying not to look at the endless night ahead of us and trying not to think about how much further we still needed to go. The first line of sunrise saluted our success as we reached Gilman’s point at 5681m. We then walked another 2 hours up the snow covered path to Uhuru’s peak and posed for the picture of a lifetime.shelley-5
After the climb, we spent time in Nairobi, Kenya, visiting the schools and orphanages that would benefit from our fundraising. It was an eye opening experience that proved as life changing as the climb had been; seeing the hardship that so many children in Africa face, and at the same time seeing the work that so many extraordinary people have taken upon themselves to do.
The connections you form, the views and the landscapes that you see, and the physical and mental exertion that you handle are all parts of what makes climbing Kilimanjaro a truly amazing experience. It made it all the more special knowing that our climb will impact the lives of others.
In order to encourage other people to embark on this journey of a lifetime, and to try to further help those in need, our team is selling a Kilimanjaro 2011 calendar. It features our own photographs from this awesome adventure and all the proceeds will go to the GVN partners in Kenya.
For more information please email: shellb@tiscali.co.za.
By Shelley Bragg, Communications and Public Relations Officer,
Shanghai Community International School


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