A Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School Grade 12 pupil raised R55 000 for the children of LIV Village when she summited Mount Kilimanjaro with her father and a friend last week. Joelle Botha (17) said she was driven by the idea of overcoming a huge obstacle to enable other children to overcome their everyday obstacles. “My dad [Craig Botha] made a joke about two years ago after our 256-kilometre trek through the Karoo (where we raised funds for disadvantaged girls at my school). “He asked what kind of crazy adventure I’d want to do next and I said, ‘maybe we could climb Kilimanjaro’.”He was joking but that definitely sparked the idea for this fundraising effort,” she said. Joelle said small gestures are not enough to gain support for causes in today’s world; she feels that people want exciting and crazy ideas to back and support, and Kilimanjaro fitted those requirements. She said her experience was “indescribable”, adding she would definitely do it again but explore different parts of the mountain.“The mountain offers so many different ecosystems, from rainforest to moorlands to bare tundra,” she said.“It was very mentally challenging near the end. I was telling myself just to keep going with one foot in front of the other, but that made summiting even more rewarding.” Joelle said the highlight of the climb for her was getting to the top after almost eight hours of walking in the dark, and her low point was falling asleep during summit night and falling while walking. “Exhaustion and nausea were huge factors that I struggled with in the very last couple of hours,” she said. Speaking about summiting with her dad, Joelle said it was an unforgettable experience and she feels so much gratitude and appreciation for him because of how hard he worked to get her onto Mount Kilimanjaro and how much he went out of his way to get sponsors for donations to LIV Village.“We had a very emotional couple of minutes at the summit where it felt so surreal that our dream to make a difference had actually become a reality,” she said. She also said she felt incredibly scared while making her way to the top as she feared she might get ill and not be able to continue. “I knew the only way I would turn around without reaching the point was if I was too sick to continue. I kept the children of LIV in my mind and kept pushing. “When I reached the top, I was a bit in denial. I’d enjoyed every day so much that I was hoping there was more to come.“It was also incredibly rewarding knowing that I could go back to LIV having done what I’d promised,” she said. Joelle said getting to the bottom was a sad moment, knowing that the adventure was officially over and that it seemed to have gone by so quickly. “I was sad to be leaving my team,” she said.Joelle’s friend Maria Diedrick had to stop the climb on day five due to temporary blindness brought on by oxygen deprivation.• Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, it rises about 4 900 metres from its base, and is 5 895 metres above sea level.What Is LIV Village?LIV Village is a foster-care organisation in Verulam that places orphaned and vulnerable children into a family environment with a trained foster mother to love them, a school to educate them, and is a place where all their needs are met.The homes are built within a cluster of eight to 10 houses, modelling the African village life. This helps the children to find “home” and develop a close connection within the cluster and in the village itself.It welcomes volunteers in all areas, including medical, ministry, teaching, sports coaching; you name it, they need it. Volunteering is welcome for long or short-term opportunities.• Visit http://www.liv-village.com for more information.