Tomorrow 24 men and women – including former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela – will take the first steps towards conquering Mount Kilimanjaro.
The group – consisting of 16 women and eight men – is part of Trek4Mandela’s goal to uplift and improve the lives of disadvantaged people in South Africa.
The team aims to summit Kilimanjaro on Friday to commemorate Women’s Day.
The theme of the expedition is Climbing for Dignity and Social Justice.
“I have decided to step up and show up by climbing Kilimanjaro. It is not just about stretching myself, but also about highlighting that if we are going to bring an end to poverty and inequality in this country, and the world, each and every one of us has to step up and move beyond our comfort zones. And for me Kilimanjaro is not in my comfort zone,” Madonsela said.
One of the climbers, Angela Yeung, who is participating for the second time in a row, says the objective is to raise funds for Caring4girls, which is a menstrual hygiene programme, and Trek 100 under the umbrella of the Imbumba Foundation, a joint venture with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“Last year I did it on Nelson Mandela Day for the centennial celebration and this year it is for Women’s Day.”
Yeung (42) said she was ready to rise to new heights, more so after months of training.
“I have been training hard for the past three to four months for this adventure. Training entails a number of physically gruelling activities.”
She said as part of the preparations she had climbed 250 flights of stairs in Westcliff and hiked in the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve every two weeks.
Expedition leader Sibusiso Vilane, who has led the expedition since its inception in 2012, said it was important to put in hard work.
“As a team we started training in January. Four months is a minimum of what is needed so we push for at least six months and the last training session was about a week ago.”
Vilane said the expedition was more about creating awareness.
“A lot of people want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and there is nothing better than doing something for a purpose. The purpose of this expedition [Trek4Mandela] is to raise awareness about the plight of young girls, especially in underprivileged areas, who struggle to access sanitary pads,” said Vilane.
This being her second quest up Kilimanjaro, Yeung acknowledged the trek was a big challenge to the body, mind and spirit.
“The first time I climbed Kilimanjaro was very difficult. I remember my nose kept on bleeding. The temperature is very low at almost -20°C – even the water we had with us turned into ice,” she said.
“I was scared but it took a lot for me to conquer that fear and climb. Your mental, physical and spiritual states need to be aligned.”
Vilane said every climber needed determination to make it up the mountain.
“It’s a definite mental and physical challenge because the terrain is very rough, the conditions are not appealing – it’s harsh, cold and it takes many hours. It’s generally physically hard to do it,” Vilane said.
“It’s about being prepared to take every step to reach the top of that mountain because we have situations where it takes about 10 hours to climb up a 6km trail.”
Imbumba Foundation chief executive Richard Mabaso said the hope was to inspire about 100 000 teenagers by next year.
“Each girl participating in a Trek 100 journey will be assigned to visit 10 schools after their expedition to share their experience with their peers,” said Mabaso.
The team will begin the climb tomorrow so members will reach the top of Kilimanjaro on Friday – Women’s Day.
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