Earlier this year we shared the story of Vanessa Jooste and her incredible hiking group.
Vanessa is the founder of Kingdom Kidz, an organisation that takes underprivileged kids hiking in the mountains around Cape Town. She also organises holiday camps, overnight hikes and leadership development programmes.
Read the full story here: How one woman is using hiking to keep the kids safe and off the streets
Vanessa's niece, and one of the kids who benefited from the programmes, started hiking with Kingdom Kidz in 2008, at age 8. She soon became a peer leader and still volunteers on hikes and camps with the younger kids.
Shaye Pheiffer is now 19 years and a first year Bcom student at Stellenbosch, where she received a full bursary.
She sent us this beautiful letter, asking us to share it with our readers so they could better understand what Kingdom Kidz means to the children Vanessa helps
Read her letter here:
When you’re a child you barely understand the word “fear”. You’re carefree and unstoppable.
I first experienced real fear about 6 years ago, when I was 13 years old, on one of Aunty Vanessa’s hikes.
We’d gotten the opportunity to go rock climbing. I never really felt fear until I was at the top of the section we were climbing and I couldn’t physically fall back and let myself drop down.
I was frozen.
No matter how many times everyone reassured me I would be safe, I refused to move until someone came up and helped me climb over the top and walk all the way around and back down to the others.
The lesson I learnt that day wasn’t that I was mildly acrophobic.
It was that after my feet was safety planted on firm ground and I had calmed down, no one treated me any different.
Everyone just understood and supported me. When we’re young we often feel like people will judge us, so we put on this image that isn’t really us.
But that day I learnt that I was surrounded by a group of people that I could be my vulnerable, authentic self around and I think that’s very important.
No matter how strong we are we all need a support structure and without even knowing it, that’s what Kingdom Kidz was for me and many others.
I learnt that no matter where we came from or how we grew up we all need people around us that are going to accept us for who we are. It’s so much more than just hikes and camps.
Kingdom Kidz creates this environment where myself and many others are able to be un-apologetically ourselves.
If you’d like to know more about Kingdom Kidz, or to sponsor a trip and help Vanessa with her life's work to "keep the kidz safe and off the streets", please contact us for details.
WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325
Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com