The 12-member team representing Cape Town based Avela Foundation is home and triumphant after having summited Mount Kilimanjaro.
The group planted their and collaborator Smile Foundation’s flag on 23 June on the highest point in Africa, after six gruelling days.
Cami Palomo, elated team leader and Avela founder says they are incredibly proud of the R1.87 million they have now raised on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, as part of their target of R3 million.
The funds will be used to purchase a laser machine for the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital’s burn unit. It’s thanks to Palomo and her team that the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is already using that equipment. The machine improves the elasticity of the skin and softens the appearance of scars.
Palomo says the last eight hours when summiting the majestic mountain was extremely challenging.
“Not only were we faced with temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius but also had to battle a gale force wind exceeding 80 kilometers per hour.” To make matters worse, dehydration set in due to the sub-zero temperatures turning their water bottles into ice blocks. Palomo is quick to add though that every step, however difficult it may have been, was worthwhile.
“During that last stretch we climbed the whole night and reached the summit just before eight the next morning. That was an experience that will stay with each and every member of our team forever. The view of that great, icy landscape and the incredible sense of relief and achievement are hard to describe.”
Palomo says she believes their goal, to help children with serious burn injuries, made her team resilient.
“We had a purpose and there was just no way we would give up. Those children inspired us to reach new heights, literally and figuratively.”
Says team member Dr. Kam Pillay: “I think we are all still processing the experience. What we’ve been through has not quite sunken in yet. You have daily battles but the night we summited was extremely rough for everyone. Those conditions were a total onslaught on your senses. I do however believe we returned as stronger people because you had to dig so deep within yourself to be able to continue putting one foot in front of the other.”
Also among the climbers was Tebogo Tsotets, a mother from Soweto who took on the climb in honour of her two boys. Tebogo Tsotetsi, who’s one son Kutlwano was killed during a housefire in 2014.