The fifteen members of the team representing the Avela Foundation are back in South Africa after a challenging yet extremely rewarding trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC). “All our hard work and preparation have paid off”, says Cami Palomo, founder of Avela Foundation that helps children with serious burn injuries on their emotional and physical road to recovery. “The efforts by these group of determined people prior and during our trek resulted in Avela raising nearly R1.85million that will be used to kick-start our U-Matter program and help refurbish the Kimberley Hospital’s burn unit”, says Palomo. (U-Matter is a psychological support network for burn survivors and their families.)
Writer Lanie van Reenen, one of the six Capetonians who took part in the nine day hike to EBC, describes how the trek started in Lukla where they were surrounded by lush green valleys and crossing rickety bridges suspended high over the ice-blue waters of the rivers below. “We had breathtaking views of the snow-covered peaks of the Himalaya-mountains.”
Van Reenen is quick to add though that all was not fun and games – on the contrary: “A few days in we reached the ‘above the trees’ part of the mountains. It is then when every member of our team had to confront our bodies’ reaction to altitude. It affects people in varying degrees and you are unprepared for the first onset – a vice-grip headache, nausea, sluggishness, sleeplessnessand a lack of appetite. We had to dig very deep to find that strength within ourselves in an effort to continue. Failure was not an option as were embarked on this journey not for ourselves, but for the thousands of South African children who are in such desperate need of burn care.”
She describes the welcoming tea houses where their weary bodies could rest every day, the sense of wonder with the first glimpse of the highest mountain in the world and the team’s joy and pride upon reaching their goal. “We were on top of the world!”
Van Reenen says completing the expedition was also a personal achievement for every single member of the group – ordinary people that decided to embark on an extra-ordinary adventure for a noble cause.
The triumphant team may be back in their comfortable homes after having to endure true hardship but that is not where it ends. “We have raised the funds and have come together as a team; we have collected memories that will last a lifetime and we have formed solid friendships. That is however only the beginning,” says Palomo. “The hard work will now truly start.”
One thing is for sure: together they gave in line with Avela’s motto: Together to give.
The EBC trek was undertaken in collaboration with the Smile Foundation. Please read more about this wonderful organisation by visiting their website http://avelafoundation.com/