“Conquering Kili showed me that if you want something badly enough you can do it. Your body, mind and soul are capable of anything, you just have to believe.”
Former Springbok rugby player, Percy Montgomery, along with other South African sporting legends and Durban-based cereals company, Heartland Foods successfully made it to the highest point of Africa – the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro – by climbing not for themselves, but for the kids of South Africa.
ConquerKili is a campaign to raise funds to feed and educate some of South Africa’s most vulnerable children through NPO, Joint Aid Management South Africa (JAM SA)’s Nutritional Feeding programme. To date, the group has raised R300 000, which will feed 833 children for an ENTIRE year!
What kept you going?
“The support from the team, the local porters, the drive to see the summit after all these days of walking and most of all to make sure the kids get the food they deserve,” comments former Springbok, AJ Venter.
“Warren Brosnihan was in front of me. I don’t like it when forwards are in front of me,” jokes former Springbok, Stefan Terblanche. “It was like a very slow rolling maul going up that slope but nothing was going to stop us as the try line was in sight,” says former Protea cricket player, Aubrey Martyn. “I also found an inner strength which I didn’t know existed and I realised that this is where people have to go in order to survive ordeals a lot greater than I just put myself through.”
Support came from all over the world. “Knowing that friends and family were praying for me helped me get a supernatural focus while climbing the mountain,” says videographer, Gareth Pon.
A sense of responsibility kept Terri Friedman, account executive at HomeGrown focused as the group slowly made their way to the top: “A sense of responsibility to give of myself completely and in the same way that my team mates were, knowing how much had gone into making this trip possible and most of all, knowing that this suffering was both self inflicted and temporary whilst some (like the kids we were climbing for) are subject to unfortunate life circumstances on a daily basis simply because they were born into it.”
It took the group five and a half days to reach the top. They will never forget that last cold and dark day when they left the camp at midnight on the last push to the summit: “The climb was long and tiring and very slow, the temperature dropped to -15°C at some stage in
the morning. As we cut through the 5 000m mark, I felt very tired and I could feel that I was dipping in and out of reality with the little oxygen in the air,” says Venter.
The previous five days were like a holiday in comparison to that final morning, comments Salim Karsan, CEO of Heartland Foods. “For me there was only one option, I had to get focused and just tried to keep putting one foot in front of the other! I had the thoughts and prayers of my family and friends with me…that kept me going till 3am. After that tiredness, hunger and altitude kicked in so I popped some pills, gritted my teeth and put on some music. Three hours later we were at Gilman’s Point and we watched the sunrise from 5 600m!”
“Through the support of our team, I was able to make it through to the summit and this for me signified exactly what this trip was all about: Helping others in their time of need,” says former Springbok, Warren Brosnihan. “I was elated to reach the top and achieve a dream I have held since I first heard Johnny Clegg singing: ‘I’m sitting on top of Mount Kilimanjaro!’”
On top of the world
“I felt fantastic on top of the hill and a real sense of achievement, although I was too tired to celebrate,” says Terblanche.
“A Kenyan Airways aeroplane in the distance, wow, I was waving at people in a plane flying at the same level as I was standing! Then I spotted the glaciers, massive clumps of ice just basking in the sun just 50 yards away from me and I knew I was in a very special place,” says Martyn. “It dawned on me that I was looking over Africa and beyond and the last eight grueling hours were gone, just like that.”
Emotions overflowed for many. “I actually cried and could not have stopped the tears if I tried. It was an awesome feeling though, knowing I had achieved it. What beauty only God could have made,” says Karl Schultz, CEO of ASAP World.
“Being able to see and stand on top of one of God’s greatest creations really humbled me. We are so small, but He is so big!” adds Pon.
The mountain that lies ahead
“We climbed the highest physical mountain in Africa, however, our challenge was nothing compared to the ‘mountain’ that so many poor children on our continent face every day; to stay alive, to get educated, to escape the trap of crime and the grip of poverty,” says Isak Pretorius, CEO of HomeGrown and ambassador for JAM.
“This experience made me even more committed to do my part to help those children in need by giving them the opportunity to conquer their mountains!”
The group is still appealing to corporates and individuals to partner with the campaign to help reach the goal of securing a future for 3 000 children in South Africa.