Ain’t no mountain high enough in students’ quest for smiles


Ain’t no mountain high enough in students’ quest for smiles

Wits group to take on Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Smile Foundation

Senior reporter

Would you climb Africa’s highest mountain just to give a child a chance to smile again?
A group of University of the Witwatersrand medical students are preparing for the climb of their lives, to help children with facial deformities get the surgery they desperately need.
The group of 17, mainly students and a doctor, will set out to tackle the 5,895m mountain on December 18. They hope to reach the summit in five days.
The Kilimanjaro Climb is organised by the university’s Surgical Society every two years and is used as a platform to raise funds for the Smile Foundation, which helps provide surgical interventions mainly for children with facial anomalies such as cleft palates.
It is estimated that every three minutes, somewhere in the world, a child is born with a cleft palate.
While most children smile about 400 times a day, these children are robbed of that simple joy. They are not only stigmatised because of their abnormality, but also often battle to eat or speak properly. Some may also have hearing and dental problems.
Among the group of climbers are first-timers Hugh Naidu, Travis Hall and Lori-Lee Hermetz, all third-year medical students.
“We have done one hike in Drakensberg – Cathedral Peak. We have also been doing the Westcliff Stairs around two to three times a week. While walking up and down the stairs we have been loading our backpacks to 10kg and using our boots to, in a sense, simulate the hike. “Increasing our cardio frequency over the last month is also essential, according to previous climbers, so we have been trying to do more running and cycling to increase our fitness levels,” said Naidu.
He said each climber had a goal of raising R10,000 for the foundation.
“Travis, Lori-Lee and I decided to work together to reach our collective goal of R30,000. Together, we sent out dozens of e-mails and pooled as many contacts as possible, but finding funds proved to be a very difficult task.”
Then the initiative caught the eye of data and analytics service provider SAS Africa, which has agreed to donate R25,000 to the trio.
“SAS Africa’s contribution will go a long way in improving the lives of children across the country. Overall, the entire team has managed to raise over R300,000 already, with more to come before our departure,” Naidu added.
“As difficult as the climb will be, the knowledge that we are climbing not only for ourselves, but also the many children across the country that we have currently pledged ourselves to helping, gives me no doubt that we will overcome this mountain.”
The money raised is likely to affect the lives of more than 20 children.
The public can sponsor the initiative by visiting the BackaBuddy website.

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