My Kilimanjaro Trek for the Young Women’s Trust

Women Who Count, Bookkeeping & Payroll Services. https://women
A budget like no other
March 12, 2020
Women Who Count, Bookkeeping & Payroll Services.
 
In September 2019 I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with my son, William, to raise money for the Young Women’s Trust. It was a truly amazing experience that I want to share with you but firstly, some facts:
• Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world at a spectacular height of 5,895 metres above sea level (Mt Everest is 2,950m higher)
• It’s a dormant volcanic mountain
• About 35,000 people try to scale the mountain every year of which approximately two-thirds succeed. The main reason for turning back is altitude related issues
• Since 1912, Kilimanjaro has lost 82% of its ice cap, and since 1962 it has lost 55% of its remaining glaciers – all due to climate change
• 40% of young women struggle to make ends meet each month
• A third of young mums say that they are always in debt
• Over 50% of young mums can’t take a job because of the cost of childcare
• Young Women's Trust works to give economic power to young women by raising their voices, challenging sexist stereotypes and rebuilding workplaces free from discrimination.

Anyone that knows me knows I love a challenge! So imagine my delight when I was asked to join a group to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which I now fondly refer to as Kili, in aid of this wonderful charity.

The guy behind the trip was Darren Hunt who set up his company, Mountains in Mind, with the goal of helping others challenge the norm and personally grow. The premise for the trip was to gather a small group of business owners who were open to cross-learning. To develop a relationship online, before the trip, “bond” on the mountain and then continue to support each other through an accountability group. Bear in mind, Darren was also working with a group of NASA astronauts to develop a more resilient mindset by climbing Kilimanjaro, it wasn’t without trepidation that we embarked upon our adventure!

The group of six was accompanied by a cohort of porters whose stamina, strength and positivity were astounding. They carried everything we’d need to survive the climb such as tents and cooking equipment which left us to concentrate on carrying our personal belongings and putting one foot in front of the other – sounds easy but at altitude, it can be very testing. The guide’s favourite saying was the Swahili phrase “pole, pole” meaning “slowly, slowly”. And slowly but surely this method paid off. The way that the porters treated us and their customer service, was simply outstanding. I know this is their job and they climb Kili many times a year, but their service mentality really shone through. A lesson we all took back to our businesses.

 
 
And sometimes we needed one of their smiles to keep us going. As we climbed higher, we each began to suffer altitude sickness with differing severity. The mountain also pushed every one of us to our limit at some point. My moment came on day six when we climbed Barranco Wall, I’m not good with heights and a 250-metre climb up a fairly steep rock face had me in tears. So many life skills came to the surface during the trek – teamwork, perseverance, leadership but I think resilience was the most needed and most observed in each other. It was only eight days but we bonded as a group and had to help each other plod on. Spending 24 hours a day with someone in testing conditions really helps you get to know them!

We all know that fresh air and a long walk are great for gaining some perspective and this extremely long walk was no exception. The Kili trek gave me the chance to look around and appreciate my surroundings, reflecting on our planet and the impact of climate change. Closer to home, I reflected on my family and the business and why I was putting myself through this.
I am a businesswoman and my team are all women. As a fellow of the International Association of Bookkeepers, I’ve heard some sad stories of women’s lives before they discovered bookkeeping and acquired a skill that they could use to earn money. Despite all the government chat to, for example, cut the gender pay gap, for gender equality in the workplace and society as a whole, to make childcare more accessible, there remains a lot of vulnerable women. Social mobility may be an ambition of theirs but day-to-day, they just want to survive.

It was fantastic to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and a memory that will stay with me forever. With the clouds around our feet, we really felt as though we were on top of the world. The eight days of blood, sweat and tears was all worth it and, the relief – knowing that we could tell everyone who had kindly sponsored us that we had done it! The decline wasn’t an anti-climax at all – we were buoyed by our achievement and definitely had a spring in our step.
I know that the money we raised for the Young Women’s Trust will make a difference to women across the country. And the trek made a difference to me too - I am proud of the trek, more self-aware, grateful, and have made great friends, and despite the effort required, I know, now, not to sweat the small stuff.
 
 
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