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Excitement as Witsies set off for Kilimanjaro

- By Vivienne Rowland

 Palpable and barely contained excitement was in the air when 17 Wits students bid farewell to their family, friends, sponsors and supporters before setting off on a daring quest to climb a mountain.

Not just any mountain. These fearless members of the Wits Students Surgical Society are tackling Kilimanjaro after raising funds for the Smile Foundation throughout the year.

Surpassing their initial aim of raising R500 000 for the Foundation, the students managed to raise R620 000 since April, with less members in the team than what they initially set out to recruit. Each member had to raise a minimum of R10 000 each, a task they executed exceedingly well.

The official handover of the funds took place at the send-off event on Wednesday, 19 November 2014, just over 24 hours before the Witsies would board the midnight flight from OR Tambo International on their brave and selfless quest.

Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcanic mountain in Tanzania, is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5895 metres above sea level.

The Smile Foundation sets up resources in South Africa to enable children with severe facial deformities to receive treatment and care to be able to eat, speak and develop normally.

“For us it is about how many children’s lives you can change with the money, and it is not just the smile on the child’s face, but also the smile in the parent’s eyes when you see the gratitude that they feel towards the Smile Foundation,” said Moira Gerszt, Operations Executive Director of the Smile Foundation.

Gerstz praised the efforts of Witsies adding: “These young people and their attitude as future doctors are so tangible and admirable and we take the kudos from them as to the need that they have identified.

The adventure to summit one of the big wonders of the world, set to take place via the Rongai route between 21 and 29 November 2014, will see the 17 climbers tackling the challenge under the guidance of Sean Disney, world renowned mountaineer, guide and Managing Director of Adventure Dynamics, together with his team of guides and porters to ensure the safety and comfort of the climbers.

Brenna Weaver, a 2nd year medical student said that the trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity for her: “I grabbed it with both hands and I am definitely not the kind of girl to climb mountains, but I figured it is for a brilliant cause. The Smile Foundation is more than worthy of every cent that we have raised,” said Weaver.

“This trip is the highlight of my year; it is what we have been waiting for this whole year. The planning, the training, everything has been for a worthy cause,” said Wesley Verhoogt, a 4th year medical student.

The 17 climbers are: Graeme Moore, Stephanie van Straten, Robert Jaich, Matthew Grant, Heliodora de Lima, Wesley Verhoogt, Bodhisatya Chakraborty, Mary Lee, Jason le Roux, Greg Douglas, Brenna Weaver, Jacqueline van der Meulen, Kate Klaasen, Magz de la Kethulle, Nadia Marengo, Stephan Maritz and Kanika Sinha.

Follow the brave Witsies on Facebook and Twitter: @WitsSurgicalSoc

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