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No mountain too high for medical students on quest to change lives

- Wits University

The Wits Students' Surgical Society has launched Kilimanjaro Challenge 2016 to raise funds in aid of the Smile Foundation.

Adventurous and aspiring medical students from the Wits Students' Surgical Society launched their quest to give children their smiles back in yet another venture to summit the highest free standing peek in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.

The campaign, named Kilimanjaro Challenge 2016 aims to give children corrective facial surgery.

In 2014, a group of 17 medical students from the society, raised R600 000 by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and participating in the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge.

Last year, two children who suffered from facial paralysis due to a condition called Moebius Syndrome, underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of a fundraising initiative by Wits medical students.

At the launch, which was held yesterday, 3 May 2016 in the Marie Curie Lecture Theatre, Parktown Health Sciences Campus, medical students were encouraged to sign up for the expedition and be part of the climbing team.

The Society aims to assemble a team of 20 climbers to summit the 5895 meter peak of Kilimanjaro on 3 to 10 December 2016. Through sponsorship and donations, they aim to raise R750 000 for the Smile Foundation.

Emma Wessels, project coordinator for the Kilimanjaro Challenge 2016, says that one of the main aims of the Wits Students Surgical Society is to give back to the community.

“Most people take a friendly smile for granted, but for these children it is a daily social challenge. By challenging medical students to face something as daunting as summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in support of The Smile Foundation, we hope to show some of these children that we are willing to face a challenge in support of their daily challenges. We hope to make more smiles,” says Wessels.

The expedition will be led by Heinrich Ungerer, guide and adventure professional from the Adventure Dynamics International climbing company.

Speakers at the launch included Sean Disney, Marketing Director of Adventure Dynamics International, who is the first South African to complete the grand slam, which refers to summiting the seven summits as well as skiing to the North and South Poles; Hedley Lewis, Executive Director of the Smile Foundation and Graeme Moore, project leader of the Kilimanjaro Challenge 2014 who shared his team’s experience of the challenge.

About the Wits Students Surgical Society

The Wits Students Surgical Society is a platform for medical students and aspiring medical specialists interested in the art and science of surgery. The Society was started in August 2010 with the support of the Department of Surgery at the University of Witwatersrand. It is a subcommittee of the Medical Students Council (MSC) and is registered as a member of the South African Society of Surgeons in Training (SASSiT). 

About the Smile Foundation

The Smile Foundation is a non-profit organisation that gives children facial reconstruction surgery to correct cleft lips and cleft palates as well as preforming facial reanimation surgeries for children with Moebius Syndrome.