07/25/2009 06:42 PM | By Bana Qabbani, Staff Writer
Dubai: A group of six adventure seekers from Dubai and Abu Dhabi will attempt to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise funds for disadvantaged Palestinian students.
"We're starting the trek on August 4 and we hope to reach the top on August 10. The mountain is the tallest peak in Africa at about 5,900 metres," says Janwa Dajani, 30, who is managing the fundraising and also taking part in the challenge.
All participants have a Middle Eastern background and links to Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon. They have agreed to donate any pledge money they receive from sponsorship to the Palestinian Education Foundation (PEFO) - a Canadian charitable organisation based in Ontario. PEFO provides financial assistance to Palestinian youngsters who demonstrate merit, but lack the financial means to pursue tertiary education.
"We chose PEFO because it supports Palestinian youth in a purely academic manner. It gives them the opportunity to improve their lives and to support their families someday and that's a cause that everyone can relate to. If we are able to raise enough tuition to educate six students over the course of four years, I'll be really happy. That means one student for every kilometre we climb.
"After students graduate, they are given job placements so they can contribute to the economy. Some even become mentors to other students," says Janwa.
Rami Barhoush, Board Director of PEFO says the foundation has helped 70 students graduate and is expecting to sponsor 40 to 45 this academic year. Every student gets their full tuition paid, which can range from $1,500 (Dh5,509) to $2,000 per year.
"We are inspired by the challenge the group has taken and hope it inspires our students to work even harder. This type of support is great, it's so encouraging, especially for the students. Seeing this kind of public endorsement is exciting and will motivate them further," says Barhoush.
The climbers, who are mostly in their early thirties, were keen to take part in a physical challenge that tests their limits and at the same time, gives back to youngsters in need.
"I started working out two months ago by joining a boot camp to develop my general fitness. I'm also using a personal trainer to strengthen my muscles and improve my endurance. Everything we carry in our backpack will start to weigh us down more the higher we climb," she says.
"One of the guys undertook a martial arts camp, another has been hiking every weekend - each one of us chose a preferred activity to get physically prepared," adds Janwa.
Shireen Alameddine, 28, and her husband, Adib Mattar, 31, are both involved in organising the Kilimanjaro trek.
"We started planning this trip in January 2009. I grew up in Morocco and I love Africa, so to climb the highest peak on the continent is a special thing for me," says Shireen. "I've climbed Machu Picchu in Peru, but Mount Kilimanjaro will be the highest I've ever scaled."
Although six people are participating from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two other climbers will be flying in from the US and one from Amman, Jordan.
"We all have a common link and are mutual friends. We paid for all our expenses, so it's self-funded and 100 per cent of contributions will be channelled directly to the foundation.
"I'm very excited and can't wait to do it. I've been biking every weekend and I feel ready to take on the challenge. I have realistic expectations and hope that my body will react well to the high altitude. If someone can't continue, then we've agreed that we'll have to go on without them," Shireen said.
Pledges received until end of August
Although PEFO is always open for support and donations, the group will stop accepting pledges for the climb at the end of August.
They have a facebook group called Mountains for Education, or people can e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the organisation, please visit: http://pefo.org/ how to help