The geographical titan that is Mount Kilimanjaro will soon be the backdrop for 17 members of the Kilimanjaro Challenge 9 expedition. This is the ninth edition of Dun George Grima‘s philanthropic collaboration with fitness professional Keith Marshall. For the past 9 years, Marshall has been training volunteers to physically, emotionally and mentally prepare themselves for the mountainous ascent and back.
Every step made on Kilimanjaro’s terrain is all for a worthy cause. Every year, fundraising activities leading up to the climb have accumulated donations for Dun George’s projects in Africa. All of this comes together with the courage of those who take up the challenge, and there aren’t enough hats in the world to be taken off to them. We’ve caught up with Leanne Bartolo to see how it’s all going.
Who is Leanne Bartolo?
I’m a psychology graduate and I’ve been working as a teacher at Chiswick House School for the past 4 years. I’ve also been giving aerobic classes for the last 9 years at various local gyms. All my acquaintances and friends know me as a complete fitness freak and consequently, I’ve participated in quite a number of marathons.
I’m blessed with a loving and supportive family. We’re a very closed knit team with 4 sisters and a brother. They never fail to make me feel proud of my achievements, whatever they may be. With Kilimanjaro being the biggest challenge I’ve ever attempted, their support in it is so important to me, giving me that extra drive, push and encouragement, especially when I’m feeling slightly demotivated.
I’d describe myself as versatile, reliable and always willing to go the extra mile. I’ve also been told by many that I have the gift of patience and serenity. However, I tend to jam pack all my days without considering that I’m not the only driver on the road, hence arriving late to a few…. ok, most appointments.
What made you decide to take up the Kilimanjaro Challenge?
I first heard about it through friends who had previously attempted it. This triggered my passion for this adventure, and so I went on Facebook to find out more. I started asking myself too many questions. What if I don’t get fundraising? What if I fail to reach the summit? How embarrassing!
Well, I believe that we are what we choose to be. I will never regret trying to climb this mountain and doing my utmost to raise money for such a good cause. So here I am now, just a few weeks away from climbing the highest free standing mountain in the world.
You’ve been training for the challenge since February. Could you tell us more about the process?
Training has been an integral part of this challenge. It’s what helped us bond as a team, what’s brought us closer and most importantly, what’s made us stronger. My biggest challenge however is not the training per se. I would say that it’s finding time for all of it, planning and activities, together with the consequential lack of sleep! I’ve found it slightly challenging to balance my work and my passion for fitness, but so far, I’ve succeeded in finding a well balanced compromise. I’ve had to put running and going out aside, but this has ultimately given me a stronger drive and more willpower to make it to the very top! This will give me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and it’ll make up for what I’m missing out on.
What dynamics as an individual do you bring to the group?
I think that my tendency to be more of a calm and serene person helps certain members of the group face stressful tasks more calmly. Thanks to my background in psychology, I tend to be emphatic, especially with the participants going through tough times with either training or fundraising. Apart from this, I’ve tried to support the group as a whole by giving a few fitness classes.
If you had to take one prohibited item with you up Kili, what would it be?
One way to add a spectacular wow factor to Summit Night would be fireworks. Who doesn’t like the luminous colours of fireworks in the sky? Perhaps not the noise, but certainly the beautiful display, colours and effects. I would also add a candy buffet as a reward for making it to the top! A well deserved reception!
What theme song would you like to have played as you trek up Kili?
We fell flat at choosing a theme song but I would choose High by Lighthouse Family.
Get to know other volunteers, meet Matthew Camilleri.