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 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 the secretary of the group, Claire Falzon, to see how it’s all going.
Who is Claire Falzon?
I’m a 26-year old physiotherapist. Apart from practising my profession, I lead a very colourful life. In general, I try to be positive, and I believe in finding the good in all that surrounds you, be it a situation or a person. I believe in sharing smiles and good deeds. It helps make our daily lives a little bit brighter.
I love being of service to others, and I get to do that through my work and volunteering, mostly with the Salesians as a member of SPYS. I’ve been involved in various Salesian projects for the past 10 years, and I can say that all of them has shaped me into the person I am today. It’s a lot of hard work, but sharing these experiences with your friends and the youths is super rewarding!
I also get to travel to seminars and Salesian youth training courses, which are an awesome experience. You get to meet so many new people and learn so much about yourself and about different cultures.
I also love nature and the outdoors. My best sleeps are in a tent where you can hear the sounds of nature around you, stepping out barefoot to watch the world waking up. I feel connected with the natural world, and it calms me down from my hectic life.
I love gymnastics because it’s graceful and requires a lot of strength and flexibility, and it’s very challenging yet rewarding. I’m practising it again simply because I love it, and it’s also helping me with my preparations for Kilimanjaro. I also dance jazz. I had only started a few years ago after I had stopped gymnastics, but now I’m very happy doing both.
What made you decide to take up the Kilimanjaro Challenge?
I was following the news in December last year, and I saw the Kilimanjaro Challenge 8 group departing from Malta. I looked it up on the internet and it really interested me, especially after my own experience of voluntary work in Kenya. After experiencing Kenya, I kept on thinking about how lucky I am to have all the necessities I need and what I can do more for children with fewer opportunities. This looked like a brilliant opportunity to combine travelling and being in nature with doing something for the children of an African country. I ended up attending one of the initial information meetings, and it kept on going.
You’ve been training for the challenge since February. Could you tell us more about the process?
Training involves a lot of trekking, which I love, and hill training, which is the only thing I hate. Apart from the repetitive hills, the toughest aspect is the late nights during the week, especially when I have to drive a long way back.
What dynamics as an individual do you bring to the group?
Even though in my personal life I don’t have time to be the most organised person on the planet, I think I bring a little bit of organisation to the team, especially since I’m also the secretary of the group. I think I also bring some smiles and sunshine… at least, I hope I do!
If you had to take one prohibited item with you up Kili, what would it be?
Alcohol for New Year’s Eve – a drink or two to celebrate a different start to a new year!
What theme song would you like to have played as you trek up Kili?
We haven’t decided on a theme song for the group yet, which is a shame. I would be serenading the group during every training night, until they find a way to shut me up for sounding like a croaking frog.
Personally, I love On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons, and I imagine myself trying to sing it when we reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Get to know other volunteers, meet Meressa Zahra.