Corporate Social Investment

Taking on Mount Kilimanjaro for a purpose

Chief Executive Geoffrey Qhena and Woman's Legacy Project champion Lebo BodibeChief Executive Geoffrey Qhena and Woman's Legacy Project champion Lebo Bodibe with IDC staff members at the airport send-off. CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER VERSIONIndustrial Development Corporation (IDC) Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Qhena and Lebo Bodibe, Functional Champion: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) department, were among a crew of 38 climbers that flew out from OR Tambo International Airport on Monday, 13 July as the Trek4Mandela 2015 Challenge got under way.

The Challenge will see Qhena and Bodibe taking part in an expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, in the process raising R1.5-million for the IDC's Women's Legacy Project as part of Mandela Day.

"I feel humbled and slightly anxious to be taking on the Trek4Mandela Challenge 2015, knowing the magnitude of the experience awaiting me," Qhena said ahead of his departure. "It is touching to see so many people supporting this initiative."

Qhena said his personal goal was to complete the challenge and reach the summit so that he could stand and raise his arms on the peak of our continent's highest mountain.

Girls from one of the IDC's adopted schoolsGirls from one of the IDC's adopted schools arrive at OR Tambo International to bid farewell to the 2015 Trek4Mandela expedition team. CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER VERSION

'This is South Africa at work'

"This is indeed South Africa at work, because we get to see so many ordinary people from business and government coming together to make a difference," Qhena said. "I am proud that we as the IDC are associated with such a deserving cause."

Led by pioneering South African adventurer Sibusiso Vilane and founder of the Caring4Girls project, Richard Mabaso, the Trek4Mandela Challenge celebrates Madiba's legacy by supporting the education of South African girl children who are forced to miss days of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels.

Research has shown that South African girls from poor backgrounds miss up to 50 days of school annually due to menstrual hygiene related challenges. Some girls end up using material such as cloths, newspapers and grass as alternatives, which besides being uncomfortable and undignified is potentially harmful to their health.

"Not only would it be a great personal achievement for me, but completing this challenge would show that we as the IDC are committed to placing our Women's Legacy Project at the summit of Africa," Qhena said.

Chief Executive Geoffrey QhenaChief Executive Geoffrey Qhena addresses the gathering at OR Tambo International ahead of the team's departure. CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER VERSION"For the IDC, the Women's Legacy Project fits in very well with our Whole School Development programme in partnership with the Adopt-A-School Foundation. This is an initiative that we should all support because it is important to make sure that our girls do stay in school and one day become the leaders of tomorrow."

Making a difference to girls' education

Bodibe, for her part, said that representing the IDC and the Woman's Legacy Project on the Trek4Mandela Challenge was a wonderful privilege. "The Woman's Legacy Project is something that is very close to my heart. This expedition is my contribution to making a difference to the education of girls. I am grateful that I have been afforded this opportunity.

"It has been hard work, with extensive training to prepare for this challenge," Bodibe added. "I am a little anxious, but I am feeling very excited and confident."

Over the past three years, the Trek4Mandela initiative has attracted massive interest from the government, businesses and NGOs locally and internationally, in the process generating support for over 50 000 beneficiaries from across South Africa.

the 2015 Trek4Mandela expedition teamReady to take on Africa's highest mountain: the 2015 Trek4Mandela expedition team. CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER VERSIONThe target for the Trek4Mandela Challenge 2015 is to provide 270 000 impoverished girls - 30 000 from each province - with sanitary towels, making this year's programme the biggest Mandela Day project to date.

Speaking at the airport send-off, Graça Machel, Mandela's widow and president of the Foundation for Community Development, thanked the participants and organisers of this programme for bringing visibility to the girl child, and offered some words of encouragement to the climbers.

"The climbers are, as a symbol, taking disadvantaged girl children to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro," Machel said.

"I'd like to encourage the climbers to remember the girl child they are making an impact on as they take on this challenge. You are taking that girl child to the summit, not only of our society but to the summit of our continent and worldwide to the summit of success.

"It is important for us to recognise that there is a little bit of Mandela in all of us," Machel added. "That is what makes us human. Mandela Day reminds everyone that we all have the power to effect change."

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