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Melksham woman reaches Kilimanjaro summit a year after heart surgery

A WOMAN from Melksham has raised over £3,500 by successfully climbing Mount Kilimanjaro just a year after  undergoing open heart surgery. 

Rebecca Taylor, who is studying at Bournemouth University, tackled the challenge of a lifetime this month, reaching the summit of the highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro – 5,895 metres above sea level. The achievement represents a remarkable recovery from her open heart surgery last year.

She took on the challenge after joining the  ‘Raising and Giving’ (RAG) society at Bournemouth University, which aims to raise as much money as possible for good causes. By reaching the summit, the former Broughton Gifford Primary School pupil raised £3,552.35 for the Hope for Children charity.

She said, “Nothing will ever beat the feeling of reaching the highest point in Africa. It was very emotional and it’s up there as one of the best experiences of my life. I am extremely proud of myself and so happy that I took the leap and signed up to do the challenge.

“The day before the climb (my birthday) we met the children of Amani. Amani is an organisation who work to take children off the street and set things into motion for them to be able to reunify with their family and community. Many children who come to the centre are malnourished, have suffered from abuse, and have an addiction to things such as sniffing glue. They will stay in the Amani centre for a number of weeks or months, depending on their needs.

“Amani provide a safe environment, healthy food, education, counselling and medical care. They explore the reasons for the children running away from home, and set things into place for them to be able to return to either their parents or an extended family member, as well as doing regular follow ups with the family. A child deserves to be part of a family.

“This was by far the best day of the trip for me. To see these children who have suffered so much, yet if you talk to them you wouldn’t know it. The children at the centre were very happy and it was heart warming to see that they could still enjoy childhood. It was a very different way of spending my 21st birthday!

“It felt good that the difficult climb was in aid of children like those, and that the £3,552 I had raised was going to this project and many more like it in East Africa.

“Then on the morning of Monday 8th September  I, along with the other 24 of my team, made it to Uhuru Peak.

“The open heart surgery was never going to hold me back and doctors did tell me I would be able to   do things like any other person. The training and fundraising went really well, and I had so much support from so many people.

“However, it wasn’t without difficulty! Summit day we had to start walking at midnight after three  hours’ sleep and a ten hour walk the previous day. Whereas I didn’t suffer with altitude sickness, the main thing that made it difficult was the lack of oxygen. I was literally taking five steps and having to stop to catch my breath. My heart surgery didn’t hold me back and it just made me even more determined to get to the top.

“Our guides were fantastic I don’t think any of us could say we would have made it to the top without them. I am very grateful to each and everyone of them for persevering  with us when we were moaning about being hungry, too cold or too tired. Their encouragement kept us going. To think that some of them had climbed Kilimanjaro 300+ times is crazy. I think I’ll stick with just the once!

“I would like to send my gratitude to absolutely everyone who supported and sponsored me to achieve something so incredible. The money raised really does make a difference to such amazing children.”

The climb is over, but the Rebecca’s fundraising is continuing. If you would like to donate to her cause, visit her personal fundraising page at www.2014 bournemouth.everyday hero.com/uk/rebecca