When Head of School at PLC Armidale received a phone call from Old Girl Chloe Chick to ask if the PLC girls would sponsor 8 Tanzanian students to climb Mt Meru in Africa, her response was immediate. “Yes, our girls will sponsor the Tanzanian girls, but they will climb the mountain together.”
And so began a unique leadership challenge and partnership between PLC Armidale and the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania. Under the guidance of the Peaks Foundation, the girls will climb to the summit of Mt Meru, Tanzania’s second highest mountain, as a combined team of young women.
The girls from the School of St Jude have grown up at the base of this mountain, yet poverty meant that climbing its jagged peak seemed a dream. Together, the young women will unite as a team to reach the summit of their potential. We talked to the two leaders of the project, Catherine Pegg and Anna Caldwell, both teachers at PLC Armidale, to find out more.
What is the purpose of the project?
The expedition is designed to maximise collaboration, leadership skills, cultural diversity and educational opportunity. The 12-day expedition includes time with the students and staff from the School of St Jude in Tanzania, working within the school in a variety of areas, followed by a 4-day hike with a team of young women from the School of St Jude to the summit of Mt Meru.
After the trek to the peak of Mt Meru, the students from PLC Armidale will spend time interacting with and gaining an understanding of the East African community and an appreciation of the ecosystems and the need for environmental conservation in this area. This is an opportunity for all involved to become active participants in positive social change.
Tell us about the Peaks Foundation …
PLC Old Girl, Chloe Chick, is a director of The Peaks Foundation. Chloe has recently established the Peaks Foundation – a registered US non-profit and UK Charity. They have plans to expand to Australia. They organise mountain based challenges for women who seek adventure, a sense of personal achievement and an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world. Peaks Foundation supports and empowers women and girls in communities where the challenges take place, through initiatives such as education, maternal healthcare and community-led conservation.
Why did you decide to climb with the School of St Jude?
Chloe Chick approached our Head of School, Debra Kelliher, with the idea to involve PLC Armidale in the Peaks Foundation. Chloe suggested we might like to be involved in one idea in the Peaks Foundation Girl Challenge.
The idea is that the program would see girls in locations such as Australia raise money to fund the cost for girls in regions where Peaks Foundation challenges are held, to undertake a mountain based expedition. Chloe suggested that students from PLC Armidale would raise the expenses associated with sending a team of girls from the School of St Jude in Tanzania to the summit of their local peak – Mt Meru.
The PLC girls could then, through digital media, follow the progress of the expedition – learning about the ecosystem, environment, as well as the physical and mental challenge of the climbing team and the importance of team work.
Debra decided to take the idea one step further. “Our girls love a challenge. I think they would enjoy climbing as well”. So here we are, each PLC girl funds her own trip, and we are raising the money for the girls from the School of St Jude, as Chloe suggested.
The School of St Jude is an independent, sponsorship-supported school that provides education for Tanzanian children from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds. The school demonstrates leadership, promotes critical thinking and expects high moral values from its students, staff and the school community. The philosophy of both schools is similar, and PLC Armidale as a school of leadership is constantly seeking opportunities to challenge and engage students in leadership opportunities. It is an exciting partnership.
What training are you doing to prepare your team?
There are psychological and physical challenges ahead of us on the trip, so we need to develop fitness in both areas. From the psychological angle, we are working on skills to mentally push ourselves to make the summit – there are roughly 17 false summits so when you think you are nearly there, you get to that peak and realise there is a long way to go further!
We are learning to be prepared for the disappointment if we don’t make the summit for whatever reason and to be strong enough that once we have made the top and had the adrenalin rush and sense of achievement, that we have to get all the way back down again! Physically, we are doing weekly circuit training, local walks that involve steep climbs, such as Mount Duval and Salisbury Waters and lots of other challenging endeavours. Training together is strengthening our teamwork, and we are building skills to support each other.
How are you raising funds for the project?
We have a lot of initiatives underway – the largest of which is our Global Community Challenge Ball. That is on 16 June at the Servies. Tickets are on sale on at the end of April at the Servies. We are looking toward the Armidale Community to support this event, and we have a very exciting night planned.
We have a series of cake stalls, sausage sizzles and guessing competitions which are contributing to our target – we still have a long way to go. Anyone interested in donating or finding out more about what we are doing can visit www.plcarmidale.nsw.edu.au
Thank you Anna and Catherine.
Thanks to Simon Scott for the photograph.
This story was published in issue 60 of New England Focus