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Alumier Skin Experts / November 12, 2021

A mountain to climb

Alumier Foundation directors Victoria Hiscock and Vicky Eldridge share their experience of climbing Mount Snowdon to raise funds towards new classrooms for the Nhlengelo Primary School in South Africa.

Standing at the top of Mount Snowdon in Wales soaked to the bone and unable to see much further than a few feet through the mist and driving rain, it felt like we had really completed a challenge and, despite the cold, we were all smiles.

What had kept us going through the battering weather conditions was the knowledge that, while we had nice warm dry clothes and a pub dinner waiting for us at the end of our 6.5-hour hike, there were children in South Africa who used to have to walk 10k every single day along dangerous roads just to get an education, and it was those children we were climbing Wales’s highest mountain for.

Today, thanks to the work of The Alumier Foundation, more than 500 children in White City, Mpumalanga, have access not just to an education but to incredible school facilities at the Nhlengelo Primary School. We were raising money towards the foundation’s next goal of building even more classrooms as expansion of the school and its buildings is a priority.

Nhlengelo Primary School has been a labour of love for the Alumier Foundation.

When the company’s founders heard of the plight of a village near to their home where children as young as five were having their lessons under a Marula tree at a school with no running water or electricity, they were compelled to help.

They met with the village chief and spoke with the community and then set about building a proper school for them. The site was little more than a dusty wasteland at the time with just 30 of the youngest children from the village attending. The other children had to walk miles to reach the next closest school or didn’t go at all and the Principal, Lyson Ndluli, was bringing water in containers in the back of his car for the children to drink.

The first thing the foundation did was build a fence, not only for security but to stop people building homes on top of the school site. The second priority was water. The project team dug a borehole which meant there was running water for the first time. Two teaching blocks, containing four classrooms each, a toilet block, kitchen, and playground have also since been built while the old run-down school buildings were restored and turned into staff offices. A recent global fund-raising drive to generate $70,000 USD means that two additional classrooms have now also been built. Construction was completed in November and the classrooms are now being utilized by students.

The community was involved in the project from the start. They were invited to help every step of the way with the building and construction of their school and it is now a treasured part of the community. The children, who they call “learners”, are thriving with the school now considered one of the best in the area.

In 2018, we were both lucky enough to visit the school and see the work the foundation had done for ourselves. After meeting the teachers, including Principal Ndluli and the children themselves, we both wanted to personally do more and shortly after became directors of the foundation.

Fast forward to 2021, and, as life began to open up following the pandemic, we decided that we would set ourselves a challenge to climb Snowdon to raise money for the school. At an elevation of 1,085 metres above sea level, Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands. It is located in the breathtakingly beautiful Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd. What made us want to climb Snowdon was that it had always stuck in our mind the physical challenge so many of the children were facing each day having to walk 10k (six miles) to school along dangerous roads. The hike we were doing was 14.5km, not even a day and a half’s worth of walking for the children.

The climb started off relatively easy as we navigated the gentle meandering paths, taking in the views and reminiscing about our time in South Africa. However, shortly after the halfway point, it became much steeper and the weather turned. We were hit by a thick fog and sidewinding wind and rain which meant we had no idea how close we were to the summit because we couldn’t see it.

There were times we wanted to give up and turn back, a warm fire awaited us at our campsite and there was food and drinks to be had at the local pub, but then we saw a little girl. She must have been only four or five years old. She was coming back down from the summit, smiling and chatting away. This put the children from Nhlengelo firmly back in our minds and we made it to the top.

The wind and rain at the summit were insane and visibility was negligible but it was an experience we will never forget and it was amazing to share it with one another.

Between us, we raised £1,500 for the Alumier Foundation, which will go towards the new classrooms and we are very grateful to all those who sponsored us.

Fundraising is of course ongoing for the school as plenty more is needed to help this wonderful community.

We are already planning what our next challenge will be so watch this space.

You can watch the documentary Victoria made during the trip to the school and learn about the amazing community in White City who built Nhlengelo Primary School with the support of the Alumier Foundation here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JoZBGv3gIM

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