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Meet Aleks!

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“For me, in terms of a challenge like this, Kilimanjaro really was the peak!”

Aleks Jurczak tells us about her journey to the top of Kilimanjaro and why she chose to take on this incredible challenge in aid of VSA...

In September 2022, Aleks took on the challenge of a lifetime - to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. We were honoured that Aleks, Marketing & Communications Manager of Maritime Developments - chose VSA as her charity to fundraise for.

“I first noticed the opportunity to support VSA via their website and after looking into the number of ways that you could be involved I realised I could do something like Kilimanjaro and raise funds at the same time”, she explains.

“I also had to get a buy in from my employers given the time I would to be off work. Our CEO could definitely see the benefits and himself has been a supporter of VSA so they were thankfully very supportive!”

Aleks relate to her own experiences behind why she has chosen to support VSA.

“As an only child, I was so used to having to do everything by myself. That’s also probably the reason why I am very driven, taking on any challenge in my stride”, explains Aleks.

“These personal traits of mine seem to find a good release in hiking - but it is fair to say I’ve never climbed anything like Mount Kilimanjaro - it was my biggest challenge of its kind to date.”

“Through personal circumstances or the turn of Lady Luck, there are members of our communities that find themselves in a vulnerable place. I might find myself there too! And if I did, I would like someone to have my back, and help me through the worst of it.”

“VSA does just that. They provide the required support to the vulnerable of all ages: from healthcare, to living necessities, to simply having a soulmate”.

“I believe that - to quote a famous book - “Give, and you will be given”; but it is also VSA’s mission that resonates with me greatly: “Supporting individuals and communities to fulfil their potential.”

In terms of preparing and training, Aleks was in no doubt about what was required.

“Around three months before the challenge itself I started my training plan, around an hour day and perhaps one hike a week. Previously I had bagged munros so I went back to some of those”.

“I’m not an athlete as such but I love to keep fit and do lots of cardio, although I knew that that alone wouldn’t be enough to get prepared. The one massive factor to contend with was altitude which is difficult to replicate anywhere - I heard stories of even the fittest of people failing due to this!”

“So while I thought getting the extra miles in wouldn’t have much benefit, my cardio will still help in terms of breathing and coping with the decrease in oxygen when climbing Kili - strength training was also important for climbing back down, maintaining balance against loose rocks and so on.”

Of course, preparing for such a challenge came with it’s difficulties.

“I recall just two weeks before flying to Tanzania, it was a horrendous day of rain and getting completely soaked through my boots, it certainly came as a test for all my gear I planned to take!”

While breath-taking, Kilimanjaro had it’s less glamourous moments for Aleks and her group of climbers.

“There’s no portaloos - just bushes, and the further you climb, the less bushes there are! The hardest bit coping with the extremes of hot and cold during the day and night. But the food was good and the experience was well organised.”

Reaching the summit was a moment that Aleks will never forget, with the group faced with the iconic glorious red sunrise, knowing that all the hard work and endurance had paid off.

“On reflection, the friendships made are there for life, as well as the achievement of stepping out of your comfort zone and do something that humans aren’t really designed to so. It took seven hours to reach the summit and one of a half to come back down.”

Everyone at VSA is truly grateful for Aleks raising over £5000 in aid of our services.

“For me, in terms of a challenge like this, Kilimanjaro really was the peak!”

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