Woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds for refugees


Woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds for refugees

Ayat is training herself for her first mountaineering expedition to Mt Kilimanjaro in February.

by Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Mon 23 Dec 2013, 12:26 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:15 PM

After an intensive workout combining cardio and weight training, Egyptian-Canadian national Ayat El-Dewary climbs 20 flights of stairs everyday. “It is not easy,” Ayat admits.

While most of us pant at the thought of walking up two flights of stairs, Ayat is training herself for her first mountaineering expedition to Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. She is due to make the climb in February. Not content with just taking money out of her wallet to help refugees from Syria, Ayat is going one step — or maybe thousands of steps — further.

The mother of a four-year-old boy, Ayat works as an external relations associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Abu Dhabi. However, she will be taking time out of her day job to climb the highest freestanding mountain in the world to raise funds for Syrian refugee children. Ayat is doing this in support of the Big Heart Campaign organised specifically to aid Syrian child refugees by Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi — wife of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah — and the UNHCR Eminent Advocate of Refugee Children. Though Ayat is climbing with a professional mountaineering team, she is the only one climbing for the cause.

“I am doing the climb in my personal capacity and, yes, I am nervous. I have never done anything like this before. It is a challenge on a physical as well as emotional level. But thinking of these children and wanting to raise funds for them, I’ve decided to set a really high target for myself,” said Ayat.

About 1.1 million Syrian children are registered as refugees with UNHCR. Of these, about three quarters are under 12 years old and one in ten Syrian refugee children in the region are working to support their families, rather than getting an education. Jordan and Lebanon host more than 60 per cent of all Syrian refugee children, with more than 290,000 Syrian refugee children living in Jordan.

“The Syria crisis hit a home run and nowhere else in the world have I seen a crisis that has affected children so badly,” said Ayat.

“I am a mother myself and I cannot imagine what these kids must be going through.”

Recent statistics have also revealed that more than half of Syrian refugee children are not in school for reasons that include economic pressure, pressure on host communities, and simple access issues.

Ayat has been training for over a month and a half, six days a week. “There are different cardio workouts and interval long distance workouts. I go up 20 floors every day and do some weight training, as well,” said Ayat. She recently completed a 10km run and also treks on an occasional basis. “I love all kinds of sporting activities and I have a lot of support from my friends and family towards the cause,” she said.

“I am not a very fit person. I jog occasionally and I like to take up challenges,” she said. “Professionals say that from being absolutely unfit, you can do three to six months of intense training, depending on your fitness level, and then attempt to climb a mountain,” said Ayat.

Raising funds for the Big Heart campaign is her biggest priority and Ayat has been using social media campaigning tools to spread the word. “I want to make this a sustainable movement, as well. I would like to provide help towards the cause even two to three months after the climb,” said Ayat. Those interested in donations can log on to www.justgiving.com/ayat-el-dewary.


Dhanusha Gokulan
Dhanusha Gokulan

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