10 October 2023

Illawarra poised for slam dunk to break the cycle of poverty in Tanzania

| Dione David
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Young boy shoots hoops at Austinmer Public School

Illawarra locals of all ages and abilities are using “what’s in their hands” to help break the cycle of poverty in Tanzania as part of the What’s Your Kilimanjaro challenge. Photo: Forever Projects.

Almost 170 individuals and 37 teams have hit the ground running (many quite literally) in this year’s What’s Your Kilimanjaro fundraising event for Illawarra-based charity Forever Projects.

The charity founded by Cordeaux Heights couple Mark and Anna Dombkins uses 100 per cent of donations on programs developed to keep Tanzanian families together by helping women break the cycle of poverty.

Over the month of October What’s Your Kilimanjaro invites people all over the country to leverage their talents – whatever they may be – to set personal challenges and tap into their networks to raise funds.

READ ALSO How one Illawarra family’s journey led to a movement that’s changing lives in Africa

From humble beginnings the event has become one of the charity’s biggest fundraising events, raising $700,000 by the end of last year.

The original event called “Austimanjaro” conceived by Andrew Wade in 2018 saw the Austinmer local set himself the challenge of climbing Sublime Point 20 times in one week – the equivalent distance and elevation of climbing the world’s highest single free-standing mountain, Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.

The following year the event expanded to invite anyone and everyone to take on the challenge, and saw amazing feats of endurance including individuals who took the challenge on within a 24-hour period.

In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, organisers pivoted again to ensure people could participate from anywhere in the country by setting their own equivalent challenge that complied with COVID restrictions – and “What’s Your Kilimanjaro” was born.

Some set themselves the challenge of cycling the equivalent of the circumference of Mount Kilimanjaro’s base (220 km). Some ran the equivalent distance of trekking to its summit (62 km). Others set their sights on meeting the 5.9 km elevation.

Like Austinmer’s Audrey King, 12, one of the founding members of “Shootamanjaro“, which challenged about 25 kids from local netball teams to try shooting a 3m basketball hoop 2000 times.

“My family has always followed Forever Projects and each year we take on a different challenge. One year I swam 6000m in three days with my friends. Another year I skipped rope 200 times a day,” she says.

“Last year we aimed to raise $2400, which supports two families through the program for a year. But we raised $7000, supporting almost six families!

“A pretty small effort from us can really benefit these families and it’s a real sense of achievement.”

This year the main Shootamanjaro event takes place on Saturday 14 October at Austinmer Beach, where Audrey and her compatriots will be shooting hoops, selling cakes and raising funds.

And Shootamanjaro is not the only What’s Your Kilimanjaro offshoot. This year Wollongong locals Llew Scott and Claire Rayner will kick off the inaugural “Kemblamanjaro” which sees a collective of local running groups take on one of two different routes from 7 am to 11 am on Sunday 22 October.

One runs along a nice, tempered fire trail that’s appropriate for road runners and even children, and the other is a more technical trail-style route up to Mount Kembla summit.

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Claire, the health and fitness manager at the University of Wollongong’s UniActive, says the challenge was chosen to be inclusive.

“There will be some people who can only run part of that time and there will be some crazy people who will do the full four hours,” she laughs.

“People can select to take on any number of loops and any combination of the two routes and contribute that distance to a team score. We want to make sure the event could cater for as diverse a capacity as possible.

“That’s kind of the whole point of What’s Your Kilimanjaro – you feel empowered to do something to help but also, you feel good about it because it doesn’t have to be this lofty, unattainable goal. You just use whatever is in your hands to contribute because, together, it really adds up.”

Much like young Audrey, Llew and Claire have been involved with What’s Your Kilimanjaro for years, starting with the “Battle of the Brokers” running challenge in 2020, which raised $9000 for Forever Projects.

As for many parents, the Forever Projects cause is close to home for Claire.

“I’m a mum of two young boys. To be able to support women halfway across the world so that they can support their own children and not have to separate – that’s everything.”

To help break the cycle of poverty sign up to your own challenge, or visit What’s Your Kilimanjaro to donate to an existing fundraising page.

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