| Jan 27, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - January 29, 2009 Sydenham welcomes home resident mountain climberBy Julie Druker

Leslie Myles of Sydenham summits Mount Kilimajaro

The Sydenham community recently welcomed home Leslie Myles, their resident mountain climber, who, at 7 am, January 12th , successfully reached the 19,341 foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This is Africa’s tallest mountain, and Leslie reached the summit along with her entire team: 11 women, 6 porters and 4 guides.

Friends family and community members gathered at the Sydenham Legion on Sunday to welcome her home and to congratulate her on her successful endeavor, the “Kili Climb for Kids”, which raised $61,000 for the Amani Children’s Home in Tanzania.

The organization, located at the base of the mountain, provides a safe, nurturing and healing environment to homeless Tanzanian children. It provides healthy meals, ongoing access to education, health care, counseling and also strives to reconnect children with relatives or village members in their community.

After the climb, Leslie had time to visit Amani House, its staff, and the children they serve. “I was touched by the children and really impressed by the efforts of the staff and the positive effect their work is having.” Currently 89 children are involved in the program which began in 2001 in a small two bedroom house which initially supported 6 children.

Photo: Vicki Veldman, Maryanne Takala, Heather Quinn and Margie Johnston host welcome home for Leslie Myles (centre)

Back at home, the Sydenham Legion was wall to wall with well wishers as Leslie set up a slide show of her trip and spoke to the large group about her recent accomplishments. Not an easy climb, it was predicted that only half of her team would make the summit. Leslie explained, “Though not the largest mountain, it is the hardest mountain because it is the fastest. You go in and you come out in a very short time with not a lot of time to acclimatize.”

The climb took 6 days in total and the team passed through 4 eco-zones. They began in the rain forest and reached the bare, moon-like, glacier filled upper reaches of the mountain where temperatures dipped to minus 25 degrees.

The team began their final push for the top on the fifth day at 12:30 at night in howling winds and bitter cold.

Leslie told the crowd, “All of you were there in spirit with me and all the way up I remembered the words of my trainers back home, Jimmy Latimer and Brian Meyers, ‘What? Are you going to quit now?’” Quit she didn't and Leslie made it to the top of the mountain along with the 10 other women from her team.

Leslie recalled, “One of the most exhilarating moments was climbing the Barranco Wall”, a virtually vertical wall with a narrow, slippery foot path with nowhere to hold onto and no poles to assist you. “You had to really watch your footing.” In Swahili, the advice most commonly given to her and her team was, “Pole. Pole. Slowly. Slowly. One step. One breath”.

Leslie and her team were grateful to their guide Angus Murray, an experienced climber from BC, who gave in depth explanations and important demonstrations all along the way.

In her words," The trip was a great way to reevaluate what's important and what's not and how valuable time really is." She stressed the importance of her ongoing retail work, (she owns three Body Shop franchises) in that it allows her to pursue her personal interests, namely, helping children and exploring other cultures.

Leslie’s plans for the future? “My daughter Emelia is an ambassador with the Free the children: me to we” program and is interested in helping build schools for children around the world, so I’d love to help her with that. I‘d also love to take her to see the Amani House because they have great volunteer programs there.”

Following her presentation, the Sydenham Legion presented Leslie with a cheque for $250.00 for the cause and South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison presented her with a plaque recognizing her work for the children of Tanzania. In the words of the mayor, “There is a saying out there, ‘Get her done and this lady does it.’” Everyone present applauded their consent.

For more information about Amani House visit www.amanikids.org

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