Dana Al Anzy
It was not Dana Al Anzy who reached the top of Kilimanjaro, it was Qatar.
It was every school girl in Doha who stepped up to support her climb. It was every young person who has a dream that seems too far away. And she wanted them to see themselves in her.
A ROTA Youth Advisory board member and second-year student at Georgetown University, Dana Al Anzy meets us at the Torch Hotel where she and her fellow climbers trained for weeks, climbing up and down the stuffy, oxygen-deprived fire exit wearing heavy backpacks. When consummate adventurer and mountaineer Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani put together a team to ascend Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise funds for ROTA, Al Anzy was one of the first to sign up.
“Personally I wanted to do it for the cause. I am a strong believer in education because it has given me so much. I wouldn't have been so confident or vocal about my beliefs and thoughts if I didn't have the education or intellect needed to support me. And I want the youth out there to have that chance as well. Those who are victims, misplaced, traumatised or just have a dream they think isn't realistic, every child deserves access to education; it is their right,” she says.
Mind-numbing gym sessions and a “boring” diet that was in direct conflict with her personal philosophy of never denying food cravings were just the beginning. Anxiety attacks, claustrophobic tents, fainting spells, biting winds, hail, sub-zero temperature, frostbites and sunburns were still to come. Having trained independently (“Although we were supported to a certain extent, we were all adults. If we wanted to get up a mountain, we knew how to Google it and prepare ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.”), Al Anzy was not prepared for how distorted time would seem the higher she climbed. “At one point, you couldn't keep up with time. What you understood as one hour had to be expanded. We walked for eight to nine hours a day for five days to reach the peak. Sometimes it's just you and the silence of the mountain. Imagine, you are aching everywhere, hungry and frustrated but you couldn't sleep well because it was really cold. And rest was still five hours away. And no matter where you are, the guides tell you that you are just one hour away from the finish,” she outlines the scenario.
Each of the climbers was charged with raising QR50,000 towards ROTA. Al Anzy gave herself a new target - QR200,000. But she wasn't going to down the usual route of corporate sponsorship. “I wanted the youth to mobilise and so enlisted three schools.” The reaction she received has given her new impetus to create projects through ROTA that bridge the gap between NGOs and the youth. “When I reached out to the students, they responded with so much energy and passion. They did whatever they could - carnivals, bake sales, selling roses and Karak, at one point - to raise the money within the month.” And each of the schools was able to contribute in excess of QR50,000 by themselves.
“These efforts started spilling over into their academics, and volunteering, to be specific. Here they were raising money to help children gain access to education, but what were they doing with the education they were receiving? They started asking themselves these questions and it had a positive impact on how they valued their education,” she says. Al Anzy is also part of the WISE Learners programme that is charged with finding innovative solutions to today's educational problems. “I also am a youth advocate with Sheikha Moza's Education Above All and want to create a ripple effect in raising awareness in Qatar about the number of out of school children.” So with one thing or the other, Al Anzy has another packed year ahead and she says she's looking forward to a few more adventures.