Help­ing oth­ers a top pri­or­ity

Burn vic­tim to climb Mount Ever­est

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - HEALTH - VIWE NDONGENI

WIL­LIAM Baart­man was only 3 years old when he was burnt by a rag­ing fire when his Gugulethu home was petrol-bombed in the ‘70s.

The in­ci­dent not only cost him his sis­ter, but it left him with 75% of burn in­juries. He lost all his fin­gers and is par­tially dis­abled and de­formed in other parts of his body.

But the 45-year-old is not al­low­ing his dis­abil­ity to hold him back, he is rais­ing funds to climb the high­est moun­tain on earth… Mount Ever­est.

Baart­man is among 12 in­ter­na­tional climbers who are plan­ning to use their ad­ven­ture in May to raise money to help chil­dren suf­fer­ing from burn wounds

By climb­ing Ever­est he hopes to in­spire other burn vic­tims to carry on liv­ing de­spite the life-lim­it­ing chal­lenges that burns present.

“My life changed the day I got burnt. It left me with 75% burn wounds from my head to my toes. My face has scars and my nose is se­verely de­formed. The rest of my burns are cov­ered by the clothes I wear,” says Baart­man.

Ex­actly 42 years later Baart­man still has breath­ing prob­lems due to his in­juries. Grow­ing up he had to stop do­ing ac­tiv­i­ties he loved most and spent most of his time hid­ing at home.

“I failed to fin­ish school be­cause of the teas­ing and chastis­ing that I had to en­dure from other chil­dren at school,” he says.

Now, work­ing as the head of Avela Men­tor­ship Pro­gramme‚ Baart­man hopes to raise R75 000 to in­spire oth­ers like him.

To­gether with 11 other climbers from around the world, they hope to raise R2 mil­lion by the end of April for the Avela foun­da­tion – a burns sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion, which is col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Smile Foun­da­tion to treat burns in chil­dren.

Among the foun­da­tion’s projects is a R1.5m laser ma­chine, which was do­nated to Red Cross War Me­mo­rial Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal, and the re­fur­bish­ment of Kim­ber­ley Hospi­tal Burns Unit.

The founder of the foun­da­tion, Cami Palomo‚ says she has as­sem­bled a team to ac­com­pany her on a jour­ney to Base Camp‚ on Mount Ever­est.

The group plans to be­gin its jour­ney to Kath­mandu‚ Nepal‚ at the end of April.

The climb is ex­pected to take nine days‚ start­ing on May 2.

Baart­man says it will not be an easy task to climb Mount Ever­est, but he is de­ter­mined to take up this mo­men­tous chal­lenge in the hope that it will in­spire some­one else who is giv­ing up in their own life.

“It’s not easy to live like this, but ev­ery day I try to build my self-es­teem and con­trol my emo­tions. God has changed my life; my pas­tors taught me how to take sto­ries from the Bible to help with heal­ing in my own life.”

Lindiwe Sut­tle of the Avela Foun­da­tion with Wil­liam Baart­man.

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