A trip to Antarc­tica changed the lives of 10 Dubai stu­dents. Apart from mak­ing them see the en­vi­ron­ment in a new light, it also changed their per­spec­tive on life, says Shiva Ku­mar Thekkepat

Friday - - Making A Difference -

er fin­gers could hardly grip. The wool of her glove was icy and slip­pery, but Pooja Balaji knew she couldn’t let go. If she did then she’d, plunge into the abyss. So she clung on, des­per­ately hop­ing her nine team­mates were safe on the top of the icy peak deep in the heart of Antarc­tica, known as Med­i­ta­tion Rock, and would pull her to safety.

“The in­ci­dent prob­a­bly took less than 10 sec­onds,” she says. “But in that time my en­tire life flashed past my mind’s eye.”

Luck­ily, the Grade 12 stu­dent of Dubai Mod­ern Academy (DMA) sur­vived, but it was a mo­ment that changed ev­ery­thing for­ever.

“I de­cided that I wanted to do ev­ery­thing I could in this life and in the process make a dif­fer­ence to the world in some way.”

Pooja and her team­mates had trav­elled to Antarc­tica as part of an ini­tia­tive by UK-based ex­plorer and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist Sir Robert Swan to save the con­ti­nent. They had reached the peak of the Rock where they looked out over the icy abyss. Pooja was on her way down the slope when she stepped on a piece of ice and heard a sharp crack. The next sec­ond, the ice broke off and she lost her foot­ing.

“Help,” she screamed as she fell on the ice and be­gan hurtling down the slope. She tried to grab some­thing to stop her fall, but in her panic she couldn’t find the rope that teth­ered her to the rest of her team.

She could see snow and large pieces of ice hur­tle down thou­sands of feet be­low. “Help,” she screamed, again flail­ing her arms, un­til her

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