Like many of us, Adelaide nurse Penelope Saywell watched in horror as news reports unfolded in April of the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal, India, China and Bangladesh. More than 9000 people were killed in the devastation, which included several large aftershocks and another quake in May.
An avid mountain-climber and lover of the outdoors, Penelope decided she wanted to combine her passions of helping people and fitness. In October she will trek to Everest Base Camp to raise money for UNICEF’s Nepal children’s earthquake appeal. It will be her first visit to Nepal.
We chatted to Penelope about her goal, training with a 20kg weight vest and her upcoming fundraising event in Adelaide on Saturday 1 August.
What prompted you to want to help the children affected by the Nepal earthquake?
The devastating effects of the April earthquakes were heart breaking to behold. To see so many lives lost, communities reduced to rubble and thousands of years of historical buildings and artifacts destroyed- I wanted to do something to help. Nepal is a beautiful country with a vibrant culture, rich history and beautiful people.
Often with natural disasters it is the most vulnerable who suffer the most. In this case, millions of people were displaced from their homes with no food, water, livelihoods lost and family members missing. Children don’t have a voice for themselves, and this is where important organisations like UNICEF come into play. UNICEF is the world’s leading advocate for children, providing emergency relief and long-term development projects around the world. The work they are doing in Nepal is ensuring that children have access to clean drinking water, shelter, vital healthcare, psychological support and learning centres.
Have you always felt driven to help people?
My whole life I have been driven by a strong desire to work hard, to be generous and give my best. I feel privileged to have grown up in a beautiful, safe country, with good health and all the opportunity of life. I want to pass that on and uplift those around me.
What other challenges have you undertaken?
I was born in New Zealand and grew up climbing mountains there, so it has always been a passion! My favourite trip was to Tanzania last year where I went on Safari and spent some time in Zanzibar. To visit the African plains and witness these majestic animals in their natural environment was incredible. It was a truly enlightening experience.
How are you training for the trek to Everest Base Camp?
Fitness has always been a part of my life - it is what keeps me sane and balanced. My training for this trip started months ago, and has been multi-faceted to keep my body dynamic and agile, and my brain engaged. I have included High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), strength training, yoga, squash, and of course cardio (swimming and running/walking). As there are no real mountains in Adelaide I regularly hike or run Mt Lofty, Morialta Conservation Park and the Marion Coastal Walk (Many, many stairs)
The final 12 weeks of my training will focus on cardiovascular fitness and conditioning - using a 10 to 20kg weight vest.
What do you expect to be the most challenging aspect of the trip?
As we travel through the country I expect some of the images of the destroyed communities to be confronting. To see the devastation throughout country first-hand will be very challenging. But I also look forward to seeing people coming together and rebuilding their lives.
I am very much looking forward to the physical challenge of this trek. There is always the possibility of altitude sickness - you never quite know how your body will respond to the altitude and the decreased oxygen levels. All I can do to prepare is train hard and hope for the best.
Are you travelling solo?
I often travel solo, but this trip will be with 10 other people and has been organised by the wonderful team at Inspired Adventures whose philosophy it is to give back to the communities that we have the privilege to visit.
What can people expect at your Feast for Humanity fundraising event at Unley Town Hall on Saturday 1 August?
It will be a three-course banquet style dinner. Think lamb on a spit, delicious cheeses, and beautiful fresh produce from some of Adelaide’s best. Our major wine sponsor Hither & Yon will feature with a selection of wines available for purchase throughout the evening, together with ale sponsor Vale Brewing. We have a silent auction, some exciting live artists, a wine wall and music.
Auction items include a 10-class pass from Aleenta Barre, artwork by the beautiful Leah Grant, premium wine glasses by Riedel, a yoga package by Lulu Lemon, towels by Kip & Co, products by EcoStore, an entertainment pack from Universal Studios and so many more.
Feast for Humanity will be held at Unley Town Hall on Saturday 1 August from 6.30pm - book your tickets here. Alternatively, you can donate to Penelope's efforts here.
Aleena Barre is a proud supporter of Feast for Humantity.