Andres summits for a cause

Last summer I ran into my friend Andres.  We used to work together, and have shared a few drinks over the years (and lots of laughs). I saw him right before he was heading off to tackle Europe’s largest mountain, in the name of charity.  I mentioned to Andres that I would love to share his story on my blog, and thankfully I am finally able to do so.Andres is originally from Colombia and used his summit as a means to raise money for the education and training of young single mothers in his home country.  I can only ask you to read on, and hopefully you, like me, will realise that in doing the things that we love and thinking about what motivates us, we can find ways to help and inspire others.Pictured: Andres Cruz (on the left in blue) holding the Colombian flag at the summit of Mt ElbrusDD:  Summit for a Cause… Let’s break this into two obvious questions.  First, the Summit.  What did you climb?AC:  I climbed Mount Elbrus, which is Europe’s highest mountain, it rises 5642m (18,510 ft) in the border between Russia and Georgia. The Foreign Office doesn’t recommend traveling there as it is also close to Chechnia. All I can say is that it is a magical place and worth the visit. The Russians are very interesting bunch, especially for a Latin American!DD:  What got you interested in mountain climbing?AC: I am Colombian and was born in Bogota which is 2600m (8,530 ft) above sea level and surrounded by mountains. My father and I would always go climbing/racing into the mountains that are in front of our house. I have very fond memories of trekking up the mountain, whilst everything around me was silent and I could almost listen to my heart beat. The forest would always be wet as the sun had not reached it and the smell of a cold, wet forest in the morning is unfrogettable.Later on in University I joined the mountaineering club and we would go on expeditions in the mountains of Colombia. Odd as it sounds, cooking fondue at 4000m with ambient temperature of 0C and being able to clearly see the Milky Way is my idea of fun. So much so that when I got married, my wife and I went to Annapurna base camp (in Nepal) at 4200m and -12C!  In all honesty I had not climbed a mountain like Elbrus before as I had taken an almost 15 year sabbatical from mountaineering as life had got in the way. Having summited the highest peak in Europe has firmly reignited my passion for mountains so more should be coming soon!DD:  And how about the Cause piece of the puzzle?  Which Cause did you support?I was invited to join the Elbrus expedition and whilst very excited to join I felt that the idea of a 35 year old man with very little prior experience could inspire people to support a cause. The good ole mind over body with a dollop of spirit mix!I decided to support an amazing foundation in Colombia which has single handely helped to reduce infant mortality and teenage pregnancy nationally. The Juanfe Foundation has created a comprehensive approach to infant mortality reduction. Part of its mission is to help reduce avoidable deaths at birth through the creation of a state of the art neonatal unit in a hospital which alone was responsible for skewing the national average.  Once the child is born, the parents sign up to the JuanFe health system which monitors the development of the children until the age of 5 ensuring there grow up fully nurtured and healthy. The most interesting part of the foundation for me is the one that deals with single teenage moms, which they found out were the main contributors of risky births and avoidable deaths. Most of the girls are 12 to 15 years old and a lot had been raped by their boyfriends or next of kin. Being pregnant at 12 in heavily Catholic society like Colombia’s will ensure that you are ostracised, kicked out of your house and thrown into a very dangerous environment where abortion is still illegal.Most of these girls come from the poorest parts of Cartagena, the city where the Foundations operates. The foundation works in these areas teaching girls about contraception as well as enrolling the ones that are pregnant into very concise programs that help them rebuild their self esteem as well carve a future out for themselves. Most finish high school, go on to earn techincal degrees. The very academic ones get scholarships or start their own business. The foundation is with them through all of these milestones so it ensures that the poverty cycle is broken permanently.DD:  Why teenage mothers?I am a firm believer in helping people that want to be helped and when I understood that these girls had to apply to join the Foundation’s programs it made me realise that these girls wanted to change their lives and were taking the necessary steps to do so.  I also understood that every pound, dollar, peso raised would help two individuals: the mothers and their sons or daughters, a double return on any investment made!I have been an entrepreneur for the last 5 years and loved the idea of helping the teenage moms that were particularly interested in becoming business owners themselves. That is the one year program that donors would be sponsoring.Pictured: Foundation JuanFe in actionDD:  How much money did you raise for the Foundation?The goal was to raise USD 8,000 to fund the one year program for up to 156 teenage moms. This being my first fundraising effort I raised half of that and was able to fund 70 teenage moms on their program.DD:  For those interested in showing their support to you, can they still donate to the Cause?Absolutely! I was amazed to see how far the foundation was able to stretch the USD 4,000 I raised so I really understood that like Tesco: every little helps!I am using Conexion Colombia, a Colombia site that serves as the online payment vehicle for most Foundations in Colombia. Don’t worry it’s in English.Should anyone have any problems, please let me know at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address):  And for those interested in charity fundraising, any tips that you could share?Pour your heart into it! Talk to everyone you know and pull all the favours you can to make yourself heard (thanks Donna!). A lot of people are doing the same thing so you need to set yourself apart. Actually I still have a lot to learn so tips are welcomed from people that read this and are experts.DD:  And finally, what ran through your head at the toughest parts of the climb?  Any particular song, mantra, or motivating thought you could share with us?Undoubtedly the toughest day of the climb was summit day. We walked a total of 13 hours, starting at 3.30 am from an altitude of 4000m to the summit (5642m) and back down in the middle of a snow storm so temperatures dropped into the -10s C with a wind chill factor that made it feel like -20s C! The best description is imagine walking inside a steam bath, with a 40Km/h wind hitting your face and feeling that it is freezing and you can’t even see the steps you take. Every time I raised my head to see where I
was, all I could see was snow! On top of this, members of the expedition were suffering from altitude sickness so halfway throught the ascent, we had to stop and decided who continued and who turned back. I carried on but the last 300 meters of ascent are the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.After we stopped to see who carried on, the conditions and terrain only worsened and it felt like I took a step forward and two back. That does your head in. That and the fact that you don’t know where you are going cause you can’t see the road, let alone the destination! At one point I started getting worried, my iPod had frozen so there was no music to help and I thought of the following mantra:“I feel fresh, I am doing this for myself, my son and the 157 girls that found their way through a maze like the one I am currently in”. I repeated this until the last step I took when I reached the summit. Pictured: Andres trying to get a solar charge into his iPod before it froze

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