West Hampstead woman summits Kilimanjaro for charity

A West Hampstead woman took fundraising to new heights by summiting Africa’s tallest peak to help vulnerable women in Johannesburg.

Terri Zidel, 31, who works for UBS bank, and her friend Tahlia Levin, 31, trained for four months for the five day hike which takes climbers to the dizzying altitude of 5,895metres – a snow capped mountain soaring up above the burning hot plains of Tanzania.

The peak of Mount Kilimanjaro levels in at just above the height of Mt Everest base camp.

The group of 18 women from South Africa and London raised more than �30,000 to help single mothers and women living in poverty, through the charity World ORT, which is headquartered in Camden.

ORT is the world’s largest Jewish educational and vocational training NGO.

The South Africa branch specifically focuses on women’s empowerment in Johannesburg and it was some of these stories of adversity that kept Miss Zidel going as she painstakingly found her footing on the sheer rock faces.

“Through the charity, I heard about a single mother living in Johannesburg who was looking after her children and barely had enough to eat,” explained Miss Zidel, who is originally from South Africa and now lives in Goldhurst Terrace, West Hampstead.

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“She said, for her, everyday of her life was like climbing a mountain. Metaphorically I was doing the same thing and that’s what kept me going.

“When I heard about the challenge it was a no brainer. I have always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro and I thought it was for such a great cause.”

ORT South Africa helps women who do not have any support or are living in poverty, get back on their feet.

The goal of the charity is to set up a women’s empowerment academy with training courses and education options.

For Miss Zidel, the climb was “gruelling”.

“We hiked for about 7 hours a day in very steep conditions,” she said.

“I thought it would be winding - not flat, but gentle inclines – but at times we were climbing a rock face wall.”

Miss Zidel said that the high altitude made most of the women ill towards the end of the climb but everyone reached the summit.

“At some point everyone struggled a bit,” she said. “As you get higher, the altitude can make you very ill. It also makes you lose your appetite.

“But for a group of girls, we were just starving – we were eating more than we’ve ever eaten. We were licking our plates clean!”

Miss Zidel says her legs are still recovering, but she has managed to go on a neighbourhood run since her first – and hopefully not last – summit success.