It’s been 12 long months since we embarked on an epic (and sometimes challenging) trek adventure to New Zealand’s lush South Island
When we decided to join “Trek for my Rafiki” to raise funds for one of the young girls at Rafiki *Elizabeth I knew it would be physically challenging but nothing could have prepared me for the emotional journey, the love, the friendship and the table climbing challenge (that’s a long story).
I knew too well the story of *Elizabeth, the abuse and trauma she had been exposed too, her arrival at Rafiki, the ongoing therapy to help her work through her past, her nightmares and the decline of her mental health. Some trauma takes a lifetime to heal. Co founder and my best mate Sarah had also told me in detail the options for *Elizabeth should we not be able to care for her long term, none of which would protect her and support her fragile state, so the only option was to almost die climbing mountains to raise money for her forever home at Rafiki Mwema’s Doyle Farm.
Rich (my husbo) and I arrived a few days early into Queenstown and started to explore. This land was absolutely stunning and calming (even the bustling tourist town) I just felt completely at ease and took on adventures (like zip lining through some crazy ass trees at stupid heights) that I would normally avoid at alllllll costs. And the adventure had just begun.
On our second night the crew arrived and it was a diverse group from all walks of life but all there for *Elizabeth – I well up thinking about that first night and realising how important this was. And what got me right in the feels is when Sarah decided to do the trek. Having survived a horrific car accident 15 years ago and many broken bones and surgeries later she continues to experience extreme pain and discomfort. She trained tirelessly and pushed through the pain so she could show *Elizabeth and all the children at Rafiki her love and commitment to them. Ok now I am crying!
The next nine days were spent huffing and puffing up mountains (well that was just me) to reach the most breathtaking views, freezing lakes (with one or two of my fellow trekkers insisting on going for a dip) that go for days and cheeky native birds that put on quite a show while their mate attempted to steal whatever wasn’t tied down.
At Milford Sound we kayaked across the still waters to waterfalls and raced playful seals. We spent two nights at Gunn Camp which was quirky and fantastic and the group really enjoyed our stay despite the bugs 😊.
At Fox Glacier we camped at the base of the mountain and listened to crashing landslides all night (I didn’t get much sleep) but it was beautiful. I gave the 3000 steps a miss and went to the pub – it was the only time I took a get out of jail free card. However I didn’t opt out of the helicopter ride to the top of the Glacier where we hiked and explored an ice cave 65 metres down – this was well out of my comfort zone and I loved every minute.
Whether we were walking, driving, drinking or climbing around tables (again long story) we were talking about Rafik and the work they do, the need for this work and most of all our *Elizabeth. And if we weren’t talking about her I was thinking about her. About why she had been exposed to such horrific childhood just because of where she was born, that she was robbed of being a kid, that she will be haunted with this forever. And it got me up every mountain. Sometimes I would be sobbing by the time we got to the top. I was sore, I had trouble getting air and I felt despair and inspiration all at once, I was so overwhelmed so many times during these ten days.
I loved every minute of the Trek, the place, the people, it truly was an adventure of a life time. And Inspired Adventures and our team leader Michelle Faithfull played a really key part in that.
The incredible team that signed up not only signed up for a cool trek to NZ with amazing people but together we raised over $50k. Yep. Fifty. Thousand. Dollars.
A few months later I was privileged to enough to travel to Kenya and join the Rafiki Family at the opening of *Elizabeth’s forever home that they called āhuru mōwai. I got to see and experience first hand the difference this project made and that Rafiki makes for all the Children that join the family, not only while they live on the farm but for the rest of their lives through the outreach program. Seeing what our small group of trekkers had achieved, a dozen people, mostly strangers, joined forces and built this young girl a future. And Rafiki Mwema created the platform for us to do this.
I fell in love in Kenya, I fell in love with the children, with the whole Rafiki Project, with the towns, with the people from all aspects from our staff to some of the children that live in town. I left half my heart there and will forever return to Rafiki.