Back in the heady golden haze that followed January exams, nothing seemed like a better way to spend my summer than scaling the dizzying heights of Kilimanjaro for charity. The £2200 required sponsorship seemed more of an inconvenience than a challenge, and any thoughts of fundraising were buried deep beneath of a wave of excitement at conquering the world’s highest freestanding mountain. Even as the months rolled past and Blanch, our esteemed expedition leader, began to step up the intensity of his emails, my blasé attitude showed no sign of abating. Revising was more important. Exams were more important. Isis was more important.
Only when summer term finished, exactly 58 days before I was due to set off, did the full magnitude of what I had agreed to take on hit me square in the face. And boy did it hurt. All of a sudden I realised that £2200 is an awful lot of money. In student terms, it is equivalent to 1467 pints in the mix, 733 of Luigi’s finest pizzas, or over 10 years of week-in, week-out entry to Ocean. And I had no idea where any of it was coming from.
My term-time veneer of nonchalant confidence fell apart faster than a chicken Joe’s wrap, panic set in, and before long I was doing the only thing a 19 year old in such a situation can conceivably do – phoning the parents. In Kenya. “Man up kiddo!” they told me. “You’re on your own for the next couple of weeks but I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
And so with their endorsement ringing in my ears, I began my career as a fundraiser. The first step was to pester and beg all of my friends. Phones, texts, emails – the 21st century had handed me the tools to excavate donations from even the tightest of fists, and as much to shut me up as anything else my friends rose to the task magnificently. It may have cost me my social life (once word got round, people just stopped answering their phones to me) but the donations began to pour in.
Organising official events proved more difficult. I had mostly spectacularly underestimated the amount of red tape and bureaucracy involved in doing anything in this country. There are only so many rejections from a council a man can take – not even Dudley would accept me collecting on its streets.
Then, just as morale was beginning to wane, the parental reinforcements returned from Kenya and hope sprang eternal once again. “Write to anyone famous who you have even the slightest connection with,” they suggested. Brilliant… inspirational… but sadly unsuccessful. Not even Chelsea footballer Dan Sturridge, with whom I played for 6 months as an 11 year old, had anything to spare for his old mucker. In fact all I had to show for my 40 letters was a teddy bear from Cadbury’s and a healthy debt to my parent’s stamp drawer.
It seemed I would therefore have to raise the rest of the money through good old fashioned hard work. So I assembled a crack team of my most trusted and unemployed friends and together we embarked upon a crazily relentless period of shaking tins in streets, packing bags, frantically writing letters, giving speeches, raffling teddies, putting up posters at work and going door-to-door. And, improbably enough, it worked! And so it was that on August 3rd 2009, I reached my target, with a week to spare.
So, at the time of writing, all that remains is to clamber up the pesky thing! But I figure that if Chris Moyles can do it, how hard can it be? Altitude sickness, fatigue, blisters, coldness seem like nothing compared to the sheer terror that gripped me for most of July every time I thought of my pitiful total. Though I probably won’t be saying this when I’m halfway up, I honestly think the real mountain to climb was the fundraiser, and that’s now done. So bring on Kili!