We were very lucky to have Sharon write a guest post for our Blog. Sharon is one of our many valued guests and she has a brilliant story to share with you. My 50th birthday was coming up so fast – how could I be turning 50 already!! I read a magazine called Modern Athlete and it was full of inspiring stories of people taking up a challenge for a purpose. I contacted them and asked how to go about doing a walk for charity and was told it’s as easy as learning your A,B,C’s – choose a charity and choose your challenge. I hit the google button and looked for walks abroad and instantly liked the MacAdventures website and settled on the West Highland Way.
Choosing a charity, I knew it had to have something to do with children and after some research came across the Restmount Children’s Holiday Home that offers groups of 30 children a week’s holiday respite care. I liked it because every person working for them is a volunteer and the children are chosen by local schools as children who could benefit from a week away from their home environment. These children can have suffered the loss of a parent, abuse or substance addiction in the home or parents going through a tough divorce or financially disadvantaged in that they would never otherwise go on a holiday.
Restmount is nestled on the slopes of the Bamboo Mountain in the beautiful Drakensberg area of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. The area resembles the West Highland Way remarkably with the hills and mountains. The home was opened in 1945 and takes groups during the school holidays. I went along in December 2012 as a volunteer helper and never before have I worked so hard but then never have I experienced anything as rewarding. Watching a 12-year boy who had never been in a swimming pool persevere every single day until he could do a length of the pool by the end of the week. And it must be a bit like childbirth – you forget how hard it is because I have volunteered to go again with a group in December 2013. Being a Non-Profit Organisation, they rely solely on donations and their own farming initiatives with their orchids and vegetable gardens. The first group of children were taken on 6th October, 1945. Today it costs R15 000 to take one group of 30 children. Unfortunately, due to a huge fire in 2000 whereby the buildings were all burnt down, new buildings have been added, including a large games room and a staff cottage.
A swimming pool was built with funds raised by the Sani Pass Hotel for the children; some of whom have never swum in a swimming pool. To date, Restmount has provided holidays for well over 20 000 young children. At Restmount there are mountains to climb, a crystal clear river to swim in and pine forests to walk and play in. After contacting Macs Adventure and working with a wonderful and efficient Dan who was so patient with all my questions and changes to my booking I set about getting sponsors per km for the walk. I set myself a target of R1000 and slowly became overwhelmed at people’s positivity and generosity. Suddenly my 50th birthday had new meaning and I was looking forward to it. We set off on the West Highland Way on 1 July 2013 and it proved to be much, much more than ever anticipated.
The accommodation was 5 Star (I don’t mind the mud and therain if I can flop into a good bed after a hot shower and can wake up to my hairdryer and flat iron!). The breakfasts each morning was more than enough to keep you going along the way and the luggage transfer was the best ever. The funniest thing was on the first night we were wondering what was a reasonable amount to tip the person for carrying your suitcase up to the room – well we learnt in the first 5mins that we were it….something that we are not used to in SA – there is always someone willing to do something for a tip! And the next thing that struck us as funny was each morning there would be a row of big hiking boots from fellow walkers at the door and there amongst them would be our two pairs of good ol’ South African “takkies” (running shoes). We chose to do it over 7 days which was perfect and it only rained the first 3 days which I believe for Scotland is very good odds. Temperatures of 20 degrees were the norm for summer – we had left Durban in the middle of winter and it was 28 degrees! We met amazing people and yet also enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of some days walking for hours before meeting another person.
The feeling of satisfaction and elation at the end will stay in our hearts and memory banks forever. We will definitely be doing another walk through Macs Adventure and maybe become a birthday marker for at least the next 3 decades! The staff and the way they handled e-mail queries made the whole experience a delight and my target fell away long ago and we ended up raising more than R60 000!! -Sharon Lotz. Read Sharon's Blog. Unfortunately, Restmount Children’s Holiday Home currently does not have a website as they do not have enough volunteers to support it. However, for additional information or if you would like to support the Restmount Children’s Holiday Home you can contact: Chairman: Mr Robin Hatton (+27 82 301 1197) firstname.lastname@example.org or Sharon on email@example.com Following the inital post of this blog, a reader has graciously contacted Sharon and has offered to do a webpage for the Restmount Children's Holiday Home - free of charge. We are absolutely thrilled to learn about this and will provide an update when we hear more. Ed.