A journey of faith — reaching Mount Everest base camp

William Baartman with Cami Palomo, founder of Avela Foundation.

Each year, an estimated 3.2% of South Africans sustain serious burn injuries and an astonishing 68% of South African children younger than 14 have experienced scalding burns in their short lifetime.

For those who have been victims, it is a difficult, sometimes even an impossible, mountain to climb, but for God, the ashes left by a devastating fire, a burned body, is an opportunity to showcase His glory and to bring healing.

William Baartman’s story is a testament to that. He will even attempt to reach the base camp of Mount Everest this year, showing those, who walk in his shoes, that there is hope.

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At the mere age of 3 years old, William sustained burn wounds over 75% of his body, and lost his younger sister Grace, in a fire. His home was petrol bombed by local students. Since then his journey to healing began. “Over the years, God has been a great to me, He saved my life and showed me how much He loves me. I also relate to some of the Bible stories, of how God Almighty blessed them and changed their lives,” he says.

Today, he is someone that others look up to. “When I met William Baartman in 2015, he was a timid, soft-spoken man that barely looked me in the eye when we spoke. William’s story is not of self-pity and hate; it is of triumph, courage and positivity and that touched my soul and didn’t let go. He has become a brother to me over these years and has blossomed into a leader and healer and is changing the lives of the children who are burn survivors every day.” says Lindiwe Suttle, of the Avela Foundation.

Founded in 2015, the Avela Foundation, a non-profit organisation (NGO), is focussed on helping kids, who suffer from serious burns, on their road to physical and emotional recovery. Cami Palomo, founder of the NGO assembled a dream team to accompany her on a journey to Base Camp, on the mighty Mount Everest in an effort to create awareness of their cause.

William Baartman cutting a fire engine birthday cake when he was a little boy.

In collaboration with the Smile Foundation, 12 individuals will begin their journey on April 28 to Kathmandu, Nepal. The hike, expected to take nine days will commence on May 2. “This journey is about overcoming challenges for both the climbers but just as importantly for burn survivors. In this instance base camp is a light for these survivors”, says Hedley Lewis, Smile Foundation’s CEO.

William wants others who face the impossible, like him, to have hope. He hopes to raise R75 000 to join a group of mountain hikers. “I was too afraid to leave the house because I was scared of what others might think and now I’m wanting to climb Mount Everest! I hope to send a message to those hiding from the world, that there’s hope for them, hope they think doesn’t exist,” he says.

He is optimistic about his journey but a bit intimidated by the snow. “I think snow is what I fear most, because I’ve never seen or touched it before. I hope my clothes will be enough to keep me warm.”

He plans to stay motivated by staying focussed on the Word of God. “On this trip I’ll be motivating myself by reading the Bible and praying. It is what carried me so far. I have a spiritual brother from church, we send each other verses, to read before we sleep and also in the mornings.”

With this trip, he wants to give others a glimpse of the bravery it takes to rebuild your life as a burn victim. “There are thousands of burn survivors in South Africa who need to be helped and recognised. I want to show people that our lives are like this hike to Mount Everest base camp. Every day and every minute, we have to take a step forward to reach our destination.”

All funds generated for the cause will contribute to the refurbishing of Kimberly Hospital’s burn ward in the Northern Cape. To help raise money for William’s incredible journey you can donate to the cause at: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/help-me-get-william-to-everest-base-camp

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