A leap of faith

Now Bernard Goosen (Bernie) and his “Killies” climbing team have begun training together for their big adventure, to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in June.

Peter Landry, Cameron Smith, and Francois (Frank) Senekal are understandably excited about the experience they are about to embark on. The three of them are going to summit Mount Kilimanjaro – or Killies as they fondly refer to the highest peak in Africa - on the 2 June. They start their trip on 31 May, which gives them about seven days to complete the climb.

So what, one might think, lots of people climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Well this is different. Readers of Rolling Inspiration will remember Bernard Goosen, who was born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and who summated Killies in a wheelchair in 2004.

This time he is taking a team, each with a disability, with him. Peter is paralysed on his left side following a stroke after a car accident. Cameron was born with CP like Bernie, while Frank has an amputated foot.

Peter comes from Port Elizabeth and says his sister, a friend of Bernie’s, phoned him and said, “You are going to climb Killies.”

Cameron and Francois have been buddies since school and both came from Hartebeesport in the North West Province. Cameron’s mom introduced him to Bernie. “I listened to him talking about Killies and knew it was something I had to do.” He then got Frank involved.

While the team kid around with each other during training, there is a serious side to this expedition. On a personal level, Peter, who is 29 years old, says this is the first thing that has got him enthusiastic since his accident. “It is just what I need to get myself back on my feet. I retired after my accident in 1999 in more than one way and I suppose suffer from more of a physiological disability than a physical one. I was just so unprepared for what happened to me. One minute I was surf skiing and cycling, while living and working in Cape Town, the next I could not do anything. This has given me my lust for life back.”

Peter Landry (Left); Bernard Goosen (Middle); Francois Senekal; Cameron Smith (Right)

Training has played a big role in this, as Peter explains, “Training again, doing something physical, feels great and it has already had an impact on my general outlook. Knowing that I am working towards a goal also helps.”

Cameron and Frank, 24 and 20 respectively, are the ‘babies’ of the expedition.

Cameron, although young, has serious reasons as to why he is summating Killies. “Disability for too long has been viewed as a life sentence of sorts – and not the positive sort. I want to tell the world that people with disabilities can do if they decide they want to and anything is possible.

“The headmaster of the school I attended, told my mom that she shouldn’t be too hopeful regarding me as I would probably be filling matchboxes by the time I’m 21. The school was for CP children and I was five at the time.”

It has given him a mission in life, and one he has discovered he shares with his three climbing buddies. “This is not just a joy-ride or adventure for four guys. We want to drawn attention to society’s attitude to people with disabilities. Already we have appeared on SABC and Radio Five. We hope the publicity will continue well after we return from our journey, not so that we can say, look what we did, but look what all disabled people can do.”

Bernie jumps in at this point. “We hope this will be a catalyst to assisting us with our greater goal, which is to go to disabled Previously Disadvantaged South Africans (PDSAs) and teach them what they can do.”

With D-Day approaching the group certainly looks ready. Unfortunately, while they have food, clothing and airfares for Killies, they still need a sponsor for their guides, Destination Africa. “We still need of R18 000 each, but we’re not giving up. We’ll get it,” Bernie says.

And young Frank’s words are prophetic: “People say I can’t do it, so I can and will do it.”

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