Seasonal resident hopes to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro and walk 3,000-mi to Cape Town, benefitting education in South Africa
Warren Handley has dreamed of walking across Africa his entire life.
In January, the 23-year-old seasonal Aspen resident and South African native intends to realize this dream — just after he summits the tallest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, to raise money for children and education in South Africa.
At 19,341 feet, roughly 35,000 people attempt to climb the dormant volcano located in northern Tanzania near the border with Kenya.
But most people don’t celebrate their summit with a 3,000-mile walk to Cape Town — crossing Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.
Handley expects his mission, which is in partnership with the Lonely Road Foundation, to take at least six months to complete.
The Lonely Road Foundation is an organization that aims to improve the lives of orphans and children in need in rural communities throughout South Africa.
Handley first learned of the group when its founder, Thabang Skwambane, spoke at his high school in Cape Town, which Skwambane also attended.
Skwambane told the story of how he founded the Lonely Road Foundation, which involved quitting his job to cycle from South Africa to Kilimanjaro while campaigning to raise money for children’s education needs.
“His willingness to give up everything else to support other people, and also his sense of adventure, grabbed my attention,” Handley said.
Upon graduating from university in spring 2015, Handley decided he would intern at the foundation that summer.
Handley divided his time between the organization’s office in Johannesburg, where he worked on its crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build a children’s center in the rural town of Ga-Dikgale, and working on site with children in Ga-Dikgale.
“The facilities are totally run-down — they have no bathrooms, they have to walk to find running water,” Handley said. “Working with this foundation and in these communities gave me a purpose and something to do it for.”
Upon completing his internship and feeling inspired both by his experience and that of Skwambane, Handley formed his own plan on action.
Less than two weeks ago, Handley launched his crowdfunded campaign, and said is overwhelmed by the level of supportive he’s garnered thus far.
In fact, after merely 10 days, Handley’s GoFundMe page had reached nearly $1,000.
“I expected a few people to be slightly cynical about it. You know, can always expect a few criticisms,” Handley said. “But people have actually been incredibly supportive.”
Not surprisingly, Handley said his parents are “very nervous” but also supportive.
“I think they realize it’s something that I’ve set my mind to and something I can do,” Handley said. “So they’re supportive in that sense but obviously concerned for my safety.”
On a recent Facebook post in which Handley announced his future plans, Handley’s mother, Jenny, commented on her son’s status:
“Dad and I will be with you … sometimes walking alongside you … but always with you in spirit.”
Handley’s roommate in Aspen and fellow South African native, Megan Robert, also interned at the Lonely Road Foundation during summer 2015.
“What they do for these beautiful children is amazing and rare,” Robert said. “They have all created personal relationships with each child as opposed to having a collective relationship, which is very unique for any organization.”
Like many of Handley’s family members and friends, Robert admires her roommate’s ambitions.
“Warren Handley is undoubtedly the most dedicated and passionate young man I know,” Robert said. “It is extremely inspiring to know someone of his age willing to perform a task that many would find completely impossible, all for the youth of South Africa.”
She added, “His desire to do this explains exactly what kind of man he is.”
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