While some people view a disability as a burden and a life long struggle, others view it as a gift. This is the mindset of 21 year old Capetonian student, born with Cerebral palsy, Michaela “Chaeli” Mycroft.
This Ability activist, passed the 400m mark on the morning of September 1st 2015, two days after celebrating her 21st birthday. The Chaeli Climbers was her crusade to become the first female quadriplegic to summit the peak, and one of only three people with disabilities to do so.
Mycroft and her team kicked off their epic adventure on Friday, 27 August and they successfully reached Kilimanjaro’s highest point on Friday, 4 September. The country was behind her as there was an influx of messages on Twitter to congratulate her and her team. In addition to the rigorous climb, the team is hoping to raise awareness about the mind-set and mobility of children with disabilities, as well as cerebral palsy. Mycroft says she created the Chaeli Conquerors to show the importance of working together to achieve seemingly impossible goals.
Chaeli is making sure that all children with disabilities are reaching their full potential on a daily basis. She co-founded the Chaeli Campaign to support the mobility and educational needs of disabled children in South Africa. Since 2004, The Chaeli Campaign has helped more than 10, 000 disabled children to receive equipment, physical therapy and more.
“Just because someone has a disability, doesn’t mean there should be a limit to what they can achieve,” Mycroft says. The climb will help raise funds to support the Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre run by the Chaeli Campaign, the charity she started with her sister and three lifelong friends. At the time, Mycroft was only nine years old; the five girls were aged six to 12.
Her passion as an ability activist won her the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 and in 2012 the first medal for social activism awarded by the Nobel Peace Laureates. The Chaeli Campaign is endorsed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
“I think the drive of activism has always been a part of my makeup. I was raised to be open about my disability,” Mycroft said recently.
Mycroft is a firm believer that people with disabilities can do anything that able-bodied people can do, whether it be simple things or whether it be climbing Africa’s highest mountain. Chaeli’s quest to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is being led by East Africa expert Carel Verhoef, who has climbed Kilimanjaro nine times.
Mycroft was climbing in a specially designed wheelchair with a team of 15 people helping her on her journey to the summit. At some of the trail’s more precarious points, she would be carried by another climber.
The preparation for this climb has taken the crew close to three years of research, taking into consideration the effects altitude and physical exhaustion will have on Mycroft, as the climb can take a toll on even the best and fittest climbers.
“I’m not stressing about the mountain,” Mycroft insists. “If anything goes wrong, I know that we can find a solution. We have a very strong-minded group of people. I think you need that in order to be successful.”
The climb was being live tweeted on Twitter and her website, tracking the team’s progress in real-time, using the hashtag #ClimbWithChaeli.
We congratulate Mycroft and the team wish them the best of luck on their future endeavors and may Mycroft continue to touch hearts with her story.