I love mountains! The solitude and wide open spaces! My mother was born and raised in the French Alps, so I think it must be something in my DNA.
This adventure is the fruition of a long journey as an USDAW Learning Representative at Tesco, and has come about as part of Tesco’s policy of supporting local community initiatives and establishments.
I joined the union in 1999, and became a ULR six years ago to fill a vacancy in my store. Along with my colleague and MULR Betty Partridge, we have received numerous union awards for our work both within the store and in the community.
One aspect of work as ULRs is that we are always on the lookout for learning providers to support any instore formal and informal learning.
We identified a need to better understand the needs of disabled customers at our store, particularly those customers who were deaf, or had some kind of hearing impairment. Betty sourced a learning provider of Makaton Sign Language at Birkett House School, just down the road from the store.
Over the following months, several workshops were organised for colleagues wanting to learn basic sign language, and to better understand the day-to-day difficulties that deaf and hard of hearing customers have to face.
Deafness is often described as the invisible disability, and very often leads to confusion and misunderstanding, and sometimes outright prejudice! It’s important we make everyone welcome in our store, and to at least offer some kind of basic communication!
In fact, the workshops were so successful that last year the South Wigston Tesco has been awarded the Makaton Charity Achievement Award, the first of it’s kind for any large supermarket in the UK!
And it gets better. Based on these successes, the Makaton Charity is hoping to roll out more workshops in other supermarkets in the East Midlands and the UK.
I felt it was important to repay the favour, and since I had already decided to go to “The Big K”, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to raise funds for the school as well!
The two big enemies on the mountain are the weather and the high altitude. Kilimanjaro stands at just under 6000 metres, so the air pressure at the summit is half that at sea level, meaning that your lungs have to work twice as hard to inhale the same amount of oxygen.
The majority of climbers who fail to reach the summit have usually underestimated the challenges posed by High Altitude Sickness and the weather. Lack of oxygen at altitude can lead to Cerebral Oedema (swelling of the brain) and Pulmonary Oedema (fluid build-up in the lungs). The average temperature at the summit is about minus twenty degrees centigrade, but if wind chill effect is factored in as well, this can feel a lot colder.
Ironically I will be setting out on his trek at the base off Kilimanjaro in semi tropical jungle, whilst carrying clothing for cold arctic conditions in my rucksack!
We aim to reach the summit on day seven of the climb. However, we shall set off for the summit at 23.00pm the previous evening and we will be climbing through the night by torchlight! We should arrive at the summit just before dawn, and if the weather holds, we will see the sun rise over the whole off Africa…the ultimate photo opportunity!”
I’d like to pass on a big “Thank You” to everyone who has supported and sponsored me over the last few months.
If anyone would like to donate funds to Birkett House School and leave a message of support, you can go to Jerome’s webpage www.virginmoneygiving.com/jeromeonkilimanjaro