Justin Malczewski and Vern D’Souza were part of a group of nine climbers to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro last month.

Justin Malczewski and Vern D’Souza were part of a group of nine climbers to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro last month.

Star of Sea parents plant their flag on Kilimanjaro

South Surrey duo scale peak of Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro

The cheers were loud as the photograph flashed on the screen in the gymnasium of Star of the Sea Elementary.

Asked by parents Justin Malczewski and Vern D’Souza if they recognized the flag clutched by a small group of nine climbers, heavily clothed in protective gear, at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, some 300 children broke their respectfully attentive silence and responded with a full-throated roar.

The flag, bearing the name of the school covered in student signatures, returned to Star of the Sea last month, as Malczewski and D’Souza shared the story of their early October climb with students and staff, headed by principal Lesya Balsevich.

Not the least of accomplishments of the friendly rivals – they’re both executives for different telecommunications companies – is that, by climbing the highest mountain in Africa, through the non-profit Summits of Hope organization, they successfully raised more than $20,000 for B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Not only is the climb famously arduous, there were other challenges, Malczewski related before the presentation.

“I suffer from altitude sickness, which is something I didn’t realize before I made the climb,” he said. “As a result I was massively dehydrated, but still I had to climb.”

But he and D’Souza’s message of teamwork and perseverance was an important reason for coming back to talk to the children, they said.

“Educating them makes the accomplishment of reaching that goal a little bit sweeter,” Malczewski said.

“When I was a kid waking up every morning, all I wanted to do was go back to bed,” D’Souza told the students.

“My parents said ‘think about what you can do at school to make yourself feel better and make others feel better.”

This kind of spirit got them past a rainy welcome to Kilimanjaro, Malczewski said.

“When we got to the base of the mountain, it was raining as hard as it does here,” he noted. “Even though you’re on the equator, in Africa, it’s not necessarily warm.”

Although sunshine of the second day of the climb, and the astounding scenery of the mountain – including a glacier wall as tall as a three storey building –  cheered them, other problems became more apparent.

“What happens when you get higher up is that the oxygen that fuels our bodies gets thinner – our hearts started pumping faster to create the energy for climbing.” Malczewski explained to the children.

“Every time you take a step, it’s a little bit harder – you use up five times as much energy when you get to the top.”

“I had to ask ‘is it normal for my heart to be beating that fast?’,” D’Souza said.

No wonder that the 30 experienced African guides and bearers that accompanied their group to the top cautioned them to forget competing with other teams making the climb with repeated admonitions of ‘Pol-e, pol-e, or ‘slowly.’

“We wanted to get to the top of Kilimanjaro as a team,” D’Souza emphasized. “For every 10 who attempt the climb, only four make it to the top. All nine of our group made it. That was huge and teamwork was an important part of that.”

The six days of their climb tested each of them in many ways, they recounted.

One of the members of their group, a former professional footballer from Winnipeg, was having real struggles with sore and injured feet during the second to last day of the climb.

“He stumbled, he didn’t fall, but he stumbled,” Malczewski said. “Our team leader asked him, ‘what do you want to do – do you want to go back down the mountain?’ But he said ‘I didn’t come all the way to Africa to turn around now.’”

The team leader put the determined climber in the lead position, Malczewski told the children, and the man led the rest of the team to the top.

Both Malczewski and D’Souza said personal prayer helped them keep taking “that next step.”

“God’s always there with us,” D’Souza said. “You just have to ask for the help.”

But with the picture of them at the summit on the screen, the pair acknowledged the prayers of others – including the students – helped.

“We were really grateful for all the prayers and good wishes of all the students and teachers and families of Star of the Sea,” Malczewski said.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In 2017, a member of the Disneyana Fan Club curated a small Community Treasures exhibit at the Museum of Surrey about the early days of Disney and the cartoonist Walt Disney. The museum is now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibition. (Photo: Submitted)
Museum of Surrey wants to spotlight local organizations and clubs

Museum now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibit

The cover of Golf 101 with Bob Dimpleton (left), an instructional book created by South Surrey golf pro Mark Kuhn (inset). Right, a page from the book detailing what to do if your ball lands on the cart path. (Contributed images)
South Surrey golf pro releases new edition of popular instructional book

Mark Kuhn’s Dimpleton family returns in updated Golf 101 e-book

Musician Dana Vande is seen in a screenshot from a music video on Youtube. Vande recently released a pro-lockdown track in response to an Eric Clapton and Van Morrison anti-lockdown track.
Cloverdale musician writes pandemic response song to Van Morrison and Eric Clapton

Dana Vande answers a Clapton-Morrison anti-lockdown track with a pro-lockdown track

Surrey RCMP Constable Mike Della-Paolera as seen in a cut-out used for the detachment’s Operation Double Take program. (File photo)
Surrey’s tall ‘Operation Double Take’ cop is on the move

Cut-out of Constable Mike Della-Paolera used in program to curb speeding and dangerous driving

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Delta Police dog retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read