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Tania Olivares’ two-tale story begins at the age of 19, when she travelled to Africa to help in building a school and to teach English as part of a group from the International Student Volunteers program. Next, in September of 2016 after beginning her training as a nurse, she travelled to Cambodia to volunteer as a teacher. Three years later, she returned to the African continent in February 2019, this time with close friend Daniella Hernandez, to work in a hospital in Zanzibar in East Africa. This expedition may not have been her first experience in giving her time and energy in a far off corner of the world, but it was one of her most profound as she came to terms with some of the difficult situations many have to suffer and endure. Within six days of seeking donations to help those around them, they raised £7,000.

This brings us to late 2019, when Tania sought to achieve her aspiration of reaching the Everest Base Camp. At the height of 5364 metres, the base camp trek was planned three months prior and was a mission she sought to achieve as a solo traveller in the awareness that this particular trek, beyond not being for the faint hearted, was one that would exhaust her mind, body, and soul.

Tania arrived in Kathmandu amongst a thick cloud of pollution and the wreckage of buildings destroyed by a recent earthquake. Her eye was drawn to the multitude of prayer flags that adorned every point of journey; a sign of blessing above the streets of Kathmandu that was as welcoming as walking through Casemates under a colourful sky. The colourfulness was second to the warm joy of the people that she encountered. After a couple of days in the city, she met with her guide, Raj, from a small local guide company.

Tania slept for three hours a night sitting upright, she couldn’t feel her legs due to the exhaustion.

up the mountainThe beginning of this eight-day fight to the summit involved a trek across a highly divergent landscape of waterfalls, along a steep incline to snow capped tops. Tania notes that the hardest part of the trek is the high altitude with its great reduction in oxygen. Helicopters carrying those whose climb was halted by high altitude sickness was a regular occurrence in the skies above the climbers. The rise to the top included rest points where climbers would spend the night in little tea houses. Tania spent nights sitting around a fire with those who lived in the village and slept for three hours a night sitting upright to give her lungs enough oxygen to recuperate. The first few days took the greatest toll as she couldn’t feel her legs due to the exhaustion. The exhaustion of the first few days would later be contrasted with the elation of reaching the base camp, where she was able to take in the glory of the world around her. It was here that she had a deep and profound experience of feeling the encouraging presence of a person who she had admired but had passed away. Gratitude poured out of her until  it was agreed by her guide, a fellow journeyman, and herself that they would travel further up the unforgiven but majestic incline that is Mount Everest to Kala Patthar, the highest point that can be reached without a special permit.

suspended bridge

As with all her previous expeditions into far-flung worlds, this journey was all done in aid of helping others. This time she collected donations for Together for Better Days, an NGO run with the help of fellow Gibraltarian Dan Teuma in Lesbos, Greece that assists refugees from war-torn places or those in need of a safe place.

In carrying out her trek up Everest, Tania was able to raise £1,300 for emergency response to those reaching the Greek coast and the medical and legal aid that is so desperately needed. Upon asking Tania, what’s next, she confirmed that a mission is in the pipelines for 2021 – but in the meantime, she hopes that you’ll give what you can to assist Dan and his team in their incessant up-mountain fight to provide a dignified space for those who much need a place to feel safe.

For more information or to donate, visit www.betterdays.ngo/donate.

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Head always in the clouds and feet always strolling. I have many books but only two Chihuahuas, which are usually the cause of many late article submissions as they tend to climb from my lap to my laptop. I still haven't been able to indirectly quote 'The Office' in any of my articles, which I feel is a weakness on my part as a writer. However, I know what to do: "But in a much more real sense, I have no idea what to do." Nearly married to the H-Bomb