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Dubai duo to scale summit for Syrian kids.

Summary: The duo will be climbing the highest peak in South America - Mount Aconcagua - to create awareness about this temporary school.

Saman Haziq

They will begin their 20 days climb on February 12. (Supplied photo)

UAE residents and trekking partners Olga, 27, a commodities trainer and Mohamad, 30, export manager, are 'stepping up' their efforts to make dreams of Syrian kids a reality.

Around six months ago, Emirates Red Crescent volunteers opened a small learning centre in Dubai Festival City for kids who recently came from Syria. Most of the kids have missed years of education and were unable to enter the local schools.

The duo that believes strongly in giving back to the society will be climbing the highest peak in South America - Mount Aconcagua - to create awareness about this temporary school. They will begin their 20 days climb on February 12.

Since the learning centre is running on donations and volunteers' support, they are constantly in need of basic stationery items - notebooks, A4 papers, colorful pens, pencils, sketching books and etc. - Mohamad and Olga have also started a stationery campaign so that everyone can become a part of this by donating whatever stationery items they can give to these kids.

Explaining how the centre works, Olga told Khaleej Times: "The idea of this centre that has enrolled 120 Syrian socially displaced kids is to teach kids basic knowledge and adaptation to allow them to pass the entry exams and be accepted to the UAE schools. It is a tough and intense one-year programme, both academically and socially. These children have lost their parents, their homes, their country to the war. But one thing they all haven't lost is the hope for better life."

The team

Mohamad and Olga are aiming to climb seven summits - the highest points of each continent - and dedicate it to charities. The duo, hailing from completely different backgrounds, cultures and with different native languages, said the one idea that unites them is that they combine what they love (sports) with a good cause as they believe in giving back to the society. Just to name a few, the two have been running charity campaigns for people of the UAE, Syria, Pakistan, Lebanon and African countries for the last three years.

The challenge

The pair is aiming to reach the top of Mt Aconcagua in about 18-20 days. In the past, the two have climbed Mt Kilimanjaro (in 2016, almost 6,000 metres) and Mt Elbrus (in 2017, almost 5,700 metres). Mt Aconcagua will be the first mountain where they will cross their previous record of 6,000 metres. Mt Aconcagua is the highest mountain outside Asia at 6,960.8 metres, and the highest point in both the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.

Talking about the training the underwent for the climb, Olga said: "On that altitude, every 100 metres make a difference, every next step has lesser oxygen and every day you will be carrying 15-20 kg bag on your back for 5-10 hours so you need to seriously train for this. For the last three months, we have been spending every morning in the gym, every evening on the running or cycling track and every weekend on local hikes - Ras Al Khaimah, Oman.

But the physical training is just a small part of the success. What also matters a lot is your mental strength. "I truly believe that the right mindset is the way to the success. Up there in the cold, with altitude pressure and without basic amenities it can be quite easy to give up. What personally drives me and makes me keep going is the idea of us doing it to help others."

How can you help?

From February 6 until February 28, the duo is placing donations boxes at the Times Square Centre and are inviting people to pass by anytime between 10am to 10pm and donate stationary items. People living in far-off areas or other emirates who cannot physically come to donate can use the help of Uber UAE for free pick-up and drop-off service on February 27 and 28.

Who will benefit from the climb?

M.S., 8, escaped the war in Syria and relocated to the UAE. The war has taken everything he loved - family, home. Yet, the boy remains hopeful and has a dream - he wants to become a doctor to help people.

M.S. has never been to a school and has never had a chance to study. He has now been enrolled in a charity learning centre run by volunteers of Emirates Red Crescent in Dubai. Over 100 Syrian kids have enrolled at Emirates Crescent learning centre who will be helped by the trekking team.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7SYRI
Date:Feb 5, 2018
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