City Weekend

Hong Kong domestic helper recounts tears of joy upon reaching Mount Kilimanjaro summit in charity climb

Liza Avelino back in city after seven-day trek, raising money for domestic worker charity

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 9:46pm

A Hong Kong domestic worker has described how she cried with happiness after reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro at the end of a charity climb.

Liza Avelino, 46, a Filipino worker who has lived in the city for more than 20 years, finished her seven-day trek up the 5,895 metre mountain, Africa’s tallest, last Friday morning.

After arriving home from Tanzania on Tuesday, she said she was still recovering from her adventure but was “really happy” she had completed her mission.

“All my friends are very proud of me,” she said. “They said it was a really great achievement. It was not easy for the last four days particularly; it got tougher and tougher.”

Before her latest trek, Avelino, from Davao City in southern Philippines, made two failed attempts to climb 6,189 metres up Island Peak, which is situated 10km away from Mount Everest, in 2015 and 2016.

A regular hiker, she adopted a strenuous exercise regime to ensure her latest climb was a success, walking up and down the steps in her employers’ 21-storey residential building in Discovery Bay, Lantau Island.

For the Kilimanjaro climb Avelino was joined by several Irish hikers, who she said helped to keep her motivated with their “good sense of humour” on the difficult expedition.

She said she suffered some altitude sickness as she neared the mountain’s summit, but was generally in good health.

“We saw lots of people on the way who didn’t make it and had to turn back, but I never thought of turning around,” she said. “Towards the end, I just started to walk very slowly and focused on my steps. When I finally got there, I cried.”

Hongkonger conquers Africa's highest summit

But she said the conditions almost 6,000 metres up meant it was no time for admiring the view.

“At the top, we were very exposed to the wind, and it was extremely cold, so I just took a quick picture and we went down straight afterwards,” she said.

Avelino has so far raised about a tenth of her HK$150,000 fundraising target for non-profit group Help for Domestic Workers.

“I have done my part. It is up to others now if they want to donate, and if they do then that would be great,” she said.

Last month, 88-year-old retired orthodontist Fred Distelhorst from Colorado, United States, became the oldest person to reach the Kilimanjaro summit. Two days later, nine-year-old Zach Meltz, from the same town, became one of the youngest children to climb the mountain unassisted, although there is officially an age limit of 10 for a climbing permit.