Four South Florida Women to climb Mount Everest in April to “Declare Life, Declare Justice, & Declare Freedom.”
This April, four South Florida women will join 40 other women from around the globe to take on Mount Everest as a part of the worldwide fight against human trafficking. Local climbers Debbie Dingle and Jill Taylor will join Tina Yeager, Director of the Freedom Climb ministry, and Jennifer Klaassens, Vice President of Programs for the Waise Foundation, on this 16 day journey up to base camp and back on the world’s highest peak.
The Freedom Climb is a project of international Christian organization Operation Mobilization (OM) that has been confronting injustice around the globe for over 50 years. OM focuses on prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and development of at-risk women and children, specifically those who are exploited, enslaved, oppressed, and trafficked. OM works among the most marginalized and least reached people in the world and has 6,100 workers from 100 nations, serving in 118 countries.
The first Freedom Climb took place in January of 2012, when 48 women from around the globe summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa to raise awareness of, prayers for, and funds to fight the worldwide human trafficking epidemic. The Kilimanjaro group set two world records in the process, becoming the largest all-female group to attempt to summit the mountain together, as well as the first group of 48 or more women to have 90 percent of their group reach the summit.
Lysa McMillan, a local climber who participated in last year’s event, shares, “”The journey up Kilimanjaro was an experience I will never forget. It was, by far, the most difficult physical challenge of my life… and spiritually, the most dramatic. On summit day, I experienced a level of weakness I’ve never known before. I could barely take 3 steps before I would have to call on God for strength again. It was long, intense, cold, grueling hours when we felt we would never make it. And yet, our “suffering” was only a small fragment of what countless women and children around the world endure daily while being sold for sex or labor. The fear, difficulty to breathe, lack of strength and the constant feeling that you just can’t take another step up that endless mountain … is their mountain every day. But we were blessed to come down the mountain, get on a plane and fly home to freedom. For nearly 27 million in the world, they know no such freedom. That’s why we climbed Kilimanjaro… It was the most extreme thing we could think of to tell the world that human slavery must end.”
When this year’s Freedom Climb excursion to Mount Everest was announced, Dingle, Taylor, Yeager and Klaasens jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Klaassens shares, “My purpose is to be a voice for the voiceless; for those who could not declare freedom in their own lives and climb out of their circumstances on their own.” Yeager adds, “The sad part about it is that, in the U.S., South Florida is number three in the nation. So on a U.S. level, we’re right up there. We, as a community, need to get engaged to help fight and end human trafficking in our own community.”
This local group of women will join the larger group consisting of ladies from nations on nearly every continent including Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Madagascar, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, India, Zambia and the Philippines, among others. Freedom Climb founder Cathey Anderson will also be on the journey, and shares on the Freedom Climb website that she is both amazed and blessed to see her vision become a reality for the second year in a row.
With no natural hills or mountains to be found, the South Florida group is currently training for Everest by climbing the region’s many bridges. The climb to Everest’s South Base Camp, while less far dangerous and extreme than a summit attempt, will still prove quite challenging for the South Florida climbers, who are accustomed to the oxygen-rich air found at sea level altitude. The trek up to 18,000 feet will take the group approximately 16 days to complete; 14 days up the mountain and 2 days down.
Each woman who is participating, including Dingle, Taylor, Yeager and Klaasens, has committed to raise $10,000 for Operation Mobilization, in addition to covering the expenses for the climb itself. 100% of the money raised will go directly to support 34 OM projects around the world that are dedicated to human trafficking awareness, abolition and aftercare efforts.
Klaassens says, “Mount Everest is a symbol of freedom. We actually have the privilege of climbing with some women that are survivors. So when I’m tired and can’t get my next breath, all I have to do is think about these women and what they went through, because it’s unthinkable.”
To make a donation to one of our local climbers, with 100% of the proceeds benefitting Operation Mobilization, visit thefreedomclimb.net.