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22/08/2016

For months, Phumla Jack had mixed feelings about her daughter Nandipha’s impending climb up South America’s Machu Picchu, but she was left highly relieved after a meeting with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz and fellow trailblazer and alumni Dr Bridgette Gasa last week.

ALL READY: Nandipha Jack’s mother Phumla Jack and sister Nonkululeko Jack stand behind NMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz (left, seated), Nandipha and Dr Bridgette Gasa after meeting in the VC’s office on Wednesday.

In just a few days, Nandipha and the rest of the trailblazers set off for Machu Picchu, leaving Port Elizabeth early on Friday morning.

Phumla, accompanied by her older daughter Nonkululeko, met Prof Swartz and Dr Gasa in the Vice-Chancellor’s office, where the latter worked to allay her fears – which had been exacerbated by the death of motorsport star Gugu Zulu while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro last month.

“I’ve always been in two minds about this trip since it came about because my child has never climbed a mountain before and has never been out of the country, but I was excited at this amazing opportunity for her, which is also for a worthy cause,” Phumla said.

“When the news of Gugu’s death broke, I panicked. I started thinking maybe this was not a good idea. I was really nervous. But my daughter is not one to panic, so she has been very calm about this.

“I’m glad I got to have this interaction with Prof Swartz and Dr Gasa because now I feel some sort of relief. I know she will be in good hands and come back home in one piece.”

Prof Swartz, who is a seasoned climber, sets off for Peru next Friday with Nandipha, Dr Gasa and Chancellor Santie Botha and will meet the rest of the 23-member trailblazing team forward.

The team will tackle the 43km Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in a bid to raise R4-million to help 160 academically deserving, but financially needy students finish off their academic journeys.

This, as part of a bigger drive to find alternative funding sources in the wake of the #FeesMustFall movement that gripped the country late last year.

Pleased to have finally met Phumla, Prof Swartz promised to take great care of Nandipha on the 13-day trip.

“Now that I have met whom I must account to, I assure you we will take great care of Nandi on this trip. We are all rookie climbers and as fit and healthy as she is, she will have no problems with the trail,” he said.

Prof Swartz also frankly explained to Phumla the dangers involved in climbing – including the effect of altitude changes and encountering foreign viruses – while stressing that all care is being taken to ensure Nandipha is well equipped.

Nandipha, who has been hard at work preparing for the climb by going on hiking trails including the 5km Lady Slipper trail, said she felt ready and “more at ease” as the trip drew closer.

“I’m ready. I’ve been getting myself acquainted with climbing and will continue training at Lady Slipper and other trails. I’ve come this far and am excited about the trip,” she said.

Prof Swartz and Dr Gasa shared some climbing and hiking secrets with Nandipha, who got her Yellow Fever shot on Friday and collected all her gear from Cape Union Mart.

The campaign has so far raised about R1.7-million, with staff, students, alumni and the general public urged to continue pledging their support to help realise the academic dreams of the 160 students.

Fundraising initiatives are set to continue, as the various departments challenge and try to outperform each other.

Some have been pledging their support through the R43 for 43km initiative, where individuals are encouraged to donate at least R43 to this worthy cause.

To donate, payments can be made either by pledging on http://trailblazing.nmmu.ac.za/ or making a direct deposit to:

Account name: NMMU Trust
Bank: ABSA
Branch code: 632005
Account number: 16-4017-2998
Reference: BD18/your name

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057
debbie.derry@mandela.ac.za