Lindiwe Suttle of the Avela Foundation with William Baartman. Supplied
Lindiwe Suttle of the Avela Foundation with William Baartman. Supplied

Third-degree burn survivor to climb Mount Everest for charity

By Viwe Ndongeni Time of article published Feb 12, 2018

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William Baartman was only three years old when he was burnt by a raging fire after his Gugulethu home was petrol-bombed in the ‘70s.

The incident not only cost him his sister, but it left him with 75% of burn injuries. He lost all his fingers and is partially disabled and deformed in other parts of his body.

But the 45-year-old is not allowing his disability to hold him back, he is raising funds to climb the highest mountain on earth Mount Everest.

Baartman is among 12 international climbers who are planning to use their adventure in May to raise money to help children suffering from burn wounds

By climbing Everest he hopes to inspire other burn victims to carry on living despite the life-limiting challenges that burns present.

“My life changed the day I got burnt. It left me with 75% burn wounds from my head to my toes. My face has scars and my nose is severely deformed. The rest of my burns are covered by the clothes I wear,” says Baartman.

Exactly 42 years later Baartman still has breathing problems due to his injuries. Growing up he had to stop doing activities he loved most and spent most of his time hiding at home.

“I failed to finish school because of the teasing and chastising that I had to endure from other children at school,” he says.

Now, working as the head of Avela Mentorship Programme Baartman hopes to raise R75000 to inspire others like him.

Together with 11 other climbers from around the world, they hope to raise R2 million by the end of April for the Avela foundation - a burns support organisation, which is collaborating with the Smile Foundation to treat burns in children.

Among the foundation’s projects is a R1.5m laser machine, which was donated to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, and the refurbishment of Kimberley Hospital Burns Unit.

The founder of the foundation, Cami Palomo says she has assembled a team to accompany her on a journey to Base Camp on Mount Everest.

The group plans to begin its journey to Kathmandu Nepal at the end of April. The climb is expected to take nine days starting on May 2.

Baartman says it will not be an easy task to climb Mount Everest, but he is determined to take up this momentous challenge in the hope that it will inspire someone else who is giving up in their own life.

“It’s not easy to live like this, but every day I try to build my self-esteem and control my emotions. God has changed my life; my pastors taught me how to take stories from the Bible to help with healing in my own life.”

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