PICS: Everest slayer Saray Khumalo returns to work a hero
The 47-year-old business executive from Momentum Multiply in Centurion was thrust into the spotlight after becoming the first black African woman to summit the world’s highest mountain.
On Tuesday, Khumalo was given a hero’s welcome accompanied by cheers from the crowd during a celebration at her workplace.
Her inspired colleagues took pictures and interacted with her.
It was the first peak that she conquered which started her on the path of giving back to the community.
So far, Khumalo has conquered Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua in Argentina and now Everest.
Addressing her colleagues, she recalled her first attempt to conquer the formidable Everest in 2014 being halted by an avalanche, which killed 16 guides on the slope.
A devastating earthquake cancelled her expedition in 2015, while last year, strong winds and frostbite forced her to turn back.
“It’s from 2012 when I summited Kilimanjaro and we raised money for a home called Kids Haven in Benoni.
"And there, one of the kids asked me if I really came from the townships because I suppose everyone who has come to help them is either from Germany or somewhere else.
“So that made me realise that we need to set a clear example to our kids that it doesn’t matter where they come from, they too can change the world.
"I decided that I wanted to continue climbing and making a difference, especially in education and literacy, because I believe that’s the way we can make the world a better place.
“In 2014, I went to Everest and raised money for The Lunchbox Fund. Subsequent to that I became a Mandela Library ambassador, and we’ve built four libraries.
"And this time I raised money for an orphanage,” she said.
While her colleagues don't contemplate climbing mountains anytime soon, they were inspired by her strength and determination.
Head of marketing and growth Elaine Holmes said: “I don’t think I’d climb a mountain, but I really think that to overcome your fears and understand and appreciate your own strength, as a woman you actually realise that we are not the weakest sex, and nothing holds us back from achieving our dreams,” she said.
Another colleague, communication manager Fundiswa Mbuqe, said: “You grow up and read about these stories, but the moment that you get to sit down with your national heroes and talk to them, you realise that anything is possible.
"It's very inspirational. It’s not something I would want to do at the moment, but her cause and everything that she stands for is really inspirational,” she said.