Cotopaxi Climb: Avela Foundation to Scale Active Volcano to Benefit Young Burn Survivors 

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A team of adventurers led by Cami Palomo (62), founder of the Avela Foundation, is set to embark on an arduous mountain trek to raise funds for the Umatter program. Palomo, originally from El Salvador but now living in Cape Town, will be joined by seven men, two of whom are from South Africa. 

The team will hike Cotopaxi, an active volcano in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, for eight days starting from May 27th 2023.

The Cotopaxi hike is a challenging and strenuous 8-day trek that involves hiking up to 5,897 metres to reach the summit of an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains. The hike requires acclimatisation to the high altitude, physical fitness, and proper gear. It involves ascending steep snow and ice slopes and navigating crevasses, making it a demanding physical and mental challenge.

The Avela team is hiking to raise funds for the Umatter program on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy. Their fundraising campaign is currently running, and they have already raised over R234 000 towards their goal of R1,000,000. The Umatter program, a collaboration between the Avela Foundation and the Smile Foundation, provides emotional and physical care to young burn survivors in South Africa who are in dire need of support.

Team Avela From left to right Natasha Nicolakakis, Dr. Kamlen Pillay, Niki Callis, Isabella Callis, John Edwards, Roger-michael Raad, Cami Palomo. (Past and future climbers)

Burn injuries are one of the leading causes of fatal injuries among children up to the age of 15 in South Africa. The Umatter program has a growing team consisting of a program manager, clinical psychologist, national coordinator, patient wellness and support counsellor, and regional coordinator. The program aims to help families navigate the challenges of burn injuries and promote healing and recovery for everyone involved.

The Umatter program collaborates with Burnshield and surgical students to distribute pamphlets and kits to communities, clinics, and schools to raise awareness about burn prevention. Additionally, the program has created a closed WhatsApp group for parents and caregivers of burn survivors to provide psychological support, counselling, and peer support.

Palomo stresses the significance of psychological support for burn survivors and their families, given the trauma and emotional distress associated with burn injuries.

 “Burn injuries can be extremely traumatic not just for the survivor but also for their family and loved ones,” says Palomo. “The Umatter program can help address the emotional needs of both.” 

Cami with a patient at the opening of the refurbished Kimberly hospital in 2022. 

With the right support, children with burn injuries can achieve remarkable things.

Avela Foundation and Smile Foundation have previously raised significant funds for the Umatter program by climbing Kilimanjaro in 2019 and reaching Everest Base Camp in 2018, respectively, using the BackaBuddy crowdfunding platform.

The Cotopaxi hike is an important part of the Avela Foundation’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the needs of burn survivors and the importance of providing psychological and physical support to those who have suffered burn injuries. It is also an opportunity to challenge themselves physically and mentally and to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Andes Mountains.

A burn survivor and her Mother at Nelson Mandela Hospital.

The Avela team is calling on supporters around the world to donate to their BackaBuddy campaign and help them reach their fundraising goal. By supporting the Umatter program, donors can make a tangible difference in the lives of young burn survivors and their families and help them on their journey towards healing and recovery.

Support this campaign on BackaBuddy:

Create your own Crowdfunding Campaign

South Africa’s leading crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy has raised over R400 Million in support of various worthy causes from donors from around the world.

If you’re a charity or an individual in need of funds for medical needs, tuition fees or simply want to pay it forward, launch a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy here.

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