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Tackling human rights on higher ground

MOTHER and daughter Annette and Clair Duffy are facing the greatest challenge of their lives.

Only several days ago they were standing at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro, ready to begin a treacherous climb up 4600m to reach the highest point in Africa – or at least that’s what they hoped.

Each year this natural beauty crushes the dreams of many climbers, causing deaths and forcing hundreds to turn around halfway.

But with every step, no matter how painful, Annette and Clair will remind each other why they made the enormous decision to tackle the world’s tallest freestanding mountain.

Annette is the principal at St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School at Nerang on the Gold Coast, and is also doing a PhD on spiritual leadership at Griffith University.

She emigrated from Scotland to the Gold Coast with her husband and four children in 1988.

And Clair, for the past two and a half years, has been working in Tanzania as a legal advisor for the United Nations’ Rwandan Genocide Tribunal.

While dealing with her intense job and being confronted by gross human rights violations on a daily basis, Clair’s passion for social justice grew even stronger.

It led her to become involved with Aang Serian – a place for homeless teenage girls in the Tanzanian city, Arusha.

Initially this NGO set out to educate young Maasai women.

However, upon making itself known in the community, it soon became a haven for young girls wanting to escape female genital mutilation and forced marriages.

When Clair told her Mum about the home she had grown so fond of, both were inspired to help out.

And with Mt Kilimanjaro right at Clair’s doorstep, persistently seducing her with its majestic appearance, they realised a way to do it.

Earlier this year they succumbed to the idea and, since then, the two have been flat out.

Both have adopted rigorous training regimes – jogging, walking, swimming and yoga – and Annette has been doing 5.30am boot camp sessions at Burleigh Heads.

They have raised $2500 for Aang Serian through sponsorship of their climb, and Annette said the Holy Spirit was partly to thank.

“I was unsure about how we were going to get sponsorship for this, initially I was thinking of raffling a hamper of some sort,” she said.

“So I asked the Holy Spirit for help and I found he or she doesn’t work in mysterious ways, he or she works in very practical ways.

“I won a quilt, which I had bought raffle tickets for at a Catholic Education meeting some weeks ago.

“It had symbols of the Holy Spirit embroidered all over.

“Ironically, the quilt was initially raffled to raise money for Brisbane’s homeless people, and now it is going to do more work for the homeless in Africa.”

Catholic schools on the Gold Coast have rallied together to help sell raffle tickets for the quilt, and many have made individual donations.

One child gave Annette some Lourdes water and a blessed statue from the Vatican, which her grandmother had bought while in Rome.

Clair said the support would go a long way for the girls at Aang Serian.

“At first the money will be used directly for the Maasai girls, for basic ongoing needs such as clothes, food and school equipment,” she said.

“They’re also planning on building better accommodation facilities for the girls.

“Whatever money is left over, if any, will be put into various other projects such as community education and land development.”

Both Annette and Clair agreed that anxiety was an understatement for what they were feeling about the climb.

“But we’ve surrendered to the fact that it’s happening and we will give it everything we’ve got,” Clair said.

Regardless of whether they make it to the top, Annette and Clair will unwind with a four-day holiday to Africa’s paradise island, Zanzibar.

And, they will have made a mountainous effort to enrich the lives of people in need.

Catholic Church Insurance

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