The Victoria Peak, Belize’s second highest mountain with the height of 3, 675 feet it is a true daring adventure and challenge for anyone to climb, especially a 12-year-old boy, and even more so, for one who is blind. But where there is a will there is always a way, and for Rowan Garel this was a challenge he was willing to take.
Rowan Garel and his father Joe Garel took up the challenge to climb the Victoria Peak for a purpose, to climb for the blind and visually impaired children at BCVI (Belize Council for the Visually Impaired). They started training in January 2011 to prepare for the climb which took place on Thursday, March 24, 2011.
Ambergris Today kept in touch with family members of Rowan as he climbed Victoria Peak. Rowan arrived at kilometer 19 at about 4:30p.m. on Thursday, March 24. This was a great achievement in of its own because this is where all hikers in the best shape camp on their first night.
“He was tired but thrilled, especially after hearing a scarlet macaw fly overhead and keel-billed toucans call back and forth,” stated Aesha Garel, sister of Rowan, to Ambergris Today after the first day of climbing. “After a restful night, Rowan and the group pressed on. If everything goes to plan, they should be summiting on Victoria Peak at midday on Friday. Since they are ahead of schedule, the hike will be strenuous but at a slow pace with no time constraints ahead of them.”
But why would a 12-year-old climb the second highest mountain in Belize you might ask? Well it’s simple; Rowan has been with BCVI since he was a baby and being a top student in his class he is a model and wonderful caring boy.
When told about BCVIs struggle raising funds, his parents were offered the chance to send him to the U.S. for a few weeks to attend a summer camp. Although Rowan was excited at the idea, his heartfelt response was, "What about the other kids?" Many of the students and young children in the program come from underprivileged families and are not fortunate enough to have such opportunities. So, Rowan and his parents decided to help raise funds themselves. And so came about the Climbing Ambassadors for Sight.
Rowan Garel and his dad reached the summit of Victoria Peak around 2:30 on Friday afternoon and the first thing he did was to call his mother and told her that he was very excited and very tired. The team summited in just two days - which is a lot quicker than expected and after a short rest at the top of Victoria Peak, they started their descent. They reached the base on Sunday, March 27, at about 10 in the morning and had a welcome back BBQ.
Ambergris Today takes this opportunity to congratulate Rowan on behalf of the community of San Pedro for his great achievement!
“Gracias!!!Feeling como un pavorial! Mi mami esta aqui en Independence conmigo y me acaba de recordar que cuando nos dijeron por primera vez que Row estaba ciego yo no dejaba de llorar y decia "nadie va a querer a mi nene", y miren ahora?? God is so good! Thanks to all of my loving and supportive family & friends, we have a truly inspiration in Row!” – Milagro Garel, mother of Rowan.
We contacted the BCVI office in Belize City and were told that while they have gotten an immense amount of support, they are not quite where they need to be to pull off their Summer Camp. BCVI need to ensure that Rowan's efforts were not in vain; their rehab program is a countrywide one supporting people all over Belize who are blind/visually impaired, at no cost to the patient. Whatever additional support/funds received will go into continuing this program.
"Rowan is the youngest person to have ever summited Victoria Peak and is also the only person with any type of disability to accomplish this feat! This is beyond exemplary of what we at BCVI teach our members who are blind and visually impaired - independence,” commented Carla Musa, Communications Officer of BCVI.
“What most people do not realize is that while BCVI does eye testing, and surgeries and treatment for eye diseases, there is a large part of our Comprehensive Program that is dedicated solely to helping people who will never regain sight. Training, educational support and job placement are key to ensuring that they live as independently as possible. Rowan's brave and selfness act has really inspired the other children in our program who also want to help us raise funds to keep our program running. Our gratitude for what Rowan has done for us is immeasurable. A young boy as inspirational and giving as he is will continue to leave a tremendous mark on our hearts and, I'm sure, on the world."
Rowan is the first blind child to summit Victoria Peak. He climbed for a purpose, to raise funds for the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired and its summer camp program. You can make your donations at the BCVI Belize Bank account 71096, mail it to BCVI, PO Box 525,Lions Building, Princess Margaret Drive, Belize City, Belize (Phone: 501-636-1130 or US Vonage: 504-322-7064) or you can go to bcvi.org and make a donation online.