Letchworth pensioner ready for Kilimanjaro charity climb

A PENSIONER will scale Africa’s highest peak later this month to raise money for adults with learning difficulties from across Comet country.

Joan Smythe, of Redhoods Way West in Letchworth GC, leaves the UK on Tuesday, August 30 as she attempts a 5,895m climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

The 65-year-old is taking on the five-day challenge to raise funds for Leisure Direct, which provide sport and leisure activities for adults with learning difficulties living in North Hertfordshire and Stevenage.

Joan has seen first hand the work that the charity do as her 23-year-old daughter Amy, who was born with Down’s Syndrome, has been a member for the last five years.

Thanks to the charity, which is affiliated with Mencap, Amy has been able to take part in a whole host of activities including different sports, day trips around the UK, theatre nights and discos.

Joan, who is covering the cost of the trek herself, has accumulated �1,200 for the cause so far but is intent on raising “as much as I can”.

“I’m doing this climb because this year it was my 65th birthday so I wanted to do something to celebrate it,” she said.

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“I thought while I’m doing it I might as well try and get a bit of sponsorship for a good cause. They’ve had their funding cut by 25 per cent so it means they won’t be able to hold as many activities as they could do so they’re now depending on a bit of fundraising to keep things going.

“My daughter wouldn’t have any social life whatsoever if it wasn’t for Leisure Direct - I simply can’t do for her what they do. All the people who work there are volunteers and they’re wonderful people.”

About tackling the mountain, she added: “I like walking anyway. I’ve been going out at five or six in the morning and again in the evening to as many hills in Letchworth as I can, although there’s not many!

“The only thing I’m worried about is the altitude sickness but I’m doing what they’ve told me so hopefully I’ll be OK. I want to try something else next year but we’ll see if I can get this done first!”

To sponsor Joan click on the link at the top right of the page.