A CHARITY worker is training for the challenge of a lifetime to support victims of domestic abuse.
Keen hiker Jessica Lunt, who lives in Morpeth, is planning to climb Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, next month.
The Girls On Top climb will see a team of 24 women from across the country tackle the mountain in a bid to raise £125,000 for a new Victim Support strategy group to support men, women and children who are suffering from domestic violence and abuse.
Miss Lunt, who works for the charity in Northumberland as an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate, has already climbed Ben Nevis to raise funds for her local service and jumped at the chance to take on a bigger challenge.
“This all came up through the work that I do. I love climbing and being able to mix both the passion I have for my job with the passion I have for hiking is great,” she said.
“There are 24 of us doing the challenge, including some victims of domestic abuse, but most of the other girls are based in the south and I’m the only one from north of Birmingham.
“To try to raise £125,000 is a lot, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
“It will go towards training and keeping enough workers and volunteers in place to be able to support the men, women and children who need our help.”
The seven-day trek, starting on February 15, will involve five days climbing to the summit of the mountain and two descending.
And while Miss Lunt enjoys hiking, the 34-year-old expects it to be a far from easy experience.
“The mountain itself is very easy climbing, it is more like a trek, but the main issue is the environment and the high altitude. It is extremely high altitude climbing,” she said.
“The way to do it is to try to stay on the mountain as long as possible to acclimatise, but 60 per cent of people who try the climb don’t make it to the top. It is quite daunting.
“It is not a Mount Everest-style climb with ice picks and ropes, but you are climbing at particularly high altitude very quickly and a lot of people get to the point where they just can’t do it any more. Getting altitude sickness can kill you so if you see the symptoms you have to go down.
“It is definitely a tremendous challenge. It is probably going to be the hardest thing I have ever done.”
Miss Lunt is preparing for the hike with daily long walks with her dog Oozy and weekend trails in the Cheviots.
She said: “It’s not the steepness of the climb I’m worried about, it’s the endurance, so if I can keep walking for four or five hours without a struggle I think at least I’ll be able to do the walk each day.
“I’m doing my best to prepare, but it’s probably never going to be enough.”
The other tricky part of the challenge is the fund-raising aspect and Miss Lunt has been busy organising quizzes and raffles at The Black Bull pub, as well as live music nights.
She has also written to local schools to ask if they can support her through sponsored non-uniform days and has sponsor forms in businesses.
Morpeth Soroptimists, who are working on a theme of Ending Violence Towards Women, have also offered their support, and, nationally, actress Sherrie Hewson is giving her backing.
Miss Lunt said: “I’m really reaching out and doing everything I can for my part of the fund-raising side. With a total target of £125,000, it is a lot of money, but we are all doing our utmost to raise as much money as we can before we go to Africa.
“It will also be something we carry on doing when we get back though.
“I’d be grateful for any help I can get so it would be great if anyone can make a contribution, or suggest ideas to raise money.”
The trek may still be a month away, but Miss Lunt can’t wait to get started – and she is already planning more adventures.
“I won’t stop there,” she said.
“I want to do a winter climbing course so I can do more. I would love to go to Mont Blanc and Everest base camp. It would be incredible.”
Anyone wishing to support Miss Lunt can visit www.justgiving.com/jess-lunt78 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org