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I have always had a passion for the outdoors, and I take the opportunity to get out and explore whenever I can. One of my favorite hobbies is scrambling to the top of mountains; I always find it immensely inspiring to take in the view from the summit. In 2016 I had the privilege of traveling to Africa and climbing Kilimanjaro and Ol Doinyo Lengai. Although successfully summiting both mountains was a significant personal achievement, it was on the way out to Lengai that I had a life-changing experience. We stopped for lunch in a very remote section of bush. As we were preparing, a very young boy (7-8 years old?) tentatively poked his head out from behind a clump of trees. Our local guide explained he was Maasai, and in their culture, young boys were given the responsibility to shepherd their meager flocks. These boys, some as young as 6, would stay out in the bush, alone, overnight, for days at a time, keeping their goats safe from predators, armed only with a staff and long knife. Our guide proceeded to speak with the boy, offering him some of our food and water. He would only accept the smallest of portions, even though we had plenty; just enough to meet his needs for the day. I literally could not imagine living such a life, nor having my kids live such a life. It was in stark contrast to my life of ease and luxury as an American, it almost seemed like we were no longer on the same planet. I know firsthand, how the simplest of things, a slice of bread, a sip of water; things we take for granted where I live, to the point where I wouldn't think twice about discarding a bit of stale break or half-empty water bottle, can make all the difference to a child in an impoverished region.
When I learned of the wonderful work the Save the Children foundation was performing, I wanted to be involved. And when the chance to combine one of my great loves, climbing mountains, with the opportunity to raise money for the Save the Children foundation, I knew I had to apply. I have spent my entire career working on MPL and QS-21, key ingredients in the AS01 adjuvant system that makes our Malaria vaccine possible. And while I will be immensely gratified if that vaccine is successful, I also feel inspired to do more. This is a perfect opportunity to do just that. I am immensely grateful I have the chance to go on this trek, and help the children of Africa in the process.
I have been selected as one of 40 employees from 25 countries, spread across GSK's business, and from all levels of seniority to take on this amazing challenge. Together we will raise $234,000 (184,000 pounds) or more for Save the Children, which will be matched by GSK. In March 2019, we will spend a life-changing seven days trekking up to the 4,550m peak of Ras Dashen in the stunning Simien Mountains, and then visiting a local community to understand more about Save the Children's work in Ethiopia.
But my challenge begins now. I must start my fitness training, and, most importantly, start fundraising.
Thank you for supporting me and Save the Children.