By Kirra Grimes
AN Australian nurse, born and bred in Korumburra, is taking on Africa’s highest mountain in a bid to improve cancer care in her adopted second home, Tanzania.
Tania Burgess and four other Aussies are set to embark on a seven-day trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on August 1, in what they’re calling the Kilimanjaro Cancer Challenge.
They’re encouraging people to sponsor the climb to raise funds for the Foundation for Cancer Care in Tanzania, a not-for-profit organisation currently completing the second phase of a state-of-the-art cancer treatment facility in Moshi, northern Tanzania.
A gateway to Kilimanjaro National Park, Moshi is where Tania fell for Tanzania and its people when she first visited the country as a volunteer nurse in 2012.
She’s returned to Moshi every year since, establishing a successful tour company with a local family who’ve become her close friends.
Combined with her first-hand experiences on the ground as a nurse, it was this family that brought home to Tania the Tanzanian people’s lack of access to cancer prevention and treatment, and inspired her to do something about it.
Her Tanzanian business partner’s wife, Chu Chu, passed away with advanced stage breast cancer at the age of 34, leaving behind two children: a one year old and a four-year-old.
Tania’s dedicating her climb to Chu Chu, who couldn’t afford treatment for her illness, and hopes the funds raised will help improve the death rate among cancer sufferers in Tanzania, which currently exceeds 80 per cent.
“Running a tour company, and coming here for so many years, people always say to me: ‘Surely you’ve climbed Kilimanjaro?’
“But I never have!” Tania told the Sentinel-Times while back in Australia recently.
“I thought, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it for a cause, so I’m doing it in honour of Chu Chu to raise money for the new cancer centre, and particularly the outreach work they do to get out to remote villages and get people diagnosed.”
Tania’s recently come out the other side of her own battle with breast cancer, so she takes very personally the mission to help relieve suffering in a country where people “don’t even have the money to buy Panadol”.
“They’re the most lovely people,” she said of the locals she’s met.
“They have so little, but they’d give you the shirt off their back if it was the last one they had.
“If you give them a donation of food, they cook it up and serve it to you.
“Now that I’m fit enough to try and get up the top [of Kilimanjaro], I’m just thinking, if it makes a difference for one person, if it helps one person get treatment, it’s worth it.”
If you’d like to support Tania’s climb, head to the Kilimanjaro Cancer Challenge 2019 Facebook page, or phone Tania’s daughter, Talana, on 0432 455 378.