Making a Difference: Conquering Kilimanjaro

Stuart and Eila Motson love a good challenge; whether it’s climbing the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, or raising RM50,000 to help end education inequity in Malaysia. Hailing from England and Norway respectively, Stuart and Eila moved to Kuala Lumpur with their three children in 2012 when Stuart accepted an assignment as Vice President for the Asia Pacific region at Aker Solutions. Eila, a teacher, trainer and coach back in Norway, now runs her own coaching business based in the UK. Having conquered Kilimanjaro over Christmas last year, the Motsons shared some great advice with us on climbing mountains, metaphorical or otherwise.


What made you decide to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise support for Teach For Malaysia?
We wanted to have a fitness goal for 2014.  After considering various options, we decided that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro would be a cool and exciting challenge. To make the climb more meaningful and provide additional motivation, we decided to find a suitable good cause. We wanted to give back to the country we live in, the country that we are enjoying so much – Malaysia!

We found out about Teach For Malaysia online and it aligned very much with our strong belief in education equity as a means to improve the future of this generation and generations to come.

As expats we feel very privileged to be able to live in Malaysia, which is a beautiful country with friendly people, amazing food, great weather and a diverse culture. We have all learnt so much by living in a culture that is totally different from what we are used to; the Malaysian diversity is something we really appreciate.

Tell us about your adventure! What were the highs and lows?
The whole experience was amazing. The porters, support crew and guides were all friendly and helpful, the park was well organised, clean, and they were very conscious of taking care of the local expedition members with regular checks on the porters’ loads etc. The great thing about the expedition was that the scenery changed every second day, from the forest area, through the lower and upper alpine areas, through the rocky scree at higher altitudes to finally the snow-rimmed crater summit and the glacier in the crater bowl. Always in the background we could see the summit peak towering over everything!

The major high for us was obviously to reach the summit and feel that sense of achievement after all the hard work and to experience the adventure and appreciate the spectacularly beautiful scenery in the Kilimanjaro National Park.

Yes, there were difficult times. Sleeping at altitude was tough, and the nights could be very long!

What was the most important lesson you learnt from conquering Kilimanjaro?
Don’t be afraid to set goals outside your comfort zone. Set goals, go for them, reach them. Everything is possible in life; just take one step at the time. Giving up is not an option. Keep the goal in mind but don’t focus only on the goal; experience the whole journey and see the beauty in every step you make on the way, and know that your hard work will pay off. When times are hard, reach deep inside yourself; there’s more in there than you think, and finally, take strength from those around you. Nothing in life will ever come easy, so work, live and be happy to have a goal and purpose in your life. It’s important to maintain a positive mindset and celebrate every achievement to stay motivated. It’s worth it!

Why is education important to you?
We strongly believe education opens doors to facilitate equal opportunities, and is a catalyst for change. From experience, I (Eila) know how important it is to have teachers who believe in what they are doing, and can be role models and leaders who motivate, inspire, challenge, celebrate, and give feedback, so students can develop and grow both academically and personally.

It’s great when a teacher sees each student as unique regardless of background, and is able to create an environment for learning and growth, enabling each student to reach their full potential. Education and knowledge are the most powerful instruments we have to create a better future for our children.

What are your hopes for education in Malaysia?
We hope every child in the country will have the same opportunity to receive a good education regardless of socioeconomic factors, school systems or backgrounds. We also hope that students in Malaysia will receive an education that challenges them to develop skills, knowledge, behaviour and understanding so they can become successful and socially-responsible citizens.

What would you like to say to the teachers and students of Malaysia who are facing challenges or “climbing mountains” of their own?
Set goals, big and small. Put up your goals so you can see them (on the computer screen, on your mirror, etc.)  Remind yourself why these goals are important to you and why you want to achieve your goals.  Keep a positive mindset and use positive self-talk. Motivate yourself by sharing and celebrating your achievements with family and friends. Keep a diary and write down your positive achievements, and read them on tough days.

Remember.
Believe in possibility.
Believe in what you are doing.
Believe in yourself.
Believe you can make a difference.
Meet every challenge with an open and positive mind.
Always look for opportunities.
Think outside the box and be creative.
Take one step at the time and enjoy the journey.
Seek support.
If you fail, learn from it, take the positive out it, create new opportunities, and try again and again.
Always believe “I can do this” – because you can!

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Help Stuart and Eila reach their campaign goal by 28 February via peoplegiving.org
Read more about their expedition here.

The entire cost of their expedition is funded personally; all donations go to Teach for Malaysia through People Giving (please note that an IPAY88 transaction fee of up to 3% will be deducted from your total contribution) and you will receive a receipt for your donation.