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HALO: climbing for hope in T&T

Published: 
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Henry Mungalsingh, second from right, after his first climb.

In the early hours of July 20, T&T national Henry Mun­galsingh, who is currently re­siding in the UK, will begin his second climb to raise funds to support a cause in T&T.

Mungalsingh, and his wife, Bi­anca, are the faces behind Project HALO, an NGO group whose focus is to assist with challenges faced by women in his home country. HALO stands for Home for An­gels and Little Ones.

Mungalsingh first climbed for a cause in 2015 when he ascended Monte Rosa in Switzerland, climb­ing to 14,970 feet to raise money to provide a home for the vulner­able and marginalised families in Trinidad.

Project HALO eventually raised $5,544 (TT) towards the home in 2015. On Thursday, Mungalsingh will be climbing approximately 4,000 feet higher while attempting to raise funds for a new partnership, the Elpis Centre.

Mungalsingh will be climbing Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia, at 18,500ft and campaigning to raise $18,500 (TT).

In an interview, Mungalsingh said all of the money raised will be put towards finishing construction of the Elpis Centre, a transitional, safe home in east Trinidad for vulnera­ble women and children.

Between now and the last climb, Mungalsingh has spent a lot of time in preparation but the opportunity for another climb that could ben­efit charity came when Elpis Cen­tre founder, Rebekah Ali-Gouveia, reached out to Mungalsingh’s wife online.

“We live in the UK but we love Trinidad. Rebekah found Bianca and it was pure coincidence but when we talked to her we realised the Elpis Centre was pursuing the same goals we were, in that they were creat­ing a safe place for women. I don’t think they could have been a better match. They had started building this home but they needed money to finish it.”

Mungalsingh discovered climb­ing during one of the roughest mo­ments in his life. In 2014, his father passed away and he was made redundant from his job, as well as a number of other issues. After a period of reflection, he decided he wanted to give back, specifically to his country.

“On Youtube I started looking at climbing videos. I got paid a redun­dancy package, I had an opportuni­ty to immediately go back into the corporate world but instead I went to climbing school in the Alps for a couple of weeks and began climbing more and more.”

They’ll keep climbing until the home for women and children is finished
In his latest project, Mungalsingh has raised $3,300 (TT) so far. The donations go toward in­stalling an electrical system for the home. The climb itself is an expensive activity and Mungalsingh has in the past been asked why he doesn’t take the money for the climb and donate it.

“The plan is to get the everyday citizen to take ownership of the pro­ject. We want to get them to want to see change and to want to help,” Mungalsingh said.

“We have a Facebook page set up with a donate button that is safe and secure. Or individuals can also donate directly to the centre. The centre needs a large number of small donations or some corporate sponsors.

“We want to support this par­ticular home. We work on a project by project basis. We want to specif­ically work with them to complete this home. This is at least a five-year project. We may have to climb one mountain per year as we work our way up to Mount Everest.

“We’ll keep climbing until this home is finished.”

In an interview with the Guard­ian, The Elpis Centre founder, Ali-Gouveia, said the centre was meant to provide transitional hous­ing for displaced pregnant women (aged 18 and over.) Construction of the home was started in 2010 and is nearly com­pleted.

“We have some electrical to com­plete, plumbing, some plastering, some ceiling tiles, one floor area to tile, painting and installation of a gate.

The Elpis Centre, despite being incomplete, has already housed a couple women, but Ali-Gouveia said they would like to see the home completed by December so they could help more people.

“Families are the core unit of our society and healthy families will result in a stable and healthy nation. The saying goes, one can tell the kind of society we live in by how we treat those least able to care for themselves and this includes our nation’s children,” Ali-Gouveia said.

“There will be times when this transitional space and the pro­grammes it will provide to strength­en and empower a family will be the only option a displaced woman and her child has to be safe and cared for therefore, it is imperative that this is completed and made fully operational which in itself will re­quire time, collaborative effort and resources.”