Sometimes you think you’re giving, whereas in fact you are receiving. I’ll explain.
A few weeks ago, club member Alex Pako who is a volunteer at “Dar Tbexbix” (Sunrise Center) a center for “education and social service” in Birgu, asked me whether it would be possible for the club to take some children from the centre out climbing. Sure I said, why not, in principle we enjoy introducing people to our sport, and in this case, I was particularly willing to help as I had some knowledge of the centre due to the fact that many of the foreign volunteers working there were members of our club.
So there I was on the agreed day and time, parked at the “top of the world” – that spot outside Gharghur just above the Cikka cave climbing area. Within a few minutes Stephen Farrugia arrived as he’d agreed to help out, while Inigo Taylor who was also assisting, was in the car with me as I’d picked him up from Sliema earlier. Soon two cars rolled up and Alex Pako, Lena the kids and volunteers spilled out and were soon wandering around taking in their surroundings and the spectacular view. We got the gear ready and pulled our rucksacks onto our shoulders, then headed for the crag. At this point I met Graziella. I was a bit shocked. Graziella is a sweet little girl who was bubbly and inquisitive just like any other girl about to try an exciting sport like climbing for the first time. She asked me about the sport, and I mentioned that she’d be climbing up the rock face not only being lowered down with the rope. She asked me if I thought she’d manage – and raised her arm to show me her left hand…which had no fingers. I was a bit taken aback but took it in my stride. I told her that of course she’d manage to get up! She smiled and carried on. I spoke to the others about the “situation” and the general agreement was basically that we’d see how it would go and give her every opportunity to succeed with a bit of pulling on the rope and shoving if necessary.
We set up a couple of top-ropes up the easy buttresses and clearly, Graziella was not going to be kept back! Looking professional in helmet, harness and Inigo’s rock shoes, she was first on the rock and soon shot to the top of the crag confidently. No pushing, no shoving. Just Graziella’s power and spirit. Her footwork was good. She adapted when it came to handholds. She liked it. She wanted more!
She came over to the rope I was manning at the next buttress and proceeded to climb that too. A slight hiccough when she slipped at the bottom and swung to the left into Inigo’s protective outstretched arms, and she was back on the rock again and climbing fast. At the top, she shouted at the others to look at her, look how high up she was, as kids do. She came back down and wanted to go again!
The other kids had a great time too of course but somehow for me Graziella was the star of the show. And yes, thinking back to that day, and thinking about her determination to climb those routes, well it puts things into perspective. I came away from that activity with a feeling that I’d met a special little girl who will have many battles to fight in her life but whose courage and spirit will see her through.