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Engineer, Adventure-seeker

Friday, May 31, 2019 by Ian Buhagiar

Engineer, Adventure-seeker

Ian Buhagiar

Years on Earth – 34
Years at Melita – 4
Corporate Solutions Manager

One of the greatest achievements of my life was definitely summiting Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest free-standing mountain in the world. I did this expedition as part of the Kilimanjaro Challenge Team, which also raised funds for a project in Ethiopia, specifically a school for children with disabilities.

Mount Kilimanjaro has an elevation of almost 6,000m and is no easy achievement – we spent 6 days climbing up and 2 days coming down. Definitely, the toughest part was summit night – the last feat before reaching Uhuru Peak. Just before midnight, we started our ascent from Barafu Camp (at an elevation of 4600m) and had to face a very steep incline in very low temperatures. This ordeal took over 8 hours and we finally summited at around 9 in the morning.
At such elevation, oxygen levels are extremely limited and altitude sickness did hit some of the expedition members. This is caused through exposure to limited amount of oxygen at high elevation. Unfortunately, it is the one factor which you can’t prepare yourself for through training.

In the year leading up to the expedition, the group trained three times a week, taking on long hikes (think 6 hours of trekking), hill training and power-walking. This excluding other individual training to gain stamina. We also had to find the time to come up with, organise and manage fund-raising events to reach our target of €100,000. Finding the time to manage all of this is not easy, but this is the beauty of the challenge – it makes you push your limits.

The most rewarding part of being part of this challenge was certainly seeing the project in Africa come to life. The project was coordinated by Moviment Gesu fil-Proxxmu, founded by the late Fr George Grima, who was well-known for working tirelessly for the poor in Africa and South America. Following our summit on Mount Kilimanjaro, we had the opportunity to visit this project in Ethiopia, see the progress first-hand and meet the beneficiaries. The impact this experience had is beyond words! Without sounding too cliché, it does truly dig into your soul and make you realise just how blessed we are. The children of Ethiopia did not choose to be born there and yet they are deprived from the very bare minimum – access to clean water, food, education, health care and a safe place to live. In Ethiopia, children with a disability are not provided with the adequate care required and this is exactly what the project strived to achieve, by completing a school specifically for these children in Bonga, a town in South-Western Ethiopia.

At the start of our training year, we were just a bunch of people who did not know each other. But that bond grew stronger by the day, because we had common goals – raising enough funds for the project and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. By the end of it, the bond became unbreakable. For such a challenge, having people around you who can trust is crucial, because factors are often unpredictable. When some of the team members suffered from altitude sickness, we did our best to help them move forward. During summit night, my water bladder froze, but my team members were quick to help out, offering me some of their hot water. The challenge comes with its ups and downs and at certain moments you need a word of encouragement or a helping hand to make it through. This is where the bond between team members comes in.

I became interested in the Kilimanjaro Challenge because it hit two birds with one stone – it allowed me to encounter a personal physical challenge while helping out a noble cause. It was definitely worth it!

The company was extremely supportive towards me throughout this challenge and I am forever grateful.

At Melita, I form part of the Corporate Solutions Team, responsible for key customers who require customised connectivity solutions over fibre and data centre services. Before joining Melita four years ago, I worked for another telecommunications company.

At the office, I focus on finding solutions, but away from the office I’m always on the lookout for another personal challenge. Who knows what’s next?

Ian Buhagiar

Ian Buhagiar