After climbing 11 days in temperatures so freezing that he could not feel his face, 22-year-old Palestine refugee Jarah Alhawamdeh has reached his goal of climbing to the Mount Everest Base Camp.
Jarah, an amputee who lost his right leg to bone cancer as a teenager, achieved an amazing feat climbing 5,364 meters up the face of Everest despite the terrible conditions and his body being wracked with pain.
“I am showing people that nothing is impossible,” said Jarah, who took on the challenge to raise money to save his former UNRWA school.
The school, al-Jofeh in Amman, Jordan, is in danger of closing because of drastic funding cuts to UNRWA made by the US government in January 2018.
A terrible snow storm came just after Jarah reached Everest Base Camp. The temperature has dropped to -30 degrees Celcius and helicopters, which were on standby to take Jarah and his fellow climber down from the camp, are unable to reach them. They may be stranded at base camp for at least three days until the weather clears. His plan is to continue down the mountain once weather permits.
In text messages, Jarah has said that he is listening to music of Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar, to keep his spirits up and to drown out the sound of avalanches around him.
"He is incredibly brave,” said Pasang, one of the Sherpas who helped Jarah on his trek.
Jarah began his climb on April 3, 2018, with a group of 11 people. Nine of them had to be evacuated off the mountain after suffering breathing difficulties, but Jarah pushed on determined to reach his goal and will continue to do over the course of the next week.
Jarah was born to Palestine refugee parents and grew up in Jordan with stories of how his grandparents were forced to leave their homes in Palestine 70 years ago. He was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was just 15 years old and his right leg was amputated to save his life. Two years after his amputation, Jarah became the first certified Palestine refugee climber with an artificial limb. He then climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for cancer victims and survivors. This year he chose to climb Mount Everest to save his UNRWA school.