International Women’s Day – Liza Avelino Dedicates Next Climbing Expedition to PathFinders


To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are delighted to announce that we have been chosen as the charity beneficiary for Liza Avelino‘s next mountain climb! Liza is a domestic helper from the Philippines who shared her story and passion for climbing in The Helper Documentary and will be climbing the highest peak in Iran, a 5,671 metres volcano called Mt. Damavand, in July 2019.

Find out more about Liza (and her brutal training regime!) in this Q&A and please pledge your support and share your encouragement by donating here.

Thank you Liza for being an inspiration to so many and for dedicating your climb to our beneficiaries!

#IWD #climb #climbing #mountain #peak #beneficiary #helperdocumentary #FDW

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:

My name is Liza Avelino and I am 48 years old and originally from the Philippines. I arrived in Hong Kong in 1996 to work as a domestic worker. It was the first time I travelled outside of my country. Hong Kong in the 1990s was a prime destination for foreign domestic workers. It offered a better working environment and higher salary compared to other countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. I was one of the thousands of hopeful and brave people flocking to the city to earn a living to support families back home.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MOUNTAIN CLIMBING?

Hong Kong’s beautiful hiking trails motivated me to become a mountain climber. But it started a long time before I moved to Hong Kong. You see, growing up, I was so poor that I couldn’t finish secondary school. But I am a dreamer and I had big dreams. That dream was to travel the world and see places, people and cultures. When you’re ten years old and penniless, those dreams seem hopeless. But then it didn’t cost me anything, so I kept on dreaming.

I’m an avid reader and love to read anything I can get my hands on – old books, magazines, pieces of newspaper, etc. It was this habit which took me to the library one Sunday during my day off, after I started working in Hong Kong. In 2004, instead of sitting at the square doing nothing, the library soon became my shelter from the sun and rain. There I found a book – Discovering Hong Kong’s Cultural Heritage by Patricia Lim, which described self-guided walks of the WWII defense of Hong Kong.

On my next day off, I set out on one of the trails mentioned in the book that leads up to a hill overlooking the city, and the hiker in me was born. I have been hiking every weekend since, I joined a local hiking group and later became a volunteer hike leader. In 2010, I started to participate in the 100km HK Oxfam Trailwalker to challenge myself. During my vacations, I did short hiking trips to Mt Pulag, Mt Guiting Guiting, Mt Hibok Hibok, Mt Kanlaon and Mt Arayat in the Philippines, Mt Yarigatake in Japan, Mt Kinabalu in Malaysia, and Mt Hallasan in South Korea. Those short trips made me realise that I am living my childhood dreams.

With a boost in my confidence and a strong belief in myself, I figured I could do longer trips and higher altitudes. I summited Nepal’s Everest Base Camp and Island Peak Base Camp in 2015 and Everest Base Camp and Island Peak’s Crampon Point in 2016, summited Mt Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa in 2017, and summited Mt Dafeng and Mt Erfeng of the Siguniang Mountains in Sichuan, China in 2018. When I’m standing at the summit I feel a sense of freedom. It makes me feel closer to heaven, literally.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TRAINING REGIME FOR THE UPCOMING EXPEDITION TO IRAN?

I go for long, four-to-five-hour hikes over the hills carrying a 15kg backpack on the weekends. After I finish work, I walk up and down the staircase of our 21-storey residential building with a weighted backpack for one hour every other day. I also do a 45-minute bodyweight workout three times a week on weekdays. I join a one hour bodyweight workout hosted by Pherform at Tamar Park before going to dragon boat water training with my team every Sunday morning. It takes a lot of training, but it’s worth it to be able to reach the summit of a challenging mountain and see how far I’ve come in my life.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR OTHER FDW’s LOOKING INTO TAKING UP A HOBBY? OR TIPS FOR PEOPLE TAKING UP HIKING/ MOUNTAINEERING?

My advice to fellow domestic workers is to determine what hobbies and activities most interest you and don’t be shy to ask around and interact with people, or do some research over the internet. There are lots of online forums for hobbies. There are so many activities that are available in Hong Kong for FDW’s, there are team sports like Touch Rugby, Cricket, Trail running, Painting, Hiking, Volleyball, Swimming, and Dragonboating.

Mountain climbing can be an expensive but rewarding hobby. Start conditioning your physical fitness and try hiking on easy trails to gradually level up to more strenuous routes. You need stamina and a plan. Planning your climbing destination should be a priority. You can make it a goal by saving for it, cutting unnecessary spending, working overtime, and even trading your public holidays if necessary to earn extra money. Buy gear one piece at a time, put up a photo of your target mountain next to your bed, make it a screensaver on your phone and laptop to serve as photo motivator to remind you of your goal. Stay focused and work towards your climb. Then off you go and make it happen.

DO YOU PLAN TO CLIMB ANY OTHER PEAKS OVER THE COMING YEARS? WHICH?

I am always fascinated by Mt Everest. Two other mountains that I put on my list are the

‘7thousanders’ Mustagh Ata in China and Lenin Peak in Tajikistan. Although the time and resources it’s needed seems impossible to achieve right now, I am not giving up on my mountains. I am keeping the dream alive at the back of my heart, for now. Someday, I will be able to climb them.

Those are big dreams, and I know the challenges can sometimes kill the spirit, so to keep my hope alive, I also have a list of smaller peaks that is possible for me to realize. After Mt Damavand, I plan to climb Mt Kazbek in the Caucasus mountains of Georgia.

WHAT TRAITS DO YOU THINK ARE IMPORTANT WHEN CLIMBING MOUNTAINS?

For me it is important to have:

Patience- you need to give yourself time to learn and develop your skills

Discipline- having the self-control and the motivation to complete your task in realising your goal, it can also help you maintain focus when facing problems and obstacles, also it helps you keep calm and collected in dangerous and unexpected circumstances

Determination- this is extremely important to your success. If you don’t have the desire, or the drive to do something, then you simply won’t do it.

WHY HAVE YOU DECIDED TO DONATE FUNDS RAISED FOR YOUR CLIMB TO PATHFINDERS?

I have always been very supportive of organisations who help the less privileged groups in our society, especially women and children. I watched the film The Helper Documentary where PathFinders helped and assisted the helpless Nurul and her daughter in their terrible circumstances in Hong Kong.They helped her get back her dignity and find her way home to Indonesia. Without the PathFinders’ assistance, I don’t know what would happened to her or others in similar situations.

For that, I am thankful for everything PathFinders does to help vulnerable women and children in our society. I want PathFinders’ mission and vision to continue and I would like to contribute whatever I can to show my support to PathFinders advocacy.

Please come with me in spirit and support my journey to the roof of the Middle East by donating to PathFinders and together let us make a difference we want to see in the world.