Dream Higher – Climb | Believe | Achieve
Video, Art Direction
We had the honour of producing a film for the NPO, DreamHigher, over the past couple of months. What is DreamHigher? Very simply, it is a climbing outreach initiative that takes vulnerable youths into the world of climbing. But it is so much more than that…
Climbing can do so many things for a person. From a physical perspective, it’s an excellent way to get fit and strong. Climbing requires you to be able to lift and move your body in particular ways, and at times, forces you to bring out as much strength as you can in one go. Being able to scale mountains requires quite a bit of power endurance, while bouldering requires immense short-burst power.
On a much deeper level though, climbing helps you to find inner mental strength and it connects you with a community of supportive people, all there for the same reason as you; the joy of climbing. Being able to challenge your own fears about heights, trusting in your body and fighting through physical and mental obstacles invoke a fair amount of grit and self-belief. Making it to the top, when you didn’t know you could, sets the stage for wonderful mental growth and agility. And being encouraged by your friends and welcomed into a community can give you the support you need to push yourself to do whatever it is that you need to do. So, needless to say, climbing – as this unique lifestyle sport – can have far-reaching positive effects on an individual.
We chatted to the founders of DreamHigher, Margaux Rat and Glenn Moncrieff, about what this great initiative does:
Margaux and Glenn, before we get into what Dream Higher is all about, could you tell us a bit about yourselves.
M: I am a Frenchie, I was raised between the Jura and the Alps by mountain-lover parents, so yeah I have always been the mountain goat type. I came to Cape Town in 2012 to do a PhD in Zoology and fell in love with the city (how could I not with mountains and oceans in your backyard) and decided to stay after my graduation. And now I am a scientist recycled into teaching, a more stable lifestyle blessed with a fair amount of vacations to dedicate to my hobbies!
G: I was born and raised in Cape Town, and am passionate about this city, its people and its environment. I am an ecologist, working on monitoring the impacts of global change on fynbos – the native vegetation in this region. I have been climbing for about 10 years. Climbing for me is a great avenue to combine my love for the natural world and mindful outdoor adventure. I also try to surf regularly and practice yoga. It can be quite challenging to juggle all these interests, work, family and hanging out with my dog.
What inspired you both to develop DreamHigher?
M:I think the inspiration came mainly from two fronts. First, climbing has helped me in the most difficult times of my life. I could see how much I have grown and learnt practising this sport, finding balance, move after move. I became aware of the many uplifting skills climbing teaches to oneself and understood that the practise of this sport could help to empower the youth of Cape Town, particularly the most vulnerable ones. Second, I am a foreigner in South Africa, a country ruled by social challenges and it felt like I was just taking, feeding from its beauties without giving back… Founding DreamHigher was one way to contribute and support the country.
G:I had seen a few initiatives in the city that had introduced surfing to vulnerable youth really make a positive difference to the kids in their programme. Translating this to rock climbing seemed like a natural idea, as the mental benefits of climbing are clear once you get hooked on the sport. I have also found the community of climbers in Cape Town incredibly welcoming, and the collaborative act of solving a climbing problems together is a great way to bridge a cultural divide and connect two strangers. When Margaux proposed the idea of DreamHigher to me I knew straight away that it would be a success and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.
What do you hope to achieve with DreamHigher?
M: We hope to bring fun to the youth who need it the most, but we also aim to have a long-term impact on the life of our members, thanks to the practice of the sport. For us, DreamHigher is more about personal, long-term development than just a once-off thing. This is why we work hard to ensure that the guys on our team build lasting relationships through climbing.
G: We think climbing is a great way to bridge social divides. The journey that you go through when trying to finish a challenging climb is also a great process to learn about commitment, frustration, and success and to grow emotionally.
So how does DreamHigher work? Who coaches the youth?
M: We are a team of 10 coaches guided by Head Coach Advisor Matt Bush, one of the best coaches in the country. The coaches are mostly members of the management committee (Jodie Fenton, Julia Šmigelskienè and Michelle Albertyn), the excellent staff of Bloc 11 (Zoë Baker, Davide Andreone, Chisai Brincat) and when needed by local climbing community. A huge thanks to all of them!!!
All our sessions are rigorously structured with warming up, climbing exercises/games, projecting climbs at the indoor gym and outdoors and then cooling down.
We have different types of sessions to suit the different expectations of our members. We needed to allow the progression of our most committed members and also to maintain the opportunity for other members to simply come and have fun climbing every now and then. We have the following class structure.
- Advanced climbing: This class is organised once a week by Matt Bush at Bloc 11, a bouldering gym. The attendance is mandatory for the members of our core team.
- Social climbing: This class is organised every two weeks, this class is open to everyone and is more about the fun.
- Outdoor day: Multiple times during the month we are heading out to the crags. We organise sport or traditional climbing days for our core team and bouldering socials for everyone. We are really lucky as there is so much to explore in Cape Town and its surroundings!
Could you give us a snapshot of some of the things you have achieved with your youth teams?
M: So much! So much has happened, these guys are not the same than when I first met and told them about this weird sport called climbing. I remember seeing them skittish at Bloc 11, afraid of the looks and judgements. Now they feel at home, confident and they crush!
Our core team has participated to two boulder leagues, a Rock Rally in Montagu and visited many crags around the peninsula to boulder and sport climb. They are now solid lead climbers and safe belayers. We have also pushed hard to put our guys in mentorship situations. For example, we have organised an introduction to climbing event at bloc 11 with other social centres. Some of our youth members have helped to organise and coach fellow youths who also need support and encouragement. We have also participated in an exchange of skills event with a surfing outreach, where our guys showed the surfers how to climb and vice versa in the same day! These events were so successful that there will be more!
What has been the most rewarding experience for you?
M: They have been so many. Every time I climb with the team, I know I will leave with a smile on my face and on my heart, whatever the type of day I have had. I will also remember for the rest of my life the emotions I experienced from receiving the most genuine, touching communal hug from the young surfer kids after the day we spent climbing and surfing together. This was probably the most meaningful hug I have ever received (forgive me, mum, if you read this).
G: Every time I see a DreamHigher climber working a problem with another climber that they have only just met, share the frustration of falling, and ultimately the joy of sending (reaching the top of the climb), it feels really great. Knowing how challenging that process would have been socially for them when we started it reminds me of how much we have achieved already.
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
M: There is always so much to do, but up next is a weekend in Rocklandsas season is coming! Our members are so amped to see the Rhino, the name of the boulder behind our logo.
We also want to introduce more youth to climbing to recruit more climbers in our core team and mix up the genders. We have identified a couple of very talented ladies really keen to join us, but they stay in a very sensitive area of the city and it is simply too dangerous for them to commute independently in the evening to attend our classes. So we need to come up with a transport strategy to collect the youth from these areas and source funding for this expense.
How can people get involved?
There are mainly three simple ways:
1 – show us support! ‘Like’ and ‘follow’ our initiative, an easy yet crucial way to show your support on all our social media pages. It does count to get recognition and for funding purposes!
2 – volunteer your skills and time to our initiative! There is so much going on running such an initiative and it can only be done thanks to generous supporters.
3 – donate financially. In order to get gear, to organise trips and to cover access fees and climbing permits, we always need a flow of cash in our account so any financial contributions is extremely valuable to us.
If you would like to get involved, contact Margaux or Glenn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Margaux and Glenn for starting such an inspiring initiative! We have really enjoyed being part of this journey.
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