On Thursday, Doctor Michiel van der Merwe will be on his way to Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.  He will attempt to climb to basecamp in aid of S A Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind (GDA).  It is not surprising that Doctor van der Merwe’s life motto reads: “It is not about your altitude, it is about your attitude.”

He and his wife, Liesbeth, have been involved with the Association since they first became Puppy Raisers in 2011.  Puppy Raisers are special volunteers who welcome a seven week old puppy into their hearts and homes.  Puppy Raisers play a vital role in preparing the pup for life as a working dog and need to ensure that the pup is exposed to a variety of environments and situations.  They have the responsibility of laying the foundation for formal training.

His love for the work of the Association has seen him summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenia and cycle from Pretoria to Cape Town in their aid.  Mount Everest is next on the list to conquer.

Everest will be the longest climb (roughly 120 kilometres) – approximately 13 days during which you walk very slowly due to a lack of oxygen in the air.  Temperatures of about -15 to -25 degrees can be expected, depending on the weather.

One of the main challenges faced by climbers is Altitude sickness.  Michiel has experienced this first hand when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. In order to ensure your body gets the necessary oxygen, one must drink a lot of water daily.  It also becomes quite a challenge to eat anything above 4000 meters as your body has difficulty absorbing food.

Doctor Michiel van der Merwe is Executive Director of Stabilis Treatment Centre, a rehabilitation centre for substance-addicted persons. It is important to him to not teach only, but to also live a positive lifestyle and overcome your daily challenges.  He firmly believes that your attitude makes all the difference!


It costs roughly R 100 000 to raise and train a Guide, Service or Autism Support Dog! Should you wish to obtain more information regarding the work of the Association, please contact Juliette Powell at 011 705 3512 /


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