One step at a time, Palm Beach Atlantic University graduate Danielle Petrozelli is scaling Mount Kilimanjaro this week to give a voice to the voiceless.
|The seven Freedom Climb participants from South Florida took part in a practice climb in Colorado in September. Among them were PBA alumna Danielle Petrozelli, third from left, and dual-enrolled PBA student Madison Baczewski, second from right.|
Joining her is high school student Madison Baczewski, who is dual-enrolled at PBA, and 48 other women from around the world who are taking part in the Freedom Climb, a project to raise awareness about the cause of human trafficking.
The climbers’ trek begins today, which is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States.
“I just think it’s a really important cause,” said Petrozelli, a special education teacher at Wellington High School who holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and a master’s degree in school counseling from PBA. “Human trafficking, child prostitution and modern-day slavery are all heartbreaking, and they are happening in our world.”
The Freedom Climb aims to affect the lives of 10,000 women through projects that break the cycles of poverty, shame, slavery and despair, according to the organization’s web site. The climbers have all worked to raise $10,000 toward the projects.
Seven of the climbers are from South Florida. The 19,000-foot climb to the top of Africa’s tallest peak is symbolic in many ways, the women said.
“We wanted to represent the struggles that these women and children are constantly engaged in,” said Baczewski, who at 18 is the youngest woman taking part in the climb.
Both Baczewski and Petrozelli learned about the climb through Lori Degler, southeast regional director of partner relations for the Operation Mobilization USA, an international Christian organization that confronts injustice around the world. Operation Mobilization is the founding organization for the Freedom Climb.
Some of the women on the climb are former victims of sex trafficking, Baczewski said. Some have climbed mountains before, she said, but many have not.
At the end of September, many of the climbers met in Colorado to prepare for the journey by climbing Pike’s Peak and the incline at Manitou Springs.
“We’re going to be miserable every single day,” said Baczewski, who began taking classes at PBA last fall and hopes to become a nurse. “We want to feel the pain and the struggle. I’m really praying that as a team, we can begin to see through the eyes of the victims.”
The climb continues through Jan. 16. To follow the climbers’ progress, visit www.thefreedomclimb.net