Challenging: Orphans Aid International CEO Sue van Schreven on Mt Kilimanjaro last October


A TV doco this Easter Sunday depicts a fundraising climb of Africa’s most famous mountain to mark a Queenstown-based charity’s 15th anniversary.

In Mountain of Hope – screening on TVNZ 1 at 8.15am and TVNZ 1+1 at 9.30am – Orphans Aid International co-founder Sue van Schreven and 15 supporters, including her hubby Carl and sons Daniel and Ben, climb Mt Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.

The Queenstowner’s CEO of a charity which operates in Romania, Russia, Uganda, India, Bhutan and New Zealand, rescuing thousands of kids from unsafe situations and placing them with loving families.

In the 45-minute documentary, Van Schreven’s group visits an Orphans Aid family-strengthening project in Uganda, which they collectively raised about $40,000 towards, before tackling 5892-metre-high Kilimanjaro.

She says she first thought of taking a group to visit the Ugandan project then thought, for fun, they could then climb Africa’s tallest peak.

“Then I thought, what a shame it’s so far away, then I decided, maybe I should look at a map, and I saw Uganda borders Tanzania, and it was only an hour’s flight away.”

Van Schreven, who says she could barely get around Queenstown’s Lake Hayes Track, spent nine months leading up to last October’s trip swimming, going to pilates, walking and climbing.

She was fortunate that an Auckland videographer, Freddie Muller, who was joining the group, offered to shoot the climb.

“He ended up doing an amazing job,” Van Schreven says, running up and down the mountain to capture the climbers’ struggles, and not charging the earth.

“If he’d charged a commercial rate, it wouldn’t have worked.”

Van Schreven says she doesn’t want to give too much away, but the climb wasn’t easy.

“It’s two kilometres higher than Mt Cook, so it’s a big mountain, and the altitude really gets to you.

“It’s not a technical climb, although there were a couple of places that were a bit tricky.”

Van Schreven says she also got great assistance with the documentary from veteran NZ broadcast journalist Rob Harley, who’d earlier produced three docos on Orphans Aid.

Looking back, she says the climb was a very appropriate way of celebrating her charity’s 15th anniversary.

“Climbing Kilimanjaro symbolised the ups and downs, personal challenges and successes we’ve faced throughout the last 15 years with Orphans Aid.”