Our next #FREDAGIRL is Cami Palomo, the founder of the Avela Foundation, a nonprofit that has pledged themselves to helping the road to recovery for children with burn injuries in South Africa. Cami is originally from El Salvador, and grew up in Miami until she found herself on a three-month service trip to Cape Town in 2012 and never looked back. Cami is the ultimate FREDA Girl, changing the lives of children with her charity, and challenging herself with a second trek to Mount Everest. Find out how you can support her efforts below.
Tell us your background and what life in Cape Town, South Africa is like. What inspired you to travel to South Africa?
Cape Town is very similar to Northern California. It is very picturesque. Great hiking trails, great weather, delicious wines, very friendly people, good surfing, beautiful beaches and lets not forget the animals. You can take a 2 hour flight from Cape Town and go for a game drive and see the big five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo). I retired in 2007 and I decided to start traveling for a cause. Meaning, travel and volunteer. This is what brought me to Cape Town. To help children with burn injuries through the Avela Foundation.
Did you have a mentor in the classic sense?
My mentor was my mother. She taught me to always be kind to others and help those in need.
You are hoping to open an Avela Smile Foster Home and the Avela Smile Rehabilitation Centre in Cape Town, which is truly amazing. What are your goals for the next three to five years?
At this time, we have put on hold the foster home due to complications with government rules and regulations. Too much red tape. Our goals for the following years are to help rebuild a burn unit at a government hospital in the Northern Cape (north of Johannesburg) and to start the Umatter support network, a psychological support network for burn survivors and their families.
The physical pain of a burn is horrific, but the worry, fear, and emotional pain it causes to survivors and their families can be just as difficult. Emotional support is crucial for recovery. Nothing heals people like other people. We are also hoping to produce a documentary to teach our society how to embrace uniqueness. We as a society need to STOP staring and START loving people that look different.
What do you find most rewarding about Avela and your work in South Africa?
Making a difference in their lives. A burn injury is a lifelong journey. We need to give them the right psychological support for them to learn acceptance. Through acceptance and forgiveness comes transformation. Emotional scars are the hardest to heal. 10% is what happened to them but 90% is how they deal with it.
We hear that you are currently raising money to climb Mount Everest, what inspired this adventure? Will this be your first trek? Physical achievements asides, what you hope this journey brings you?
This year in May I did Mt. Everest Base camp and it was a life-changing experience for me so I decided to do it again next year to raise funds for the Avela Foundation.
Imagine the sense of accomplishment of standing in the shadow to Mount Everest knowing every step you’ve taken has raised vital funds to help burns survivors achieve their full potential.
Next year I will be joined by my son and daughter on this adventure because for me, it’s the strength of families that keeps us going no matter life’s challenges. I encourage you to bring your family and loved ones along too, to share this experience together. This hike teaches you many lessons but those lessons are very personal and unique to each. If you want to join me next year please click here.
Also, If you would like to support me click here.
A quote that you live by or life mantra.
“Help the life of one person and you can help the community”
My mantra is “be grateful and be kind”.