A “TOTALLY unfit” mum-of-two is preparing to take on the challenge of a lifetime by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Heidi Nathan, 50, of Coggeshall Road, Earls Colne, was inspired to tackle Africa’s highest peak at 5,895m after visiting the Gambia with pal Debbie Miles in January.

The pair fell in love with the country and its people.

Heidi’s challenge is to raise funds for the Amrita Centre, in Kenya, which is home to 300 orphans.

Heidi said: “We in the UK and other developed countries all have our own pressures and struggles every day of our lives.

“So do these people but theirs is a struggle to feed their families and pay for their education.

“They don’t have free education as we do here. Some days it’s just a struggle to feed the children, let alone provide clean water.

“When I returned I decided to start working towards a project in the area I visited.

“It’s heartbreaking. I have children myself and I know I would give everything for my kids. You see these children no parents, no one to hug them or kiss them when they fall over and scrape their knee and they’re happy with everything you give them.

“They’re so grateful for anything – it’s heartbreaking.”

The ten-strong climbing team, who all volunteer with Lions Clubs International, hopes to raise a total of £100,000.

Heidi is the UK representative in a group which includes Italy, Russia, Denmark, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Switzerland, Poland and Kenya.

She added: “We have a contact in Kenya who does a lot with the centre and he said classroom looks like a war zone, with cardboard on the floor.

“I saw the Red Nose Day programme when they climbed the mountain and a lot of them suffered with altitude sickness and vomiting and I thought ‘Oh my god’.”

Heidi has been training for the climbby concentrating on building muscle.

She said: “I walk a lot – around five to eight miles a day with the dogs – I do a pilates class to strengthen core muscles,

and have a routine in the gym.

“I am nothing special – a just-past-middle-aged mum of two grown-up daughters.

“Not only is it a once-in-a-life-time opportunity for me, it’s a great cause as all us mums get a bit teary-eyed with any projects involving children.”

The money will be used to build four classrooms at the centre and to give children an opportunity for an education to enable them to get a job and to break the cycle of poverty.

So far Heidi has raised £1,890 of her own £10,000 target.

The group sets off to tackle the summit on August 2.

To donate visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/heidiskiliclimb.