The founder of a Hackney Wick charity that tackles knife and gun crime is to summit the tallest mountain in Antarctica next month in an effort to raise £75,000.
Property developer and born-and-bred East Londoner Henry Smith, 56, set up The Wickers Charity earlier this year to provide a safe haven and educational opportunities for young people aged eight to 18.
On 6 January, Smith will put his body to the test as he sets off on a nine-day trek to climb the 5000-metre Mount Vinson, which he describes as “one of the most extreme peaks in the world”.
The entrepreneur, who has scaled Machu Picchu and reached the North Pole in previous charity drives, will battle temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees, 24-hour sunlight and some of the strongest winds on the planet.
To prepare, he has been training every day for the past three months, including an intensive week-long session in November.
Smith said: “I’m doing this all for the Wickers Charity, something very close to my heart as my brother-in-law was stabbed to death.
“This is one of the most extreme peaks in Antarctica. It’s going to be seriously tough – the mountain is nearly 5000 metres high and is completely covered in snow and ice.
“This will be the most physical and mental challenge I’ve experienced but I’m excited!”
Smith said a “huge thank you” to the people who have donated so far, who have helped him raise over £54,000 at time of writing.
The stated aim of The Wickers, which Smith started in conjunction with Hackney Wick Football Club, is “to reduce gang related crime in East London by providing positive role models, learning opportunities, recreational activities and educational workshops”.
Smith added: “Our mission is to show these youths there is a better life out there. We believe in empowering them with skills and confidence in everyday life. We’re here to change and save lives.
“More often than not, these children are left to fend for themselves out on the streets and are often targeted by people older than them who will in turn manipulate the kids to begin to sell drugs on the street, carry weapons and get involved in the large epidemic of gun and knife violence.
“We have recently opened a centre which is known as The Hub, in East London, where we aim to provide the youths a safe and secure place where they can enhance their skills.
“We have weekly sessions which combine professionals visiting from coding, creative design, art, sport, educational support and employ ability skills.”
He urged the public to get behind his Antarctic attempt, adding: “No matter the size of your donation – from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
“I promise that with every penny we will strive to improve not only these children’s lives – but everyone they will come into contact with.
“Let’s make the streets safe again.”
If you’d like to donate, head to Smith’s JustGiving page here