At 5.45 am on Sunday morning, Malavath Poorna, a 13-year-old from Andhra Pradesh, became the youngest girl to set foot on the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
Poorna, the daughter of M Devidas and M Lakshmi — both farm labourers — is a class IX student in an Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational School at Tadawai in Nizamabad district of the state.
Accompanying her on the trip is 16-year-old Anand Sharma, a first-year intermediate student of Anupareddipalli welfare school. Anand’s father, Kondala Rao, runs a cycle repair shop while his mother works as an attendant at an anganwadi in Khammam district.
Poorna and Anand were selected out of a group of 110 students from 300 welfare schools to be sent to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute by the state government under a social welfare department scheme called ‘Op-everest’.
Devidas, Poorna’s father, sounded ecstatic, when spoken to over the phone from Nizamabad. “An official called and gave me the good news. Then it was on TV. We are very happy… my daughter climbed up for many hours on ice mountain and reached the top,” he said.
Anand’s father Kondala Rao said, “It is a great achievement for my son and the welfare department which encouraged him, helped and gave my son this opportunity. I have not been able to speak with Anand as he is still coming down the Everest. But we are all very happy…”
Shortly before leaving for the base camp, Poorna had posted on her Facebook page: “I know it requires mental and physical strength and Mt Everest is tough but I will prove it that I can do it”. The two students were also in contact with their schools via satellite phones through which they described their experiences in real time.
“Poorna and Anand were selected for their physical fitness and skills. They were sent for advanced training last September… Their success goes on to prove that, given an opportunity, students from the poorest backgrounds can reach the highest places,” says R S Praveen Kumar, Secretary, Social Welfare Department.