A CHARITY volunteer has climbed the highest mountain in Africa in the “hardest” challenge of her life to raise money for those struggling with their mental health.

Vicki Filer, 37, from Southend, volunteers at the south Essex charity Trust Links by helping out with events and being a befriender.

After being given a two-week sabbatical break from work, Vicki wanted to use the time to do something memorable.

So, she decided to climb Kilimanjaro and raise funds for Trust Links.

Vicki returned over the weekend following an eight-day climb.

She said: “It was by far the hardest and most rewarding challenge I have ever taken on in my life, to date.

“The days leading up to summit night were hard in parts but also enjoyable, taking in the various different terrains you walk through, bushland, rainforest, low alpine, alpine desert and arctic desert.

“Summit night was really tough, getting up at 11.30pm in the dark to start trekking at midnight. The terrain was harsh, and the wind was howling.

“Through that time, I went through various feelings such as self-doubt that I might not be able to do this, disbelief this was actually happening, sheer wonder at where I was and just trying to soak in the whole experience.

“But reaching the top was incredible. Being above the clouds at the roof of Africa and watching the sun coming up across the horizon was the best sunrise I have ever seen. It is a moment I will never forget.”

Trust Links is an independent charity for mental health, wellbeing, and the environment with sites across south Essex.

It offers therapeutic gardening, recovery classes, social activities, employability support, workshops, and more.

Vicki added: “I have experienced my own mental health struggles over the last year or two and am extremely fortunate, that not only was I able to pay for access and help, but that I had and still have an amazing support network. Some people don’t have these luxuries, and this is where the fantastic Trust Links come in to provide much needed help.

“I am so proud that I have completed the trek and absolutely delighted and blown away by everyone’s generosity in supporting me raise money for Trust Links.”