Big-hearted adventurer Sonia Beagley is still a little stumped about what drove her to fly solo to Timor-Leste and summit its highest mountain to support better heart health for the Timorese.

For Timorese-born Sonia, it was partly the pull of her heritage; partly family experience with poor heart health. But when she read about the work of East Timor Hearts Fund in an inflight magazine, an irresistible idea started to form – summit the 2986-metre Mt Ramelau (Tata Mailau) on World Heart Day to raise heart health funds and awareness. “I don’t know. I just felt compelled to,” she says.

The first challenges were fundraising and training. Getting physically prepared involved adding extra weight training, hiking and running to her already fit and active lifestyle.

To raise funds and awareness, the corporate travel manager from Perth recruited family and friends, colleagues and clients. Sonia engaged and inspired them through personal conversations, events, social media and a fundraising page. Once they understood the impact of poor heart health in Timor-Leste and could see “how much it meant to me” her network was very willing to help.

So far, Sonia has raised more than $5,000. This is 25 per cent of the cost of providing a patient with life-saving heart surgery, and one of the single biggest individual fundraising contributions to East Timor Hearts Fund ever.

Months later, Sonia is still elated. “For something so small as reading an inflight magazine, to think that I have been so headstrong as to make it all come to fruition.

“I think it is one of the most rewarding things without reward that I could do. It is definitely the most rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life.”

Sonia said her friends and family were “ridiculously proud” of her for doing “something so stupid, in a good way”. Her advice for others considering an individual fundraising challenge for East Timor Hearts Fund: “Do it. There’s nothing better.”

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