Pupils studying GCSE and A Level French have been learning about On detonne contre Huntington. This French association is run by siblings, Charline and Theo Pouillet, who complete intense sports challenges to raise awareness about a rare hereditary disease called Huntington’s. Their hope is to advance research through fundraising to save sufferers of the disease, including their father, Olivier.
Every year, they carry out increasingly extreme challenges to exceed their limits and raise awareness among as many people as possible. In the past they have crossed Europe by bike in two weeks, climbed Mont Blanc, and run 200km between Caen and Paris in 48 hours. The most recent challenge that the team took on was to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro with Olivier, who has only 50% of his physical capacity. An independent French film maker captured some of this inspiring trip which our pupils found incredibly moving to watch.
We can see their joys, their sorrows, the difficulties linked to this crazy project but above all, a connection and an incredible solidarity between these people who did not necessarily know each other before this adventure and who gathered around the same fight: to make Huntington’s disease known and to try at the same time to make research progress in the hope they find a cure.
– Agnes (UVI), Elfreda (UVI) and Molly (LVI)
On this occasion, several A Level students had the exciting opportunity to interview Charline Pouillet, the director of the association, about this Kilimanjaro adventure. Well done to Agnes (UVI), Elfreda (UVI) and Molly (LVI) for their excellent interviewing skills and thank you to Charline for taking the time to talk with our pupils. For more updates on this inspirational company, you can follow On detonne contre Huntington on Instagram.
Molly: First of all, I would like to say that your trip is amazing and very inspiring and I’m sure it has helped a lot of people.
Charline: Hi Molly, thank you so much, that’s super sweet!
Molly: How long did you prepare for this trip? I imagine that it caused a lot of pressure on your body and that a lot of training is necessary.
Charline: There are two types of preparation. There is the logistical preparation of the trip (plane tickets, finding the guide, etc.), which took 1 year. And there is the physical preparation; we followed a training program 6 months before the ascent.
Molly: In your opinion, what made your trip more difficult?
Charline: For my brother and I, what was difficult in this trip was the mental load. We had the responsibility of our Dad. If something had happened to him, I would have felt very guilty. For the rest of the group, the hardest thing was the effects of the altitude.
Agnes: Why did you choose to do such difficult challenges?
Charline: At first, I did the challenges for myself, more than to talk about the disease. Sport was a way to deal with all the things that were happening to me. Then, one thing led to another, and these sporting challenges became media events, and we used them to talk about the disease.
Agnes: Was there any emotional significance behind climbing Kilimanjaro in particular? Why choose this mountain rather than another?
Charline: We want to do the “seven summits”, of which Kilimanjaro is one. In addition, Kilimanjaro is pedestrian and not very technical, which was very important for Dad to do.
Agnes: How was the descent?
Charline: The descent was very hard. We reached the objective, then we quickly wanted to return. Except that there are still a lot of kilometres left, and our muscles are very tired.
Elfreda: What touched you the most in this expedition?
Charline: The synergy, the passion that was created around Dad. In his everyday life, he is extremely lonely; whereas in Kilimanjaro, everyone was there for him.
Elfreda: Do you feel that such challenges change the way we perceive the world?
Charline: Yes, challenges are always great moments of human sharing. We meet crazy people, who give us faith in the goodness of people, which is not always the case in everyday life.
Elfreda: Do you have other projects for the future? Do you think that Huntington’s disease is now better recognised in the world?
Charline: We want to continue our challenges, and to go as far as it will take us. Certainly, Huntington’s disease is better recognised today than it was 30 years ago. The gene responsible for the disease was discovered in 1993. Since then, research has progressed and so has our knowledge of the disease.
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