Apart from being a company that imports and distributes some of the best outdoor brands available, RAM Mountaineering is best known for their expert hands-on advice when it comes to rock climbing and trekking. For over two decades, this vibrant company has not just served the climbing community of South Africa, but also those closer to home through their on-going support of local NPO’s. We met up with their CEO and director, Simon Larsen and Ryan van Niekerk, to put an end to our wondering about the heart that beats behind their contribution to our cause.
Charles: Ryan can you tell us a little bit about your history as a company?
Ryan: So we’ve really come a long way. We started in 1996 with Simon in his garage and we recently just turned 20. Originally we focused very much on climbing and servicing the climbing industry. Back then the outdoor market was very different, very small, and we were one of the main suppliers. It was technical and very focused on climbing. When I joined in 2004 we were still operating out of Simon’s home. Six months after that, we moved here to Old Mill Park in Cape Town. We experienced real provision during that time and grew a lot.
Charles: That sounds like an awesome journey. What would you say is the heart behind your contribution to community development and social upliftment as an organization?
Ryan: Well, we take stewardship very seriously and because of the industry that we’re in, we’ve always looked to put back into NGO’s that are focused on outdoor activities. When we saw LifeXchange, it definitely resonated with what we saw as important for helping to develop youth at-risk. The model Cobus uses really seems to work well. There’s a lot of injustice out there and we, as any business, no matter how big or small, should be finding ways to put back into the community. We are all a part of this country and we all have a responsibility to put back into the fabric of our nation. You can’t just sit here thinking you’re living on an island. We’re connected.
Simon: Personally I think we have a responsibility to share the resources that have been given to us by the Lord. They’re not just for us. My own experience is that if we are willing to help and pour into others, then we become a conduit through which they can flow. On the other hand, if we close it off then we become stagnant. So our responsibility is to flow so that the Lord can use us.
Charles: From your point of view, why is it that Ram Mountaineering has continued to support LifeXchange for so many years?
Simon: LifeXchange is unique in that it has that long-term focused attention on individuals to make the change happen. It’s not just a short-term, feel good fix. I think we recognize that change doesn’t come easily, it needs consistency. And if you’re going to spend the time to do it, you better do it properly and I think LifeXchange does that. The fact that it’s one-on-one and a commitment that lasts for more than a year means that your model has staying power. Your mentors stick around as long as necessary to get someone out of a destructive pattern of behaviour.
Charles: That’s good to hear. We do encounter a lot of people who don’t want to donate to us because they’re looking for short term solutions and immediate results. For example, donating food or clothes is a lot more tangible in that sense. Of course this isn’t bad in itself, every effort counts. However, when it comes to people actually changing, it doesn’t work.
Simon: There’s definitely a place for it. But the problem with one-off’s is that they have a tendency to create dependence. You’re not teaching the person to fish, you’re just giving them the fish. Then they use it and become hungry again.
Our conversation with Simon and Ryan made it clear that RAM Mountaineering has a strong Christian ethic at its core. Judging by how far they’ve come in the last 20 years, they are not just a company with grit and stamina, but also one who upholds high standards of integrity. Their generosity comes from a sense of responsibility to the future of our nation and desire to see sustained and lasting change. We said our goodbyes, thanked them for their continued involvement in our cause and hit the road with a renewed sense of optimism that there are businesses out there who truly care.
For more information, visit www.rammountain.co.za
Interview conducted by
Charles Donald and Corne Krogscheepers
Written by Esther Hamman