Recently Jenni Fogle returned from climbing Kilimanjaro several times in January and February. She launched a fundraising campaign through To Return to support a porter, Rashidi, in his quest to returning to school. Jenni writes the following about her experiences climbing Kilimanjaro and meeting Rashidi:
Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. Standing at 19,341' (5,885 meters) it is a formidable challenge for approximately 35,000 people that attempt to climb it each year. The vast majority of these people work their way up the mountain carrying a light day pack while their porters do all the heavy lifting. A group of 10 climbers, for example, may have 35-40 porters supporting the team. Porters work very hard day after day for very little pay.
Some porters have additional duties, such as cooking for the group or waiting/bussing the dining tent. On my recent trip to Kili, I had the pleasure of working with Rashidi Sefu, a cheerful, genuine, tireless porter/waiter who aspires to be a guide. Rashidi was the first person I would talk to in the morning. He would tap on my tent and say, "Good Morning, Madame. Ume lala salama (how did you sleep)? The warm water for washing, coffee and tea are ready."
After serving breakfast, Rashidi would join the other porters in packing up camp and carrying heavy loads ahead to set up the next camp long before our arrival. We would walk in to camp and find that warm water for washing would be ready, along with coffee, tea and a snack were waiting. After dinner every evening Rashidi would wish us all good night, then have dinner with the other porters, clean up and go to sleep to start again early the next day.
One of our African guides fell ill during my third climb and had to descend. I conferred with the lead African guide before asking Rashidi if he could step in to assist as a guide on summit day. He readily agreed to do this in addition to his porter/waiter duties. He excelled in every way, just as he does in everything he puts his mind to.
Rashidi is one of the most genuine, happy, hard-working people I have ever met. It is impossible to look at him without breaking out in a smile to match his. I spoke with him from the first trip about his aspirations to become a guide. The first step in this process is a year of education at a school in Arusha. Learn more about helping Rashidi attend school in Arusha. He and I are both very grateful for your help. He will not only be an amazing guide, but will touch the lives of so many in this capacity.
To Return student's are readying for a two-day safari to Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. The safari is part of our commitment to well rounded education and is part of our scholarship program. All sixteen of the children receiving scholarships through To Return will be a part of the educational adventure along with several parents as chaperones, a guide and several drivers. I am delighted join the students and share in what will be for many their first safari.
Our itinerary includes game drives, an overnight campout and educational activities. We are of course anxious to see elephant, lion, wildebeest, cheetahs and more. Stay tuned to the To Return blog for photos from the safari and descriptions of the experience from students. If you would like to get involved and sponsor a student on safari, please consider making a donation. $100 covers the cost of transportation, park entry, camping accommodation and food for a student.
- Lindsay (Reither) Halsey
To Return is preparing for a visit to Moshi, Tanzania during the holidays. We will spend time with the students, visit their families and tour the schools as part of our commitment to strict oversight of the scholarships. We are also bringing 500 lbs of new and gently used warm clothing and equipment as part of our gear donation program. The gear will be distributed directly to a group of 100 porters who will receive jackets and pants along with insulating layers. Some of the gear will be donated to the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project which does a great job with a gear borrowing system on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
We would like to thank the Aspen Skiing Company including the Aspen Highlands and Snowmass Ski Patrols for their generous donations along with all of the individuals who contributed to this cause. To Return would also like to thank Delta Airlines who waived the excess baggage charges to transport the gear as part of the Delta Community Affairs program. Thanks Delta!
Photos: Washing and packing gear for the porters on Kilimanjaro.
On August 31st To Return was the featured non-profit at the Roaring Fork Club's Friday Night LIVE. We were honored to be a part of the monthly series. Lindsay Reither shared information and slides about To Return's scholarships for students in Tanzania, before introducing Linden Mallory who shared stories and photos of his recent climb of Mt. Everest. In 2011, Linden climbed Mt. Everest as a guide for RMI Expeditions.
A big thank you to the Roaring Fork Club, all of those who attended and Linden for sharing his experience in Nepal.
To Return is delighted to announce that we received a Google Grant. Google Grants is the nonprofit edition of Google AdWords. The grant empowers To Return through $10,000 per month in in-kind advertising on www.google.com. We're honored to be a part of this wonderful program.
A big thank you to Lori Calcott of webShine for creating our account, applying for the grant and managing it. And of course, a big thank you to Google for including us in their charitable program.
A guest blog post from To Return supporter and Kilimanjaro climber, James Beckerich:
June, 2005! I retired after 36 years of teaching high school mathematics!! To celebrate this milestone I wanted a special challenge. Backpacking and peak bagging were my passions, therefore the lure of a major international expedition was very tempting. Using my climbing network, I learned of a summit & safari package to Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa and one of the "adventures of a lifetime". Bingo, challenge and goal identified!
I booked an outfitter, trained, and arrived at Tanzania's Kilimanjaro International Airport for my February, 2006 adventure. For the next two weeks I would endure a physical, mental, and spiritual awakening. It would be everything I wished for,.....and more. For the next seven days three climbers, two guides, and twenty four local porters shared the journey to the "roof of Africa". My sea level training in Pennsylvania was tested to the maximum as our team acclimatized, ascended, and bonded during the trek to the top. I was in a third world country trusting the leadership and fellowship of the local villagers/porters whose economic survival was connected with my own dream.
On February 15 my physical goal was met as I reached Kili's 19,331' summit. Breathing half of the oxygen I was accustomed to, my body was pushed to the limit and our climbing team celebrated success!
The following three days of safari tours were a mixture of sensual and mental images that gave me time to reflect on my journey. We passed through villages and small cities where the daily struggle of the locals fell wat short of what I took for granted in Pennsylvania. I saw smiles on children's faces as they received small gifts from affluent visitors. I continually compared those images to the lack of appreciation and indifference of many of my former students and colleagues who had many more comforts.
The expedition ended. Twenty hours and eight time zones later I returned home. The "trip of a lifetime" had changed my life. I gained a new perspective of my place on the planet. The recent retiree who wanted to climb a mountain had his priorities changed. Luckily, with toreturn.org. I have found a way to stay connected with my Kilimanjaro memories and have an impact with the people who helped me on the journey......
*I am sponsoring Happiness, a young student who wants a better education in Tanzania.
*I have donated gear and clothing to the guides and their families.
*I am forming an eastern chapter of toreturn.org to provide Kilimanjaro summit alumni and their friends the opportunity to help the guides (and their families) who helped them on the mountain.
To be a part of this new journey back to Kilimanjaro please contact me via email, James_beckerich [at] Yahoo [dot] com.
On February 1, 2011, I visited Eden Garden Education Trust in Moshi, Tanzania. Currently, To Return is providing scholarships for five students at Eden Garden. The scholarships recipients are all the children of guides or porters on Kilimanjaro and range in age from 3 to 13.
Our visit began with a meeting with Patricia Nayar, the Executive Director of Eden Garden. Patricia and I have been communicating via email for the past three years regarding tuition payments and student progress reports so it was great to meet in person. Then, we toured the nursery and younger primary school. Due to space constraints Eden Garden's campus is split into three locations in and around Moshi.
The second campus visited was for the older primary school students. We meet with Samuel Binyanya, the head of Kindergarten and Primary school. Samuel gave us a progress update on the students (happy to report that they are all doing well - happy, health, and working hard) and a tour of the classrooms.
Overall, I was really impressed by the quality of education at Eden Garden Education Trust and am thrilled that we have five students currently enrolled. Thanks to Patricia and Samuel for the tour.
It was warm…very warm. The Muir Snowfield stretched out around us as we climbed upwards. An occasional breeze blew out of the Southwest, whispering across the surface of the snow around us and drying the sweat from our brows. A year earlier it had been cold…very cold. Climbing the same stretch of mountain, the same group of climbers bearing the same loads battled the winds, the rain, and the snow to reach the same destination: Camp Muir at 10,000’ on the side of Mt. Rainier. This was our second attempt at climbing Mt. Rainier together.
In July of 2009, as the rest of the country settled into the weekend routine of baseball and barbeques, we gathered below foreboding clouds in Ashford, WA with the dual goals of climbing Mt. Rainier while raising money for an orphanage and school near Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The storm clouds held themselves at bay in the beginning, not unleashing their full fury upon us until we reached camp where the wood paneled huts were battered with snow, wind, and rain. The shelters rocked under the force, the walls turned to drums as they echoed the clatter of the elements pounding the sides. Despite our optimism and aspirations, in the morning our battle was fought not going uphill but making our way downhill, returning to the lodge at Paradise soaked to the bone and grinning like mad. We were ready for Round Two.
Inspired and undeterred, it was not long before we were organizing the 2010 climb. The climbing team, a wonderfully talented group of doctors and those involved in the medical field, set out to convince others to join. Working with Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) and To Return to organize the climb and fundraising efforts we soon had a full climbing team ready for the second try. Back at Camp Muir a year later, we found ourselves in an entirely different place. Hardly a cloud could be found in the deep blue Pacific Northwest skies, the winds were nothing but a rumor, and the sun bathed the rocks and glaciers, all making Camp Muir a rather pleasant place to be.
Rising in the middle of the night, we set out up the rolling glaciers of Mt. Rainier, our path illuminated by headlamp and our crampons crunching softly in the ice. As the skies turned to dawn in the east we found ourselves far above the landscape below, the normally impressive Southern Cascades appearing quite diminutive from above. We wove our way amongst the seracs and around the crevasses of Mt. Rainier and just before eight in the morning we reached the mountain’s summit, the wide volcanic crater from which Mt. Rainier’s glaciers flow.
It was a wonderful accomplishment, a group of friends returning again for another attempt, this time everyone reaching the summit under ideal conditions. And in the process this small climbing team raised over $10,000 for To Return scholarships and the construction of additional schoolrooms at the Peace Matunda Orphanage near Kilimanjaro. Over burgers and beers back in Ashford that afternoon we decided that the thorough thrashing the year before made the summit that much more rewarding.
Thanks to Ben, Jason, Jim, Dan, Eric, Stefan, Niten, Gary, Scott, Zeb, Jeff, and RMI for making our climb so enjoyable and for your generous support of To Return.