To Return started in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania with a warm coat and promise to help one porter to go to school to become a guide.
In the summer of 2007, founder and director of To Return, Lindsay Reither toasted to a successful climb atop Mt. Kilimanjaro. While she and her fellow climbers had experienced unparalleled scenery and challenged themselves both physically and mentally throughout the week long ascent, what stood out most was not the amazing view of the great personal accomplishment. Rather, it was the striking conditions in which the porters climbed the very same mountain that was most notable. While the tourists climbed in warm down jackets and sturdy shoes, the porters climbed in ragged clothing and unsuitable footwear. The inequity was alarming.
Having returned from her travels, Lindsay shared her experiences with her fellow climbers and shortly thereafter donated a collection of used jackets, boots and mountain gear to Kilimanjaro porters. Some of the donors had never stepped foot on Kilimanjaro, yet recognized the disparity from their personal travels to similar regions elsewhere.
Lindsay returned to Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2008 to distribute the mountain equipment and lead another group of climbers on Kilimanjaro. During the climb, Lindsay researched how to make a meaningful difference in the region by simply asking porters what was the single most important thing to them. The answer was the same for nearly all – a better life for their children. The porters agreed that the best chance at achieving their goals was through quality education for their children. Thus, To Return launched its scholarship program, connecting climbers and tourists with the children of porters and granting these children scholarships to attend local, quality schools.