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Hope is the Spark that Changes Lives

Day 4 begins. If I recall, my hair was getting dirty enough that it was eternally tangled. Each morning, my ritual now not only consisted of tending to The Great Blister of '15, but also fighting with my hair. For the first 3 days I had it in two french braids, a la Pippi Longstocking. I did this in hopes that it would keep it from a)getting totally filthy and b)keep it from getting tangled. Magically, it managed to tie itself in knots WHILE in braids. I think on this particular morning, I wrangled it into some sort of pony tail, frustrated. My journal is funny, I wrote that my hair was the most annoying part of the whole hike.

Oh, the beginning of day 3 of hiking. Waking up and realizing all you have to do is walk and enjoy scenery and fantastic company was rapidly growing on me. I woke up feeling rested and not as smelly as I had felt the day before. Perhaps my nose was immune to the smell, or maybe we all truly did just stop stinking. Regardless, I was feeling pretty good when John (assistant chef) brought coffee to our tent at 6:30. I doctored up my blister, which became a daily ritual, layered on a few clothes and again, ungracefully stumbled out of my tent and saw this:

Reader Warning:  Parts of these blog posts may become pretty graphic, in terms of bodily functions.  Becoming very familiar with our teammates' "habits" rapidly became part of this trip, and it's not something I am going to gloss over because it's part of what made this climb so real, so raw, so meaningful. 

There, my PSA is done, read at your own risk.  Time to continue.

Rain.  We were woken up by Wilson knocking on our door around 6:30am and I remember hearing rain.  I thought, "Nooooooooo...it can't be raining.  It CAN'T rain on Day 1, because what does that mean for the rest of the days?".  I stumbled to the door to assure Wilson that we were in fact awake, then Anne and I got in gear.  Literally, we got in gear.  We got into pants and rain pants and fleeces and promptly both realized we were lacking rain coats.  Breakfast Day 1We both brought ski coats, but weren't sure how waterproof they would be in the rain in an actual rainforest.  I felt upset and it must have been clear to Anne, because she gave me a hug and said something along the lines of "keep it together, what choices do you have?".  Good old Anne, always grounding, always realistic, always keeping me focused on the right thing when I focus on the wrong thing.  She was right, what choices did I have?  I could figure it out and go and maybe get a bit wet, or not go.  Well, there was no way I wasn't going.

Our flight from Amsterdam was smooth, and we connected with another teammate of ours, Kate on that flight. We landed in the dark at Kilimanjaro airport around 8:30pm and stepped onto the tarmac to feel the warm breeze on our skin; not sticky like I was expecting. Customs and Immigration was easy, and once we had our bags, drivers from AFCA were there waiting for us. We climbed into a green Land Cruiser and started the two hour drive to where we were staying, Mbahe Farm. The guide (Manase) and driver (Mohammed) poured Swahili words into us, so by the time we got to the farm, we could say things like "where are the stars today?" and "coffee please". I loved being in a place where people say jambo (hello) and hakuna matata (no worries).

This post will be broken into many, many pieces since this trip is worthy of at least an entry per day. It truly was an experience of a lifetime, and I don't want to shortchange the experience, the people, or the mountain. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, rising above the plains of East Africa to an impressive 19,341 feet. It's the world's tallest free standing mountain, and while it's climbable (is that a word?) to many, it's still a force to be reckoned with.

Mrs NdlovuMrs. Ndlovu is a widow from Mayezane in Matebeleland South. Mrs.Ndlovu had 10 biological children consisting of 5 boys and 5 girls who all died. In her words, her children died because of " umkhuhlane lo bantwabami" a local reference to HIV &AIDS. She buried her last child in 2010. Because of the trauma associated with the loss of all her children, she decided to relocate from one village to another within her area.

Mrs. Ndlovu had no assets (cattle or goats) but was taking care of 4 orphans. In 2012, she was identified as one of the beneficiaries for our Livelihoods Project. She was then trained in small livestock management and was given 3 female goats.

To date, she has 21 goats and she has passed on 3 goats to another needy family, per our agreement. The goats provide a source of milk and protein for the orphans while she uses goat manure for her nutritional garden.  The livestock has boosted her self-worth within the community and she is able to sustain herself in an area affected by recurrent droughts.

Travel and outdoor gear company supports work of anti-poverty organizations.

Live Below the LineIn a continuing effort to support the American Foundation for Children with AIDs (AFCA), LCI Brands™ is participating in the Live Below the Line campaign, which challenges individuals to spend less than $1.50 on food and drink per day for 5 days. The idea is for participants to experience the struggles of those who live in poverty on a daily basis, and to gather donations for organizations that strive to eliminate poverty, such as AFCA.

The Live Below the Line website offers resources such as food costs and recipes; tips for fundraising, such as hosting an office cook-off or planning a dinner party that costs $0.50 per guest; and ideas to reach out to schools, companies, and faith organizations.

A woman in the prime of life who inspires us

In this issue, Helena Persson, 54, who raised funds for aids-stricken children in Africa by climbing the Kilimanjaro.

the funds raised go to these children, among othersHow come you decided to help children in need?

- During a trip with my son to South Africa in 2012 a seed was planted that I wanted to help somehow. Many things were modern there, still we saw shelters for children suffering because of aids – either because they were ill themselves or because they had lost their parents due to the disease. They were treated like paria. One could talk about everything – but not aids. We were horrified and my son said ‘How sad one can’t do anything to help’.

Fundraising for AFCAAll girls deserve access to clean, safe feminine hygiene products. It shouldn't matter where you are, where you live, or what your income is. If you are a woman, you deserve access to these products. That's why the Ms. World Feminist Club at LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, New York is starting a drive for clean, unopened feminine hygiene products that will be delivered to girls in Africa through the American Foundation for Children with AIDS.

Martin UguriOne thing that makes Martin special to me is his desire to learn.  He has little - a hovel for a house, no parents, and no means with which to get himself out of a horrible situation. But, he knows that education can get him out of that hovel and that if he studies hard and does well, he can continue on to college and to a good job one day. When I first met Martin, it was 7 years ago and I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  He looked at me blankly,not able to comprehend that one day, with the right medicine and good food, he'd make it to adulthood.  He'd seen his parents die of a virus that was in his own body and he assumed he'd meet the same fate.

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