Hope is the Spark that Changes Lives

indy500Have you ever wondered how some nonprofits get represented in a big way, like on the Jumbotron at the Super Bowl or between races at the Indy500? AFCA will be featured in the 100th running of the Indy500 at the end of May! We received a call from the company that coordinates the Jumbotron saying that they had extra slots available specifically to nonprofits. From a marketing perspective, it was a little challenging to weigh whether this was the right event for a nonprofit that benefits children with AIDS in Africa, but when we considered the demographic that attends an Indy race and value of the spots, we realized that advertising on the Jumbotron could be a lot of fun for AFCA. 

What makes us do what we do?  What makes us value the life of a person we’ve never met and might never meet?  What is the difference between those who value the lives of others and those who don’t really bother to even think of others, but rather, focus on themselves?

We ask these questions as we watch clips of Martin Shkreli and hear about his antics on TV and social media.  How does a person become so self-absorbed to the point where they feel no problem raising the price of an important medicine from $13.50 to $750 per pill? We see Mr. Shkreli smiling when asked questions about what he has done, not caring about how his actions affect anyone other than himself.

Hello! It has been a while, so I'm finally getting around to finalizing my story of Kilimanjaro. This part won't have many pictures, for reasons you'll soon understand. So you're left to my description of it, and I'll do my best.

I left off last time just as we were to "sleep" all afternoon, then be awoken at 11pm for a meal and a midnight hike. As I explained, I was nervous. I had been working toward this for over a year. I raised over $8000, bought and organized gear, got quite a few shots, selected plane tickets, broke in gear, trained...It was an odd feeling. Never in my life have I worked SO hard for something with such a culminating, focused ending that I didn't already know! College, sure, but I knew I'd graduate. Having Audrey, of course, but that was "only" 9 months, and I was confident in her arrival. But this? Failure was possible. But alas, there I was.

Start of Day 5.

Morning at Karanga Camp, 13,100'.
Morning at Karanga Camp, 13,100'.

At this point, every morning felt a bit the same. Drink a perfect cup of coffee from John, crawl into some clothes, some or all of which may be clean if I was lucky. We would often announce things like, "Hey everyone, I have clean socks/pants/shirt/bra!" if it was such a day. Fiddle with my blister, which although hadn't improved after four days of hiking, also hadn't worsened. Stumble out of the tent, gasp and the view, fight with hair, enjoy the hot bowl of water outside my tent to wash with, then roll in to the dining tent with empty camelback and water bottles for breakfast.

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, " 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.

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