7 Days, 7 Families

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

― Edward Everett Hale

Over the past 7 days I lived above the clouds….literally.

While I was up there, I managed to successfully summit Mt Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.  Happy birthday to me!

And, while I was off climbing this mountain, my little project also passed the $21,000 financial goal needed to officially build a home for 7 families in Tanzania!  Thank you very much for your support!  So, it has been a pretty cool week all in all.

Those who know me know that I am happiest in the mountains or just being outside.  I was very happy on Kili!   We were blessed with perfect weather all week and early on in the hike we broke through the clouds.  Often, we were just looking out on a seemingly endless white blanket of clouds below us with only the peak of Mt Meru breaking through in the distance and Mt. Kilimanjaro always getting closer and closer in front of us.  I have to say – I liked living above the clouds!

I want to acknowledge and express gratitude for my guide, Festo.  And of course the overall team – my 5 porters and our chef!  Festo had a great sense of humor and an awesome knowledge of the mountain and terrain.  I liked that he didn’t constantly tell me “pole, pole” (i.e. go slow,  go slow).  In fact, he only uttered it once I think on day one.  Maybe I gave him a look – ha!  I just think he got it that I knew the keys to my own success getting up this mountain – go slow, drink a lot of water, and eat well and often.

During the trip I learned that Festo could sing and his favorites seemed to be ….ready for this?  Country Western!!  He also liked to speak to me using (a bit of) about six different languages.  So, I was constantly chuckling and having to be prepared to answer him in either French, Kiswahili, English, or Spanish!  He thankfully never broke out the Polish he claimed he knew and I am not sure what the sixth language was … oh yes, wait, it was … kichagga.  And, his favorite song to sing?   It was Kenny Rogers …The Gambler … “Ya got to know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em…”  He knew it from start to finish and was the LAST THING I would have expected to hear out of my Tanzanian Kilimanjaro guide!  The only time I told him to knock it off was the final night as we labored up the last few tough hours of a steep ascent towards the summit.  I just really didn’t need to hear that refrain then…haha.

Each night the sun set by 6:30 and I was generally in my tent by 7:30 to read a bit before bed.  I read from a book called “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder (thank you Carol!).  This is a story about a man, Dr Paul Farmer, who sought to improve healthcare / cure infectious diseases; to change the world and bring hope to those who need it most.  His philosophy was – “the only real nation is humanity.”  I like that.  He was a “believer” …. I have been accused of that once or twice before.

In my own little way, I decided to do something to make a difference with my Mt. Kilimanjaro climb.  I know I didn’t change the world, but I hope I touched some others along the way with this campaign.

It was the 8 year old daughter of a dear friend of mine who wrote me a note before I left.   In that note, she told me she was aware of my adventure and cause and she was excited by what I was doing.  She said she felt inspired.  Again, she’s 8.  She pulled together $15 and sent me the link to one of her favorite songs.  It was called “Do Something” and … this became my theme.

Then there is Marco – if you remember – from the first family in Tanzania that I visited and posted in an earlier blog post.  This little Tanzania boy in his Mickey Mouse shirt, whose mom (Grace) was sick and they all lived in this tiny, drafty, mud-floored, stick structure.  He was reluctant to make eye contact with me at first or even smile, but that changed after a little time around him.  And, his new soccer ball…

DSCN6698 - Copy

As I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro – each of the 7 days – I thought about the 7 families WE are helping by building them a home.  I thought about Marco; I thought about his mom;  I thought about his sister, Hajra.  I thought about the second family I met and shared with you – Mary and her son and 3 grandchildren.  And the third family – Mary who was widowed and was forced to move;  and, the fact that I believe we gave them all a degree of hope and a bit of security in terms of a dry and secure place to call “home.”   And, of course, I thought about each of you.  My friends and family and some people I have never even met (!) who  contributed to this initiative of mine to DO SOMETHING and to make a difference … because, we can.  All these thoughts accompanied me up Mt. Kilimanjaro especially on that last night and day which was about 12 hours of climbing and hiking.

To all of you who contributed and called or wrote me to express your support, I thank you!!  I really wish you could have been there with me as I met these families.  As Dr. Paul Farmer believed ….”the only real nation is humanity” and YOU helped make a difference in the lives of some families and children who needed our help!

Few final random thoughts…

While hiking on Day 3 – we came across this sandy spot off to the side of the trail (pics below).   I immediately had an idea and quickly left the trail.  Am sure Festo was wondering “what is this guy up to now!?!?”   I start gathering sticks – (Festo, to himself:   “yeah, sure, now he is picking up sticks – we aren’t even above 14,000 feet yet!!  Can’t be altitude sickness, can it??”).   Once he saw what I was up to, he started helping.   Just a little memorial to the project that I latched on to in order to make a difference and in the shadow of the mountain I would finish climbing 2 days later.

So again, thank you all very much for your support!!  Oddly, I was never really worried about making it up the mountain – it was launching my project.  I never imagined I would have so many friends, family, and even strangers step up and support this project I came up with the way you all did!  A special and huge thanks to the few close friends who I talked with early on and who strongly encouraged me to move ahead with this project.  You know who you are.

I guess I think it is important to look at life as an adventure and to be passionate about the things we take on.  I am eternally thankful to have had the 7 days on this incredible mountain in Africa and the ability, with all your support, to DO SOMETHING to make a difference for 7 families.

So, I am off again looking for my next opportunity and, of course, my next adventure!!

I will leave you with this…..

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”
― Loren Eiseley




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