When I signed up to climb Kili in January, the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most was the visit to one of the school’s in Tanzania that the project helps. Once I had arrived in Moshi though, I became slightly apprehensive about it all as I had no idea what to expect; will the children like us, what if it’s worse than what I thought it would be, will I cry?
The night before the visit, we had all speculated about what it would be like and how actually being able to see and understand how the children benefit from all our fundraising will really help to put things into perspective and gives us the motivation to carry on climbing when things got tough!
I guess it would be helpful at this point, for those of you who don’t know, to explain the reason why I decided to climb Kilimanjaro in the first place. It was a challenge that I had always wanted to do, but I always felt like, if I did it, it should be for a reason and not “just because”. So I decided to use the challenge as an opportunity to give something back – and raise some money for charity.
I decided to support Childreach International as I had heard extremely good things about their work and I am very much in support of charities for children. Childreach in an international children’s development charity that works to break down the barriers that stand in the way of children’s most immediate needs. Development charities are quite hard to explain, and this was something I struggled to do very well when I was fundraising as unlike more traditional charities, they don’t see a problem and send aid to fix it; it’s more of a longer term strategy. (This was actually something that we discussed in detail on our trip.) What the charity actually does is work with local people in order to help give them the skills, resources and knowledge they need to develop and become self-sustaining so that they can achieve their vision of “a world where all children have the opportunity to unlock their full potential in life.”
So, there I was, in Tanzania, driving down a dirt path, fast approaching a school which in my eyes was in the middle of nowhere. My first thought was how on earth did children manage to get here every day, and even if they did, what would the school be like.
I have to admit; when we got there I was really surprised. On arrival the children sang us a welcome song and were all smiling happily at us. The head teacher explained to the children why we were visiting and then they all went back to their class rooms to finish their lessons before play time began.
The head teacher took this opportunity to take us on a tour of the school; showing us the recent renovations and how the classrooms had been improved, the toilets blocks which were now separate for girls and boys and the new kitchen which meant that every child received at least one hot meal a day. It was astounding to think how much we take for granted back home and how little they had here; yet at the same time how much had been improved.
Now, we all know what goes on in the world, I watch the news, I read the paper – but seeing these children with my own eyes put it all into perspective. In the UK children play truant from school all the time, not because they don’t have enough books to learn, or because they can’t go to the toilet, not because they have to walk for miles and miles to get there, or because if they did, they would be so tired they couldn’t concentrate; it’s because they can’t be bothered or don’t want to go. Education is taken for granted, food and water isn’t a luxury, it’s just something we have each and every day. None of these children have any of those luxuries, or they didn’t until now. Even with all the improvements, there was still a long way to go. It really did bring a tear to my eye and I cherished every moment I get to spend in the company of these children.
We spent the next hour playing games with the children such as football, skipping and singing the hokey-cokey (which I have to admit was probably my favourite part.) The children loved having their photographs taken and playing at being the photographer. One little girl did a much better job at taking photographs on my camera than I did! I ended that day with about 900 photos – all of which I still haven’t had proper chance to go through and look at.
On the way back to the hotel that day I was quite lost in my own thoughts. Originally I had said that if I made it to the top, I was going to treat myself to the Marc Jacobs handbag that I had been after for ages – use it as my mountain motivation. But now I had all the motivation I needed to get to the top. It really hit home the reason why I had spent the last 6 months frantically fundraising and promoting my trek. Yes, I knew I was going to return home having had an amazing experience, but I didn’t quite realise how much seeing the project would affect me. One thing was for sure, whether I made it to the top or not, this trip, this day, was something I was never going to forget.