Making the climb

NIU faculty, alumni part of group scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity

Jason Michnick has always been adventurous and loves the outdoors.

So when Tanzania Development Support planned a trip to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa this June, he decided to make the climb.

Michnick, executive director at TDS, is one of 11 people from the U.S. who will participate in the expedition, including two Northern Illinois University faculty and four NIU alumni. The group will join two teachers and two students from Mkirira Secondary School and Madaraka Nyerere, the son of the first president of Tanzania.

The 2019 Kilimanjaro climb’s slogan is “5,895 Meters to Support Young Readers,” referring to the height of the mountain and TDS’s goal of raising $75,000 for educational projects that will help youth, especially girls, in the Mara region escape poverty. About $31,000 of the $75,000 goal has been raised as of May 13.

The money raised will be used to fund access to technology, resources for primary and pre-primary education programs at the Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center and to train library staff to manage the collection of books. Each of the climbers will spend about $5,000 out-of-pocket for the trip.

TDS recently purchased about $20,000 worth of books for the library, as many in Swahili as possible. Of the 5,000 books purchased, about 3,000 are in Swahili.

“Having books in Swahili is important because it allows everyone to take advantage of the library and its educational benefits,” Michnick said. “It’s tough to imagine what the school and community would be like without TDS. Before, 12 students were sharing a textbook and not every student had a desk. We’re using education to make a positive impact on thousands of lives.”

Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit is about 16,100 feet from its base, and 19,341 feet above sea level. It is the tallest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro takes a five-day ascent and a two-day descent. After a day of rest, the climbers will embark on a two-day safari in the Serengeti. They also will visit the school and library, present a check and take a tour of the projects they helped finance.

TDS’s 2012 climb raised $12,000 for a new library and the 2016 climb raised $60,000 to help build a new computer lab.

This will be TDS co-founder and President Kurt Thurmaier’s third climb. He said he’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro again because “it is so important to raise money for TDS’s educational projects.”

“They need books, computers, internet connection, all things we take for granted here,” Thurmaier said. “It’s very visible that they don’t have these things. The school is in one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest countries in the world. We started TDS because we believe that education is the key to escaping poverty.”

Kurtmaier said that standing on the mountain’s summit is an emotional moment.

“We hike for about seven hours that day, walking very slowly because of the lack of oxygen so high up,” he said. “When you’re at the top, you’re both exhausted and elated. People are hugging each other and crying. You know you’ve made it. … The climb parallels TDS’s goals. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is the same as climbing to the top of the success chart. Both require endurance, determination and teamwork. You can’t climb a mountain by yourself.”

For information about Tanzania Development Support, visit www.tdsnfp.org.

For information about the climb or to donate, visit https://tdsnfp.networkforgood.com/projects/69686-2019-kilimanjaro-climb.

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