Tag Archives: Wings of Kilimanjaro

New Video Highlighting Tree Planting on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro

I had the opportunity to visit Plant With Purpose’s Tanzania programs last January with the amazing videographer Shaun Boyte, who produced this video for us. It does a great job of portraying the positive impact that tree planting has on the lives of farmers and on the environment. We heard many farmers say that since they had been planting trees, rainfall had increased and the weather was cooler than in the past. This local deforestation has been strongly linked to the melting glaciers on Kilimanjaro. If the the local farmers’ efforts are multiplied, it seems very possible that the melting could be reversed.


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Wings of Kilimanjaro- Set to Launch again

Our good friends at Wings of Kilimanjaro (WOK) are starting up the mountain for a third round of paragliding and fundraising for Tanzanian charities. I had the privilege of joining them in 2013 and had a really fantastic time, summiting along with 95 others from more than 20 countries. In the process we raised over $600,000 for reforestation, water and education projects in Tanzania.

This year’s climb and flight will benefit WorldServe’s water projects, providing clean water to Masai communities in northern Tanzania. You can learn more about the project and donate here. Congratulations and best of luck to organizer Adrian McRae and everyone participating in WOK 2015!


Climbers and porters moving up the mountain

WOK 2013 supported tree nurseries like this one, at a local Tanzanian school, and helped us plant hundreds of thousands of trees

WOK 2013 supported tree nurseries like this one, at a local Tanzanian school, and helped us plant hundreds of thousands of trees

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Tanzania Program Update- Great News from East Africa

So it’s been more than a little while since I’ve updated the blog, but I thought you might be interested some recent Plant With Purpose developments, especially in Tanzania. The program has seen some fantastic growth in the last several years, in terms of the program’s activities, and also the measurable impact on people’s lives and the environment. First of all, take a  look at this amazing graph:

Tanzania program growth graph

This graph illustrates three key things: the number of families we’re working with, the number of trees planted, and the number of Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups that we are leading. The years across the bottom of the chart give you some idea of how rapid the growth has been. This is a real credit to the leadership of the local staff in Tanzania, who are doing a great job of figuring out how to work very efficiently, so as to be able to do more with relatively modest increases in budget. (Just to give you an idea of the scale, Plant With Purpose has planted 12 million trees over the past 30 years, but 1.4 million of those were planted just in Tanzania in the last year- they are really leading the way in scaling up.)

But what about the impact of all those trees on people? In our very recently completed impact evaluation, we saw a 50% increase in girls enrollment in secondary school. Based on the size of our program, that equates to over 550 girls enrolled in school, who otherwise would not be. As families are increasing their incomes, they are prioritizing paying for their girls’ education. What a wonderful and hopeful sign for the future, for those girls, for their families, and for the country as a whole.

Trees TanzaniaThese girls are in school, thanks to the good work of our local program partners- and thanks to all of you who have supported our program and made our work possible! (And with a special shout out to our friends at Wings of Kilimanjaro, who gave so much to support our Tanzania program last year, and who at this moment are camped out of the summit waiting for good weather to fly down.)

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Wings of Kilimanjaro: Six Months Later- Good News from Tanzania

Six months ago the Wings of Kilimanjaro expedition put 95 climbers on the summit of Kilimanjaro and in the process raised over $550,000 for environmental restoration, clean water and education in Tanzania. Plant With Purpose received just over $165,000 as a result of this effort. (Fundraising efforts are continuing and you can learn more or make a donation here.) It was an amazing adventure that continues to have a lasting impact on people’s lives. Below are a few of the highlights of how Plant With Purpose has used these funds:

1. Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) – We have started 24 new VSLA groups with a total of 473 new VSLA members. 73% of these members are women. These groups provide a platform for farmers to save money and make it available for loans to start small businesses. As a result of being in a group, families are able to save money to pay for school fees, pay for emergencies and in general live with a much greater level of security.


Village Community Banking

 2. Farmer Field Schools: 43 schools involving 1,075 farmers.  Farmer Field Schools are literally outdoor classrooms and laboratories, where farmers can learn about and test new crops, organic methods of pest control, fertilizers and water conservation techniques. By actively being involved in learning, farmers are much more likely to implement these new techniques on their own farms: “I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.”


In Farmer Field Schools, farmers lean by doing

3. Trees Planted: 784,095 – Trees provide income for families in the form of fruit and wood products. Trees also conserve soil and water, which raises crop yields while at the same time restoring the environment.


4. Stoves Built: 130 – Each stove reduces wood use by 60%, reducing deforestation and smoke inhalation, dramatically improving the health of women and children involved in cooking.

5. Number of Group Members with Vegetable Gardens – 546. Vegetable gardens are incredibly important for improving the health and nutrition of children and their families. According to the latest stats released by the World Food Program, 38.8% of Tanzanians are malnourished. In children, this malnourishment causes irreversible loss of brain function and reduced ability to learn and other chronic health problems. It doesn’t have to be this way!


Tanzania has plenty of land to grow food and farmers are anxious to work hard. Thanks to the support provided by Wings of Kilimanjaro, this child and thousands like him will have hope for a better future.


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Wings of Kilimanjaro, Part 2 of 2: Challenges

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
― Carlos Castaneda

The night before summit day was the first time I heard people really worrying about the wind and the weather. This was a remarkably positive group, but positivity only gets you so far.  We were getting close to the top and the wind would need to change direction and die down in order for the launch to be successful. The wind at the aptly named “Camp Kosovo” was howling  and from the wrong direction. Let’s call this challenge #1.


 Looking down on camp Kosovo: It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it’s windy here.

It was still windy the next morning, so windy that one of our big mess tents lifted off and hurtled down the mountainside. As we were considering this we got word of something else, a misunderstanding amongst the guides and porters about the plan to not only climb to the summit, but to camp three days up there to maximize the chance of getting some flying weather. Apparently some of them had not heard about this, or else someone thought this would be the time to negotiate for a raise…Of our 600 porters and guides, about 100 decided they were done and walked off the mountain. Later we learned that they also blocked their replacements from walking up and bringing us the water and food we would need at the summit. As you might imagine, this became important later. (i.e., we ran short of food and water on the summit.) Challenge #2. We started up the mountain anyway, and we all summited, which was a wonderful experience. But we descended into the crater not realizing that supplies would run short and that the weather would not improve.

ImageLooking at the launch site- the body language says it all…

So what had been a remarkably smooth trip started to become quite difficult. Here are a few more personal highlights and observations about this last part of the trip:

1) Preparedness – I can’t imagine planning a trip for 700 people, nor would I ever want to. In looking at my pictures, my son Barrett said we looked like a huge line of ants climbing up the mountain. But for the most part things went very smoothly. We even had three team, doctors, Matt, Matt and Luke, and they did a great job keeping us all healthy. Have you ever been on a trip where the team had it’s own backboard?! We had one, and used it when a woman from a group camped near to us came down with pulmonary edema on the fourth night of the climb. The doctors saved her life, without a doubt. I doubt that we have had nearly as many people summit had we not had these guys along. The night I spent in the crater I felt truly terrible and was grateful for the docs good advice and meds (and their sense of humor…)


Docs with the backboard heading for the launch site

2) Compassion – Throughout this trip our group was really great about encouraging and taking care of each other, especially when people got sick. As we were getting close to the top, everyone wanted to summit, and of course to fly if possible. But a great many climbers were also very concerned about the porters and guides, who were thinly dressed and not at all equipped to sleep at the top of Kilimanjaro. Still not sure how this happened, though in doing some research I learned that guide services not taking good care of their porters is common. We had paid a lot expecting all this to be taken care of and when it was not a lot of people were understandably frustrated. But they weren’t just worried about themselves.


In a situation where everyone became cold and hungry, climbers gave a lot of their clothes and food to porters who needed it more than we did. For a trip whose ultimate goal was to relieve suffering, the irony of suffering porters was not lost on people and it bothered them. They couldn’t totally fix the situation, but they gave what they had. And at the end of the trip, when there was some doubt as to whether a few porters would be paid properly they gave a lot of cash over and about what they had already paid, just to do what they could to make doubly sure that they were treated fairly.

3) Perspective At the end of the trip, only one pilot, Babu, was able to pull off the flight and a lot of people were understandably disappointed.  Despite the careful planning, we had run into the worst February weather in 10 years. But despite the disappointment, people saw the trip not just as an adventure but as a way to help others. They had raised a lot of money, climbed Kilimanjaro and made some great friends, and that had been hugely successful.


Sydney planting a tree

After the climb down, about 50 of us had the opportunity to visit Plant With Purpose’s work in Siha, one the villages benefitting from the event. We were greeted with singing and dancing and were fed by the community. We learned about how the saving’s groups help people overcome poverty and planted trees together. For me, this was undoubtedly one of the highlights, right there with climbing to the summit.


Welome to Siha!

Final Thought: I grew up reading a series of books called “Choose you own Adventure.” Maybe you remember them too. They typically had some kind of mystery story-line, and at the end of every chapter you were presented with a choice. One choice might lead to the buried treasure, another choice might mean you falling to the bottom of a hole “with no one to hear you scream.” The books were hugely popular- I think because they put you in the story and it situations where you had to make choices, choices with “real” consequences.

Why do people climb mountains, or run marathons, or try to swim the English Channel? I think one reason is to test ourselves, to get ourselves out of our comfort zone, to try to learn something we might learn in no other way. In the mountains, we put ourselves in situations where things may go wrong and we will have to deal with whatever comes up. And in that we learn things about ourselves we might not otherwise learn. Who are we when we are exhausted, sick and on a mountain in another part of the world? Dealing with hardship shows us not only what we can do, but also who we really are.  Hopefully, if we are paying attention, the lessons learned come back down the mountain with us and we become better people in our day-to day-lives. Maybe that’s the biggest challenge of all.


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Wings of Kilimanjaro, Part 1 of 2


A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be a part of an amazing event called Wings of Kilimanjaro. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, the plan was for about 200 climbers from around the world to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and then paraglide off the top. Each person would raise a minimum of $5,000 for charitable work in Tanzania, thus raising over $1 million and having an incredible adventure in the process. Sound ambitious? Without a doubt. Crazy? Not at all. As I came to appreciate both before and during the climb, this was a very well thought out endeavor involving truly world-class athletes. They were up for the challenge and in the end 95 people from 27 countries summited and over $500,000 was raised for Plant With Purpose, World Serve and the One Difference Foundation.

It was amazing, and yes, it was an adventure. (from Webster’s, “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.”) In this case, the challenges associated with climbing Kilimanjaro and jumping off the top were the known risks…

I don’t want to bore you with a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account. So I’m going to just mention what for me personally were some highlights. This post will cover the first half of the event, a second post will cover summit day and some post-trip reflections.

1) Adrian and Paula McRae, our intrepid organizers. People of vision, who invested heart, soul and tremendous resources into this event, for the sake of the adventure and out of a very genuine desire to help people in Tanzania. I worked with them for two years and am grateful to have had the experience

ImageWith Adrian Leppard and Adrian McRae, Pre-trip promotion in London

2)  Color-coding. How do you move 95 climbers, plus 600 porters and guides up the highest free-standing mountain in the world? Divide into colored teams and get to know your porters and guides. Team Red ready to hike!


Red and Yellow, Black and White…man that’s a lot of stuff…

3)  Global Fundraising. No doubt, one of the true highlights for me was getting to know my fellow climbers and hearing about the effort each of them had made to participate. They worked extra shifts to save money for the climb, they held fundraising events in their local communities, they sought out matching gifts from employers, they got sponsored by local businesses in their communities, and so on. I know how hard it can be to raise money and was humbled to hear just a few of their stories. I also really appreciated their interest in Plant With Purpose; they wanted to understand our work and where the money was going, so that they could pass that on to the people who supported them.

ImageReady for anything…

4)  Beauty. I had not really thought about this, but Kilimanjaro is a magnificent mountain to climb. You start in a rainforest with monkeys watching from the trees, and finish in the barren snow and rock. Many times as I walked I felt overwhelmed with gratitude just to be there, and grateful to my family and Plant With Purpose for making it possible for me to participate.

ImageBeautiful day and good company

ImageAlpine Conditions

As I alluded to at the before, not everything went as planned on this trip. While that made the journey harder, there were some really important and valuable things that came out of that for me- and I think for many in the group. I’ll write about that next week.

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The Vision of Wings of Kilimanjaro

This is a really great video that explains the vision behind the Wings of Kilimanjaro paragliding event and the impact the event will have in Tanzania, including interviews with Adrian and Peter. It’s from the Australian television station Chanelvision. It’s worth watching!

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December 12, 2012 · 6:30 am