I know I haven’t updated the blog in some time but it has been an extremely busy couple of months. Now that my time is coming to an end I’ve been able to reflect on this great experience, but before I get to that let me fill you in on what has been going on. As I stated in my last blog post,we had visitors from the United States meet with their partners in the link villages they have supported. Everyone was wonderful, and for me it was even more special because my mother came to visit with one of groups. It was a great opportunity for my mother to see firsthand all of the work I have been doing here as well as meeting all of my friends. Needless to say she was very happy with my decision to work with the Carpenters Kids Program in Tanzania, as am I.
At the height of the program Carpenter’s Kids served 6,700 children, providing education and a hot meal every day to them for the first time in their lives. In 2013 over a thousand children were ready to move onto secondary education, the largest number in the history of the program. At the same time over 500 children in the program had the opportunity to attend secondary school, which is also the largest amount since the beginning of the program. As a point of comparison, to show the effect the Carpenter’s Kids program has on the academic lives of the children in involved in it, the national pass rate for secondary school entrance exams in Tanzania is roughly 45% while the pass rates for Carpenters Kids children taking the same exams is approximately 60%. The support provided to the children in the Carpenters Kids Program has made a difference.
On another note I had the amazing opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with the Carpenter’s Kids Director, Noel Chomola, at the end of August. It was one of the toughest experiences of my life but also one that I enjoyed immensely. Tanzania is blessed with many natural landmarks; Mount Kilimanjaro is probably the largest and most famous. It is the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world. Before I came to Tanzania I promised myself I would attempt to climb it.
Noel set us up with a great tour company that took care of us the entire time. We did a six day climb which was split into a 3 day climb to the summit, another day to become acclimated to the altitude, and two additional days for the return trip. The first day of climbing was through a rain forest inhabited by many different native species of animals and plants while the second day was more or less like walking through tundra; there was no vegetation whatsoever. The third day of climbing was by far the toughest.
In the morning our group set out to Kibo, which is the summit base camp 15,520 feet above sea level. This is generally where the air becomes noticeably thin,making it much harder to breath. Our group arrived at Kibo in the early afternoon, so the guides instructed us to just eat and rest to save energy for the summit. At 11 pm our group departed for the summit, it was a very steep climb that was just barely made easier by the zigzag pattern initiated by the guides. It was also extremely dark; I could only see as far as my headlamp allowed. This was a good thing for me because if I had realized at the time how slow our progress was I do not think I would have made it. By the time Gillman’s Point was in sight the sun had risen; it was one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. Unfortunately,the altitude forced me to stop every few minutes to catch my breath. Because of altitude sickness I could only make it to Gillman’s point, the second highest summit on Mount Kilimanjaro, but it was still completely worth the effort. The climb was challenging but it also a great experience and one that will define part of my time in Tanzania.
Since returning from Mount Kilimanjaro,Carpenters Kids work has slowed down a bit. It was hectic with all of the visitors, but now we have some time to implement initiatives they suggested during their time here. Initiatives include the establishment of scholarships for children who will be attending secondary school, building desks with funds donated by some of our guests, and the implementation of water projects.
One project in particular that I’ve been working on is a solar lamp project. Andrew Jones, a missionary from Australia, runs a program called Watu Na Nuru which advocates for solar energy as an alternative option to generate power. Roughly ten percent of Tanzania has electricity, while the rest of the country uses Kerosene for light. Kerosene is expensive, dirty, and is unhealthy for the people who use it. Tanzanians spend a significant portion of their income on Kerosene. By convincing Tanzanians to spend a little more money to purchase a solar lamp they will recoup the equivalent cost of kerosene in a matter of weeks. With the help of donors from Australia and Pennsylvania we’ve begun the distribution of lamps through a pilot program to two villages.
As I prepare to return home I just want to say thank you to everyone who supported me. I would like to thank the Young Adult Service Corp for preparing me for my placement at Carpenter’s Kids. I am very thankful to all who supported me financially while I have been here, along with my friends and family. I am proud to have been part of an organization that has helped thousands of children who otherwise would not have had the opportunity for a brighter future and I am truly thankful to have contributed to that effort.