Let me set the scene…. It’s the beginning of my 2nd year at Durham University. After a busy summer full of sunshine and holidays, I’ve arrived back in cold, rainy [lovely] Durham, and academic advisors have started using the f-word – “future”. What are your plans for after Durham? Have you got anything lined up? The answer to both of these questions was a very scared “No idea”.
After a number of unsuccessful internship applications I was going through what I like to call my ‘quarter-life crisis’. That’s when I saw a girl I met in fresher’s week post about the charity Dig Deep and their Kilimanjaro challenge.
My parents told me I was crazy, as did many people along the way, but I knew I needed something big to set my mind to, and this was perfect. One year to fund raise £3000, with an expedition up the tallest mountain in Africa at the end of it. If you want to hear how it went, keep on reading!
I will admit that when I signed up, the charity came second in my mind. But, as soon as fundraising started, the charity was my motivation. Dig Deep is a small charity that works to provide clean water and sanitation to rural communities in Kenya, where a lack of running water is actually stopping children going to school. Seems strange doesn’t it, but let me explain. Lack of clean running water means lots of children contract nasty diseases which make them unable to attend school and, in the worst cases, can cause the loss of a little life. Lack of running water also means lots of girls reaching the age of puberty drop out of school through embarrassment, being unable to wash and clean themselves when they reach their period. So what Dig Deep do is install communities with the 3 T’s – Taps, Toilets and Training. They change everything. Children have access to more hygienic toilet facilities, reducing the risk of flies carrying diseases from the cesspit. They also have access to clean water and are taught how to wash their hands effectively by teachers who have been trained by Dig Deep. The work is completely self-sustaining as the word can then spread from generation to generation. Pretty amazing right?
Putting the ‘fun’ into fundraising
Now you might be wondering how I managed to get to £3000. Truth is, I tried near enough everything. I’d never done any fundraising before so it really was trial and error. Luckily I had my team leader and my other Durham team members to try out lots of different things, all whilst getting to know each other more (with a couple of socials thrown in…). Some ideas that we had sunk like lead (who’d have thought lazy students would want their kitchens cleaned for them?!?) but with perseverance, the money started coming in.
A 4k swim with my local swim school brought my over £400 closer to my target. A walk up Snowdon, organised by Dig Deep, saw me take one item of clothing off for every £20 I raised – cold but £90 closer to target. A big hair cut allowed me to donate to another charity I’ve always admired, The Little Princess Trust, and again brought me closer and closer to the target. My biggest success was my application to The League of Friends, a local group of volunteers that raise money at a local hospital that kindly granted me £1,500 after my application. Before I knew it I had exceed my £3000 and it was nearing my departure date.
Having never even been out of Europe, the lead up to the climb was nerve-racking. However, as soon as I’d arrived at the airport I realised I’d be climbing with some of the nicest, friendliest people I had ever met (they were even friendly after a 20 hour bus journey – remarkable). Once we had (finally) arrived in Moshi at the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro, we were put in the very capable hands of the Trek2Kili guides and porters. This team, made up of round 70 extremely friendly Tanzanians, were responsible for getting us safely up the mountain, carrying our kit and setting up our camp – before we’d even ARRIVED!
I can certainly say that Britain has a lot to learn from the Tanzanian culture in every way. The way they care for complete strangers is incredible, and their songs and dances are out of this world! They really were the glue that held us all together, as day by day we all got more and more exhausted, they came alive more and more! They sung us up the summit from 11pm till our 7:30am summit – one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but was it worth it? Without a doubt. Being stood on the roof of Africa, completely above the clouds, passing alongside enormous glaciers, was hands down one of the most incredible moments of my life – quite literally breath-taking.
And the adventure didn’t end there! Once we had made it down of the mountain, my new Kilimanjaro family and I set off on a 2 day safari followed by a relaxing few days in a gorgeous all-inclusive resort in Zanzibar, right by the beach, going snorkelling and visiting Stone Town. The PERFECT way to end our holiday.
So what have I learnt from this whole experience?
I’ve learnt that charity work isn’t “dull” and it isn’t “boring”. Yes it’s a challenge, but it’s so worthwhile. I’ve been able to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, and I’ve helped out a community in Kenya along the way, making the whole experience doubly-rewarding!
But I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to take the plunge! Seen something that catches your eye? Just go ahead and do it! Learn not to be scared of doing things that your current friends aren’t doing – trust me you’ll make even more friends for life.
If this kind of challenge is something that you could see yourself enjoying, it’s your lucky day! This year I’ll be leading a group of daring Durham students up the tallest mountain in Kenya, and you can be one of them! The Mount Kenya Challenge will take place next summer and is guaranteed to be an experience of a lifetime.
Take part in the challenge
Sound like a bit of you? Well in that case take the plunge and get in touch! We have an information evening happening on Thursday 2nd November in Hatfield College – you can check out the facebook event here
Check out the website for the full information pack
Join the facebook group – Durham University Climb Mount Kenya to Make A Change
Or simply email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t let the opportunity escape you, I know I’d have regretted not going….and that’s why I’m going again!
Check out www.climbforcleanwater.org/mtkenya for more information, or check out the facebook group 'Durham University Climb Mount Kenya to Make A Change'.