A few years back, somewhere between a half-decade and a decade ago, I fell in love with being outside and all the exciting challenges and dreams associated with it. It didn’t happen instantly. I was raised to be an indoor kid, and trust me, it was hard to shake off. One time, I got separated from the group and lost for hours and decided I’d never hike again. Another time, while trying to climb my first mountain at age 20 (in the same trip as depicted in the picture above) I hit a mental barrier and gave up about halfway to the summit and figured I should go back to jogging on a treadmill. But the outdoors kept calling me back, and now a few years later I’ve stood on summits of varying heights in the desert and in the jungle and on snowshoes, finished a marathon, and (in a moment of particularly strong East Coast pride) made it over the Devil’s Path. Nothing too hyperbolic, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.
I don’t think I would have ever tapped into that desire to get outside and explore and push my personal limits without a few very important female role models along the way. So I’m proud to announce on this inaugural Giving Tuesday that I’m participating in a big and ambitious project with a group called Ladies Trekking. They’re a grassroots group of women in Europe who have accomplished a personal goal to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as well as give back to local communities — specifically through education, and for girls in particular. For the past few years they’ve organized “Ladies Trekking Weeks” in which women split their time between mountaineering and getting to know local villages and schools on a firsthand basis so that they can give back in the most effective and accountable ways.
This year, Ladies Trekking Week 2013 is going global, and a handful of women from around the world will be joining them in their annual Kilimanjaro climb as “ambassadors.” Including me! And my friend Cheryl Yeoh! And in advance of our trip in late February, Cheryl and I are teaming up on a joint fundraiser to support Ladies Trekking’s goals of adventure and philanthropy.
You can donate right here.
Our fundraising goals are twofold. One, we’re raising money for Ladies Trekking’s nonprofit arm, the Impatiens Kilimanjari Foundation, which is supplying classrooms in rural Tanzania with textbooks and school supplies and is paying the tuition to send high-achieving Maasai girls to secondary school. Two, we’re also raising money to publish a book tentatively titled Dreamers and Doers, a set of essays by women from around the world who have climbed Kilimanjaro and the personal “mountains” they had to conquer along the way. We hope that through the publication of this book, more girls and women around the world will be inspired to set big personal goals, experience the outdoors, and realize the many ways in which they can help the communities where they climb. (Your donations are not going toward our travel costs.)
In my time spent outdoors, be it on a slope or on the water, I’ve met so many amazing women with incredible stories about their personal struggles and how they have connected with a sense of challenge and accomplishment in the outdoors that gave them newfound confidence. Some of them feel a deep and spiritual connection between their desire to explore and protect the outdoors and their roles as mothers. Others are regaining their footing after trauma and tragedy. Others, like me, see adventure as a way to get past barriers that we were brought up to think were non-negotiable. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of a project that is gathering the stories of women in the hopes of inspiring others, while bringing us all together in realization that the places where we climb and accomplish these tremendous personal goals are places where we can provide support and inspiration as well. I’d love to see Ladies Trekking’s spirit of connecting outdoors-loving women with good causes in the places where they climb take root in other parts of the world, too. But for now, it’s just the beginning.
There are many, many other worthy causes seeking support on Giving Tuesday (New Yorkers, please also consider donating to things that are close to home) and we are aware that budgets are tight (us included!) We are happy with the most modest of donations, or even just words of encouragement and some help spreading the news about our campaign.
Over the next couple of months I plan to post a lot of updates about the physical and mental preparation for traveling to Africa and climbing a mountain (I’m a little nervous about the altitude already) and also to thank the people who have already encouraged me so much along the way. If you’ve read this far, I already owe you a thank-you. I’m looking forward to connecting with more of you and learning from everyone as this incredible experience unfolds.
Boring stuff about taxes (since somebody was going to ask). I’ve been in touch with Ladies Trekking for a couple of months now, and working with their team (Hi, Katrina!) has been very inspiring. They’re really small, and they’re working with hikers, donors, and supporters around the world. Cheryl and I have been helping them make their fundraising process U.S.-friendly, but it’s extremely hard for a small European nonprofit to earn full 501(c)3 status in the States — they’d need to launch a new U.S. arm with separate leadership, and they don’t have the resources for that. Your donations through our page on Fundly will go straight to Impatiens Kilimanjari minus a transaction fee that helps keep Fundly afloat. It unfortunately is not tax-deductible. If you want to make an (extremely generous!) donation of over $500, however, Ladies Trekking and Impatiens Kilimanjari have gone through an accreditation process with CAFamerica, and larger donations can consequently be routed through CAFamerica to make them tax-deductible. Please contact me for details.