About Ladies Trekking, Impatiens Kilimanjari Foundation and the “Dreamers & Doers” Book Project
I’m excited to announce that in conjunction with the inaugural Giving Tuesday, I’m participating in a big and ambitious project to personally raise $19,341 ($1 for every foot that I’m climbing on Kilimanjaro) to go toward buying textbooks for girls in Tanzania. The organization behind this noble effort is called Ladies Trekking, started by a grassroots group of women in Europe who had accomplished a personal goal to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and give back to local communities at the same time, through education and specifically for young girls who need it most. For several 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 to give back in the most effective ways. Now, Ladies Trekking has grown and evolved into an independent charitable foundation called Impatiens Kilimanjari. As a non-profit international organization, IK aims to reduce global poverty and gender inequality by supporting and promoting girls’ education in Tanzania. The specific problems they target vary from year to year but the mission remains the same.
This year, Ladies Trekking Week 2013 has gone global, selecting a handful of women from around the world as “ambassadors” in their annual Kilimanjaro climb. My friend Caroline McCarthy and I are honored to be invited to champion this cause! In advance of our trip in on February 24, 2013, Caroline and I are teaming up on a joint fundraiser to support Ladies Trekking’s goals of adventure and philanthropy.
Most of the funds raised will go directly toward IK (see their presentation) and some will go toward publishing a book 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. Through the publication of this book, the organization hopes that more girls and women around the world will be inspired to set big personal goals, challenge themselves outdoors, and help the local communities where they climb along the way. All proceeds of the sale of this book will still go toward IK though as they’re trying to extend the continuity of this cause. (Note: Your donations are not going toward our travel costs.)
Past Personal Summits
I’ve been dreaming of hiking Kilimanjaro for 4 years now, after summiting Machu Picchu in Peru in November 2008. I’ve travelled around the world and have been to 6 continents (sans Antarctica) but the 4-day Inca Trail was easily my most memorable hike so far. Even though the MP itself was only at 7,710 feet, the highest point on the trail was on the 2nd day ascend toward Warmiwañusca (Dead Woman’s Pass) at 13,829 ft.
The other hike that was higher than this was at Grays & Torreys Peaks just outside of Denver, CO at 14,270 feet. Boy, that was one hell of a hike! It was so grueling that toward the summit, we had to stop literally every couple of steps to catch our breath before we could continue. It was a good thing I hiked it with my Cornell Fight Club buddies, Evan Delahanty and Bill & Katie Pottle (who owns Korean Academy of Taekwondo) who kept pushing me to ascend while we attempted to sing army fight songs and stopped to make snow angels together.
Back to Machu Picchu. At the end of the trip, I gave my winter jacket to my porter, Celio (whom I hired for Days 2 & 3) so that he could give it to his wife as a present. To me, that winter jacket was old and out of fashion, but to Celio, it meant the world to him to be able to give his wife a gift; he teared up and ran away in embarrassment. It made me realize how tiny gestures like this could impact the happiness of an Incan whose life depended on hiker tourists for their livelihoods, most of whom they don’t usually even interact with… and this was a moment that I could never forget. That on top of hiking for 4 straight days and finally seeing the clouds lift above the rising sun, revealing the incredible Machu Picchu… a sight etched in my mind forever. From then on, I wanted to seek greater challenges and higher mountains to conquer.
I suppose that ultimately resulted in me starting my company in 2010 (the toughest mountain I had ever and probably will ever have climbed!!) and hence postponing all dreams of vacationing or hiking mountains for several years.
Why This Project Means So Much To Me
At an astounding 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro will be the highest point Caroline and I will have ever summited. Here’s our trek itinerary for the book project. I’m thrilled to be part of this for three primary reasons:
(i) The outdoors has been tremendously healing and inspiring to me in so many ways. I yearn to explore the wonders of mother nature, only to put my own struggles into perspective and remind myself that there’s so much more to life than the petty little things we complain about every day.
(ii) The ability to create real impact in changing the lives of girls in Africa, specially through education. I was born and bred in a third world country where we had to boil water to drink it and drank milk made out of powder and warm water. Eventually, I worked hard enough to rank among the top 100 students in Malaysia to earn a full scholarship to study engineering at Cornell University, an education I never thought was possible with my family’s income. Therefore, the message of this project where “Everybody is Entitled to Education” hits home for me. It is truly an honor to be selected as one of 10 global woman ambassadors in the “Dreamers & Doers” book project, and my duty to emphasize the “doers” (execution) more than the “dreamers” (vision). I’ve always resisted notions of stereotyping and generalizations. For instance, people may assume that you’re unable to do certain things just because you’re a woman or of a certain physique or race. I’ve lived all my life by the mantra that action empowered by will and purpose supersedes any superficial boundaries set by any culture, community or organization. If you can visualize and dream it, you can almost certainly do it.
(iii) Trekking to the highest point and roof of Africa represents the culmination of my personal journey so far. From getting a scholarship to come to the US, bringing a Labyrinth to Cornell, getting my first job in Arizona, to receiving my green card and being an ambassador for the New American Economy… from starting my own company and getting it on Instyle’s Best of Web 2012, being interviewed live on Fox, ABC7 & BNet, to earning accolades from Mashable and L’Oreal for being one of the top female leaders in technology. And finally providing inspiration to other women to dare to dream and achieve their own passions.
I was even more intrigued by the project when I was told that the route we’re going to hike wasn’t the easiest route, and neither was it the hardest, but the most scenic. Life should be just like that; a series of climbs that you can look back in awe. The hike is going to be physically and mentally challenging, but extremely rewarding at the top. It’s a feeling of immense accomplishment and the lesson learned is that nothing is ever impossible. I want our journey to inspire others to trust their intuitions and accomplish their life calling.
…in advance for reading this far. We’ll be extremely grateful for even the most modest of donations and hope that you can help us spread news about our cause. If you’re interested in a corporate sponsorship (more than $1,000), please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll work with you to link your organization with our cause. In case you were wondering, I learned from building consumer web products to put the “Sign Up” button throughout the page 😉 Hence the “Donate here” every where. Hope it worked!!Caroline’s blog). Caroline and I have been in touch with Ladies Trekking for a couple of months now, and working with their team has been very inspiring. They’re really small, and they’re working with hikers, donors, and supporters around the world. We’ve 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 Caroline or me for details.