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Climbing Kilimanjaro: Chelsie Keller’s Journey to Africa

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Climbing Kilimanjaro

“Do you want to come to Africa and climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world to help bring clean water to their people?” That was the question I was asked by John Bonjourno, President of Worldserve International, as I was cutting his hair. My response without hesitation, “absolutely.”

I hadn’t climbed any mountains, didn’t know any of the people who were going, and hadn’t traveled abroad. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa. I had a short amount of time to train, no sponsors, two children that had recently been diagnosed with genetic disorders, and waiting on their test results for possible surgeries. Any normal person would have agreed to this, right?

Chelsie in Tanzania

Immediately I put my faith in motion of the importance to give back. Being humbled by my husband’s open heart surgery and the health of my boys, I was also becoming more aware of issues that are happening everyday such as the world water crisis. The thought of 2,000 child deaths per day due to water-borne illnesses, the basic need of water that we can take for granted, made me grateful for my boys and want to experience even more what it means to help others.

We arrived in Tanzania and spent the first day on an amazing safari and then in a Massai village viewing a water well that Worldserve International had already provided. This would be like what our trip would be funding for another village. These wells provide clean water that save the women up to eight hours a day traveling to a source and carrying the heavy buckets back to their village.  Just how the children were clean and healthy, was so inspiring and motivating.  I could have stayed for days in the village playing with the kids and learning more about them.  They are so grateful and appreciative of something so simple that we don’t think twice about.

Chelsie: Well

Now it was time to hike Kilimanjaro. The climb took six days, four days to ascend, and two to descend. We would hike slowly or “pole pole” as our porters would say, to acclimate to the high altitude. We started in the rainforest with wild monkeys and would summit at subzero temps among glaciers. The first three nights we camped in tents the porters had carried and set up for us, as they would hike ahead of us. On the fourth night, we camped and woke up at midnight. This was summit night. Luckily a full moon led us with light as it reflected over the untouched snow, until the sun broke over the mountain, 19,341 feet to Africa’s roof, and one of the seven summits of the world!

I made it at 7:15 a.m.!  I wish words could describe the view and emotion from the accomplishment and more so to do it with the group of people I had grown so close to in such a short amount of time. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. We still had to get back down, which many of us thought was the most challenging part. Feeling ill from the altitude and fatigue from continuous climbing, I didn’t take a break for approximately thirteen hours of climbing that day. I made it to the base the next day after a long walk through the pouring rain back through the rain forest.

Chelsie: Journey to Kilimanjaro

The friendships and memories made on the trip are ones that I’ll never forget. Africa will always hold a special place in my heart and I know my journey there isn’t finished. It’s pushed me and encouraged me in ways I could have never imagined. I thank John Bonjourno and Worldserve International for everything they did on this amazing trip and all that they do to pay close attention to the finest details to be one of the best organizations for serving people and helping people get involved.