A Virtual Tour of Africa with our supporter Karen Coleman
With COVID-19 keeping borders closed and planes grounded this year, our annual trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro was postponed. So instead, we thought we’d take you on a virtual tour of Tanzania and Kenya through the eyes of one of our amazing supporters, Karen Coleman. Here, Karen shares her experience travelling to Africa not once, but twice with So They Can.
Back in 2018, my friend Michelle convinced me that we should join the charity climb of Mt Kilimanjaro – I was intrigued and couldn’t think of a good excuse not too! The charity was So They Can. I was instantly impressed with the ethos of this amazing organisation, as my career is in Health and Education. The challenge of Mt Kilimanjaro fascinated me and it came at a time when I was ready to take this on. When else would I have this opportunity? Michelle and I had already been on several adventures together before. I was also keen to travel to Tanzania to see what life was really like. It was equal parts exciting and scary!
The climb taught me so much, but in particular it taught me about survival.
Mt Kilimanjaro was a life changing experience. Our summit day was brutal and I had the help of a wonderful guide called Mula. I will be forever grateful to him for keeping me safe; I was determined to complete the gruelling climb to thank all our supporters and to aid So They Can.
The most memorable part of the climb was night climbing in the dark to the top – just Mula and me; and only him knowing where we were going. I had to have complete trust and some divine intervention! I recall thinking at one point ‘how do I get myself into these situations?’ We were climbing in thin air, so we had to take it very slow – it took a lot of determination. Towards the top I was convinced I saw a white hut – but that was a hallucination! Thankfully we all made it safely and it was worth it for that incredible sunrise.
Visiting the projects in Tanzania
We visited Mamire Teachers College and heard from the students about how proud they were to have the opportunity to train at this College, which was set up by So They Can and is now the leading Teachers College in Tanzania. It was amazing to see the passion and enthusiasm they had for their work, and exciting to see the teachers ready to make a difference to the future generations in their community.
We also visited the Mamire Health Centre in Tanzania; it was a couple of buildings off a dirt road. Exhausted after our climbing, we were there in body but not much more!
I asked the Doctor what they needed and he straight away replied “electricity and a bed.”
That reply had such a profound effect on me, it really got me thinking. So They Can made that happen and within 6 months electricity and solar hot water was installed in that clinic.
Returning to see the impact
I was fortunate enough in 2019 to return and see all the So They Can projects in Tanzania and Kenya, alongside So They Can CEO Cassandra Treadwell. I was keen to find out more and to actually see the difference our support had made.
Aberdare Ranges Primary School (ARPS), Kenya
We started at ARPS, the founding project of So They Can and it is truly impressive. It was a privilege to be able to go and see this school and how it has developed over the years. What was difficult was seeing the New Canaan Village that the students live in nearby – but the community leaders stated that a school for children was the priority. Beyond the education and empowerment projects, the school provides hot meals for the students and is an anchor of the community.
East Pokot, Kenya
The visit to East Pokot showed us some of the harsh realities of living in this part of Kenya. Life was a struggle for many, but it was wonderful to see the positive impact of the So They Can programs. It also taught us that you can’t ‘bandaid’ a situation; you really have to work with the local people and advisors to find a sustainable way to improve their lives.
Returning to Mamire Health Centre
Perhaps the highlight of this trip was when we returned to Mamire Health Centre. The community leaders took the time to personally thank us and talk to us about the difference our donations had made. It was truly humbling.
This year we donated more medical equipment – the Doctor at the clinic sent a list of what was needed to So They Can and we choose what we could support. It was easy and a much quicker process than the health systems I’m used to! It’s so satisfying to see what a difference the donation has made.
On both trips we were fortunate to go on safari – a must do for Tanzania and Kenya. Safari is amazing – nature at it’s best. The Lion King story was set at the base of Mt Kilimanjaro and it was so special to experience it in real life.
I can’t wait to go back to Africa and see the progress of the projects and reconnect with the people. There is just something that is so intriguing about this part of the world. I am fortunate to have had these opportunities and also be able to continue to support this work.