The experience of a lifetime, to provide a lifetime of experiences - July 4th, 2012

There is really no way to capture the enormous sense of accomplishment that we feel as individuals who have climbed to Uhuru Peak, 5895 meters high (19, 341 feet). It has been the experience of a lifetime.

More telling, and more important to each of us who climbed, is that we–and you our supporters–have raised almost $30,000 to begin to build a library and community resource center that will provide a lifetime of experiences to thousands of girls and boys who will be able to read a book, study for exams, and excel as students in the primary and secondary schools in Nyegina and the Bukwaya Region.

Sketch of Nyegina Library and Community Resource Center (designed by Chicago Architecture for Humanity)

This trek to build the library is just beginning. We are on the first leg of a longer journey. We  hope you will join us on this trek: no ropes, spikes, or long hikes required! Please join us as we walk hand in hand with the boys and girls and their teachers who want to reach a new level of educational opportunity. Lucy, Isaac, and Jackson joined us on the trek to Uhuru Peak atop Kilimanjaro. Today they are back in the Nyegina Secondary School but they are still on a long journey to their next summit.

Allow me to share a brief conversation with a Kili climber that brought lumps to my throat. It was dawn on the last day in Musoma, before heading back to the US, and one of the Kili Climbers thanked me for bringing him to Nyegina–and to the school–to see the boys and girls and teachers and parents who are going to benefit from the $30,000 we raised.

To quote him (if not exactly): “I was just coming to climb the mountain,” he said, “that was my goal. But now I have a wholly different appreciation for what I did, what we did. Now I know that I have done something far more  important than climbing a mountain.”

Georgette and Lucy in the Serengeti

His simple statement was for me a morning prayer of thanksgiving that put the last 2 weeks in perfect perspective.

What makes TDS different from other development NGOs is that we go beyond just raising money to help people who have very little.

We bring the donors to Nyegina and we make personal, lasting connections that transform the experience of a lifetime into a legacy that I/you/we have made a difference in this one place in the world, and that has made the world a better place. Asante.


Finally, all of us who volunteer at TDS, and all of us who climbed Kili, once again thank Madaraka Nyerere for his gracious, humble, reassuring leadership on the climb, and his generous heart and willing spirit that allowed us to put this climb together and raise $30,000 for the library. Your generous gift of time and talents will last for a lifetime of experiences in Nyegina and Tanzania. Of that there can be no doubt.  Asante sana.

Last day in Tanzania - June 15th, 2012

Yesterday we had a shopping day at the market and the AIDS/HIV NGO.

Evening was a big birthday bash for Anna and Nadia, with a huge cake and Nyegina School Choir original songs of celebration of their birthdays.

Nyegina Birthday Party (14June2012) Nadia, Bishop Michael, and Anna cut the birthday cake

Bishop Michael attended as well, and gave warm thanks for all of our work and our special relationship of not just giving money, but giving of ourselves by coming to Nyegina to actually work on the projects that we are funding.

This morning we are headed to the airport at Mwanza (a 3 hour car ride) with hops to Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Amsterdam, JFK and TX airports.

Hot showers are a high priority for many, as well as no more runny noses and coughs!

Pictures can be posted later, to go with the blog posts.

—Kurt Thurmaier

Update: It seems as though everyone is home safe and sound and with no missing luggage. Kurt is in Nairobi all week with Obuya Bakaka, a past trip member, and Nadia.

Wonderful Day of Presenting Funds - June 14th, 2012

Yesterday we presented the Nyegina Community with a check for $26,000 to kick off the library and community resource center project.

As we arrived by car to Nyegina, we were greeted by primary and secondary school students and teachers lining both sides of the road, singing and dancing and welcoming us to the village. It was simply awesome! If you have ever been greeted by 2000 singing students, you will get the picture!

We are coming home as different people, not just because we managed to climb to the top of the African continent! Delivering the funds we raised to the Nyegina Community directly has been an emotional experience for each of us.

Jack is welcomed by Nyegina Students

Also very emotional to some of us was touring the new girls dormitory. It was so uplifting to see the girls with beaming smiles standing next to their new beds in their new rooms. They are so excited to be in the new dorm.

Today we are touring the Community Alive/Tupendane NGO and the Nyegina market place (gifts for loved ones at home?) and then  will visit Madaraka Nyerere at his home in Butiama.

Tonight we have a huge birthday/farewell bash with the bishop and our partners at UMABU. Friday we head home….

Successful Serengeti Safari! Now in Musoma - June 12th, 2012

Asante sana. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers as we climbed Kilimanjaro. We all have many tales to tell.

For now, I want to report that we had a very successful safari through the Serengeti yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday). A highlight was the dawn game drive today (6-9AM), where we saw many lions and a beautiful leopard resting in a tree.

We are now safely in Musoma (on Lake Victoria). We will present a facsimile check tomorrow at the Nyegina School for $26,000 as a down payment for the library and community resource center. We are excited to tour the school, see the new dormitory filled with girls, and meet with the UMABU board and the Nyegina Seconday School board.

The amount of ibuprofen consumed is diminishing each day (not so true for the imodium…). We are all still tired and while it is not even 9pm here, most everyone is already in bed!

Thanks again for all of your support. If I have a chance tomorrow, I will add some pictures to the blog for everyone!


Baba Anna (aka Kurt Thurmaier)

They’re back! - June 10th, 2012

We just returned from picking up the climbers. All arrived at the gate in relatively good shape and most were able to help the local economy by purchasing T-Shirts and art works from the vendors who congregate at the gate. They’re anxious to shower and celebrate. They had amazing success in reaching the summit by using the “Pole Pole” method: Slow, slow.

All are excited to read the Blog comments and eager to add their own personal update to the Blog.

It’s great to have them back!

—Georgette Rocheleau

UPDATES: Here are some pics from Uhuru Peak, the Roof of Africa! We didn’t all make it, and we made it to the peak in twos and threes.

Bruce Rocheleau and Jack VanderZee at Uhuru Peak (09June2012)

Uhuru Peak (about 9:40): Jeanine, Madaraka, Kurt

Uhuru Peak (about 9:30): Anna, Mama Anna, and Baba Anna


We have one group pose with a lot of us, and we are missing a picture of Henry at the top (who made it in only 6.5 hours, WAY ahead of the rest of us!). Most of us made it to Uhuru Peak between 9 and 10am.

Uhuru Peak on June 9, 2012, about 9:45 AM (left to right): [Back row

Then we had a 2 hour hike back down to base camp, a 2 hour rest, a bite to eat, then 4-5 hours of hiking down a dry stream bed “trail” to another camp where there was water. We got into that camp after dark, and exhausted after what amounted to a 20 hour day with a nap!

Update from Springlands Hotel - June 9th, 2012

I’m sorry to report that we had no news from the mountain yesterday. Will let you know if we hear anything today. My understanding is that if the hikers make it to a certain point and cannot go on, they wait at the camp while others go up. They reconnect at the camp when the climbers descend again.

In the meantime, we’ve had excitement at Springlands Hotel and fun in the Moshi environs, in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Yesterday we went to Huruma Hospital operated by the Sisters of Kilimanjaro Huruma Convent in Moshi. The Hospital was so interesting to see! We were shown around by the head Chaplain who knew both Fr. Kennedy and Fr. Leo. It’s a 300 bed facility, with census of 281 yesterday. 100 of the beds are for Maternity. There is a large Maternity wing where women close to full-term stay and where patients with potential complications may stay for months. Yesterday alone had 94 women expected to deliver!

We also were lucky enough to tour the sisters’ facilities. Two hundred nuns live there in an almost completely self-sustaining situation. They grow coffee and bananas, as well as all their vegetables. They raise sheep, cows, and pigs also. We spent time with two nuns in the sewing room, a large area where clerical vestments are made.

Then we went to Marangu Falls, a tourist attraction at high elevation at the end of another very long unimproved, bumpy road. An interesting legend surrounds the falls. We very much enjoyed our visit there.

We had a special invitation to dinner last night at the home of one of Father Kennedy’s recent parishioners, Ophelia Swai, who worked at a fashionable hotel in the Serengeti and now has her own business, “Come
Walk With Me.” You can learn more about this venture (and join!) on her blog:

Joining us on this visit was Shirley Jahad, a National Public Radio (NPR) journalist who is researching for a piece on the proposed road through the Serengeti from Musoma to Arusha. She heard about Kurt and the TDS initiative and arranged to join us at the Springlands Hotel and travel with the group to the Serengeti and to Musoma. She went with us last night to Ophelia Swai’s house for dinner last night and today interviewed her for the piece. Having worked right in the Serengeti, Ophelia has special insight into the road situation.

Off for more adventures,
—Georgette Rocheleau

Update: Today we went to Arusha where we intended to visit a national park but changed plans when we saw there is a big tourism convention going on this weekend. It was too great an opportunity for Shirley to miss, so
we went there to help her with her research. As usual, we had a great day with surprise adventures.

BUT, no news still from the mountain. We know they expected to start hiking at Midnight and reach the peak for sunrise this morning. We understand it is so cold at the summit one doesn’t stay too long there. By now, 9:20pm [1:20pm U.S. Central Time] on Saturday night, they should be tucked in their sleeping bags at their one and only campsite on the way down the mountain.

We plan to leave the hotel at 9:00am [1:00am U.S. Central Time] on Sunday morning and drive to the gate where they are expected to begin arriving at around 11:00am [3:00am U.S. Central Time]. We have invited Shirley, the NPR journalist, to join our small welcoming committee. Should be another exciting day for the

—Georgette Rocheleau

What questions do you have for Georgette about her visits in northern Tanzania? Post your questions or comments below.

One climber returning early - June 7th, 2012

We had news this morning from the climbers: one is coming down the mountain today, aborting the climb. Staying at the Springlands Hotel turns out to be a very good thing, which Madaraka arranged for us. Springlands is owned and operated by Zara Tours, the outfitter guiding our people on the mountain. So if anyone gets in trouble, we find out quickly. Lucy [one of the Nyegina Secondary students] has been ill on the mountain for 2 days and is being led back down. At 2:00pm Father Leo will go with someone from Zara to one of the mountain gates (a different and closer one than we checked in with) to pick her up. She should be back at the hotel by 5:00pm [9:00am U.S. Central Time], I estimate. Other climbers are reported being very tired with the possibility more will be coming down before they reach the summit.

Leroy and Father Kennedy are off to Arusha to visit the Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa (SWCEA) (also called Safe Water Now) facility where ceramic water filters are made.

—Georgette Rocheleau

Update: The guides are taking Lucy back down using a different route and so will exit through a different gate than the one they started at. They left the hotel at 3:45pm (7:45am U.S. Central Time).

Update: Lucy arrived about 6pm [10am U.S. Central Time] with Fr. Leo. She is with me now. She had a nice big dinner and then used Kurt’s Africa phone to call her mother. Now we are setting up a new email account for her and reading emails. Lucy said she climbed to 5000 meters before coming down. That’s 16,404 feet!

Kurt phoned Fr. Leo to say it is very cold where they are. They can look down and see the lights of Moshi. They are hoping the moon comes from behind the clouds to see more.

—Georgette Rocheleau

From the adventures of Leroy and Georgette - June 6th, 2012

Not all of our volunteers are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Two, Georgette (who you’ve heard from in previous posts) and Leroy are travelling to sites throughout northern Tanzania. If you’ve joined us for past volunteer and study trips, you’ll be familiar with some of these places already.

No calls from the climbers today, Wednesday June 6, but we do have a report from the adventures of Leroy and Georgette. Among the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Father Leroy aranged to visit with them was the Community Based Health Care Council (CBHCC) which he was instrumental in founding. Accompanying Father Leo, Georgette, and Leroy was Father Kennedy.

The small group drove from Moshi where they are staying, to Arusha to visit the headquarters of CBHCC and meet with Engineer Shija Mlingwa who outlined the organization’s goals and accomplishments. One of their main projects is the construction of gravity water supply to seven villages south of Arusha and health, sanitation, and hygiene education to community and schools in those rural communities. The engineer devoted the afternoon to driving us to three villages to view firsthand the completed first phase of the project. We saw the pipes that carry water to large tanks and the central spigots where the women come to buy water for 10 shillings (approx. 1/2 cent) per bucket. In the absence of this water supply, the women would typically walk for hours to a water source of questionable quality.

We also went to a Massai market in one of the villages – quite unlike any market I’ve ever seen!

—Georgette Rocheleau

What would you like to know about life in northern Tanzania? Post your questions or comments below.

An unexpected phone call from Kilimanjaro - June 5th, 2012

Though we were told that phone contact would be unlikely in the first two days of climbing, we were delighted to get a call from Kurt this afternoon. He reported everyone to be in good spirits and good shape on the trail, in spite of a late arrival at camp last night. The last hour before camp was spent hiking in the dark, no small feat according to hikers who have just come down from the mountain. Kurt said they arrived in camp at 8:00pm, settled in, ate dinner and hit the sleeping bags at 10:30pm.

Day 1: We're Off to Climb Kilimanjaro!



Their second day on the trail began at 6:30am; they left the campsite to begin the day’s climb at 8:00am. Let’s hope they reach the next camp before nightfall!

Day 2: lunch break at tree line

—Georgette Rocheleau

Have a question for the climbers? Post them in the comments and we’ll ask the next time we are in touch with them.

First dispatch from the Climb: Rough roads and preparation - June 4th, 2012

The group is comprised of 14 climbers, 10 from the U.S., 2 students and their teacher from the school, and Madaraka Nyerere.

In addition to those 14 climbers, there’s me (Georgette Rocheleau) and Leroy (an Illinois friend of the school). We will be traveling around Arusha and Moshi with Father Leo and Father Kennedy.

We 16 and the two fathers all arrived at the Springlands Hotel in Moshi on Sunday evening (June 3), all having had uneventful, if painfully long, travel. After a short meeting, the 16 retired to their rooms with plans to meet in the dining area for a 6:30am breakfast. A helpful rooster began crowing (or whatever it is roosters do) at 5:00, so few overslept.

Bruce Rocheleau standing next to the guidelines at the starting gate

The outfitter, Zara Tours, provided each hiker with any gear needed for the climb. By 9:00 all duffel bags were carefully placed in large, yellow plastic bags. The 14 Hikers were ready. The 28 guides, porters, cooks, and assistants were on hand or already in place on the mountain, prepared to support the 14 in their quest to be Kiliwarriors and summit the great mountain.
Leroy and I were delighted to be able to accompany the climbers on the trip to the starting off point of their hike along the Lemosho trail. We had different ideas about how close the Springlands Hotel might be to the trailhead, but I don’t think anyone fully expected the adventure we embarked on.

Our first stop was at an equipment shop to pick up a couple of items the students need for the week: sunglasses and a head lamp. Only sunglasses were found there. Farther on we stopped at a grocery store where we purchased 36 1 1/2 liter bottles of water for the hikers’ first day supply. Nearby, headlamps were found.

Then began the RIDE. We were in a vehicle reminiscent of an army transport vehicle outfitted with bus seats. A metal ladder up to the back of the vehicle allowed entry and exit. At first we were on paved roads, happily enjoying the scenery.

Then the roads were unpaved and we talked of bumpiness. Kurt [Thurmaier] poo-pooed our assessment, telling us we didn’t know bumpy roads in Tanzania yet.


Another hour rolled by. We reached the Registration point around Noon, where each hiker, porter, and guide sign-in before the ascent. Boxed lunches were distributed and consumed.

After that point travel became rougher and slower. After another hour of rougher and slower driving, travel again became rougher and slower. Kurt conceded this was indeed the worst road he has been on in Tanzania! At one point our vehicle became stuck in the deep, muddy ruts.

After many futile, diesel burning attempts to move forward, the lead guide agreed with our suggestions that we get out.

The Zara guys in our vehicle and another 6-8 guys from the Zara support vehicle behind us laid pine boughs in the ruts for traction enough to allow the driver to plow through. Directions, instructions and advice filled the air


Stuck en route to trailhead to begin the Kili climb.

At 3:30pm the truck reached the Lemosho trailhead and the HIKE began.

—Georgette Rocheleau

Countdown to Kili Climb - June 2nd, 2012

Our group of intrepid volunteers will depart today, June 2, for Tanzania to begin their journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain. They will head to Kilimanjaro International Airport and arrive in Moshi on Sunday evening. The next day, after breakfast on the morning of June 11, they begin their ascent.

Supported by their friends and family, this group has raised over $24,000, which will be used to kick off construction of a Library and Community Resource Center in Nygeina village, Tanzania. This project is a partnership between Tanzania Development Support, Architecture for Humanity Chicago, and UMABU, a Tanzanian grassroots organization.

Meeting the group in Tanzania are Lucy and Isaack, two students from Nyegina Secondary School and one of their teachers. They are also climbing with the group and hope to raise $5,895—one dollar for each meter of the mountain they will climb. So far they’ve raised $2,310.

Be sure to check back with this blog for more updates from the climb.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro