Ever since I began travelling independently at 23, I’ve always been conscious of the challenges developing countries face. In October 2019 I decided to return to Africa. This time to Tanzania in the hope to tackle the extreme challenge of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Again, my ethos came back into play – if I was going to take away the experience of Kilimanjaro then I wanted to give back to the local people.
Whilst preparing for my trip, I gathered boxes of pen donations from my local bank and school exercise books. I totalled 7kg worth of school donations to fly out with me to Tanzania. My tour operator for Kilimanjaro had previous climbers visit the Mailisita Foundation supported by the Stella Maris Lodge who help fund a primary school and educational centre in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
So with a bit of pre-arrangement, I took the 6 mile journey out of Moshi to visit the lodge and hopefully get to hand over my donations to the Stella Maris Medium English Primary School.
I arrived at the lodge to meet Teddy, a Tanzanian lady who ran the lodge, and she gave me a really tight hug! She was so grateful to see me and with donations in tow, she took me across the red-copper gravel strewn grounds and up towards the school buildings. Teddy led me into the teachers’ room where I met the head mistress of the school. She was a short, older woman and she shook my hand in gratitude as I emptied the bag of supplies.
A young teacher, Lucy, offered to take me to see her class. As we walked through the corridors, I caught glimpses of hard working blue uniformed children inside classrooms. Their faces lit up in surprise and warmth to see the face of a visitor as I waved back at them. Lucy explained to me that the school relied 100% on funding from the Stella Maris Lodge and the kindness of visitors. The donations of supplies gave orphaned and vulnerable children in the Mailisita village area the opportunity of an education.
Upon seeing me enter the room, Lucy’s class quickly changed from working in silence to suddenly rising out of their chairs to greet me in Swahili. I told them I had just climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro and got a round of applause! Lucy then began chanting a song for them to sing for me in Swahili. They asked me questions about myself and my life in England, with some very strange reactions to my answers! I asked one of the little boys at the front of the class scratching his pen into his book what he wanted to be….
‘A pilot’ he answered with such conviction. I urged the class to keep working hard to fulfil their life desires as they set to focusing back on their school work in silence. The discipline and work ethic was incredible and they were eager to learn.
I had timed my visit to Stella Maris Primary School just right as mid-afternoon meant lunch time for the students. Lucy kindly invited me to join her class for their daily serving of beans and mayonnaise. I admired how when one of the girls had too much on her plate, she would go around adding more helpings of beans to her classmates’ plates. How sweet! Caring and sharing seemed to be instilled in the school etiquette from a young age in East Africa.
I spent the last hour of my visit in the library and office. There were murals on the wall with painted sketches of different landmarks and quotes. I could see that education in Africa was seen as a cherished privilege and of great value for a life of more opportunity.
So, give back and Pack for a Purpose for a local project at your destination. You never know how a pen and exercise book could help a child in Africa to continue attending school and work on their dreams, even a future pilot to fly you there!
The Stella Maris Primary School benefits 100% from donations to the Mailisita Foundation and kind donations of school supplies from guests of the Stella Maris Lodge or visitors to Tanzania.
Asante Sana and Hakuna Matata!