Thursday, 16 February 2017

Kilimanjaro

On 6th January 2017, my Dad’s 60th birthday, we summited Kilimanjaro.

The whole climb up was incredible.

We didn’t start climbing until 4pm on Sunday 1st January as we‘d spent most of the morning making sure we had the right equipment, choosing the porters and packing up the 2 mini buses that took us all to the base of the mountain. We had chosen to do the 7 day Lemosho route which meant a 2 ½ hour drive to register and pay park fees and then another ½ hour drive to get to the start of the trail. So at 4pm, just as it has started to rain we made our first ascent full of high spirits and excitement.

Day 1

3 hours in, we were starting to think that maybe we’d underestimated how hard this was going to be. We arrived at camp around 7pm feeling pretty tired and had to find our way around in the dark – probably a good thing we couldn’t see the long drop toilet we were sharing with about 60 other people. I’ll spare you all the details of those toilets!

We were shown our ‘mess tent’ where we’d be eating dinner and breakfast each day complete with tables and chairs and had a sudden realisation that this whole experience was going to be much more than an enduring mountain climb. Between 8 of us there were 27 porters and 5 guides. This is the way it works on Kilimanjaro climbs – it’s probably the most pampered mountain climb I’ll ever do. You have a part feeling that maybe you’re not quite hardcore enough and part feeling of gratefulness for a ‘mess tent’ to eat your food and people to carry your bags – after all you’re still doing the climbing every day and sleeping on a 1 inch mattress for 6 nights J

Day 2

We combined day 2 and 3 from the more popular 8 day route into 1 day for our 7 day route and so walked from Big tree camp to Shira 1 camp and on towards Shira 2. The day was long and hard. It wasn’t a particularly steep climb in fact these camps were named for the ‘Shira plateau’ the flatter bit of Kilimanjaro before you hit the steep incline. However we were slower than the recommended time and the 8-9 hours walk ended being 10 hours. We again fell into camp exhausted with just enough energy to take a selfie at the Mountain sign detailing how far we’d come and how far to go.


Day 3

A slightly shorter walk – only 6 hours – but one to test how we’d cope at high altitude. We climbed over 100m towards Lava tower at 4600metres only to go over the ‘hill’ and climb back down 900 metres to camp. Ever so slightly demoralising to climb that high and then come down again but it was needed to help acclimatise. This camp was cold – winds blew in from all around and we so we quickly changed into base layer thermals and fleecy clothes that evening. We managed to get some great photo shots of the summit from this camp as it loomed above us.



Day 4 – the Barranco wall


This was our favourite day – we’d heard that it was the toughest but actually it was the most fun. Most of the morning was spent scrambling up a rock face and doing some ‘proper’ climbing. There was one part called the Kissing rock where you shimmy yourself along a thin ledge until you are almost kissing the rock – hence the name – and try not to look down behind you at the drop. The ‘summit’ for this day was quicker and we spent a longer time taking some fun photos of the stunning views.



Day 5 – Base camp (Barrraco camp 4600 metres high)


The scenery each day was stunning and so different from the day before – Climbing from Base to summit you go through 5 different climatic zones and each new landscape was spectacular. It almost felt like an alien landscape at times – the plants and volcanic ash soil were so dramatic.



Day 6 –Summit day

3am we began our final ascent - It was cold, it was dark, we were tired, the kids were moaning and at some point we all cried – but we did it!

The walk to the summit was so “Pole Pole” – which is Swahili for ‘Slowly slowly’ and is used for everything on Kilimanjaro – the guides say it all day long, even porters who pass you carrying 20kg on their heads shout it back to you. In fact I’m sure we were possibly one of the few groups in the history of Kilimanjaro that was told to ‘speed up a little’ as we were a little too ‘pole pole’ and did enjoy our long stops along the way.

Three things kept me putting my feet in front of each other that day – Really wanting to reach the top with my Dad on his 60th birthday. Thinking about all the money I’d raised for Beyond Ourselves and how I had to make it and finally wanting to prove I could do it to all the people that had said ‘ it’s fine if you don’t make it, lots of people don’t cope with the altitude and it’s nothing to do with fitness’. Powerful motivation!

I wanted to quit a number of times but I think after about 6 hours my determination just set in and I thought ‘I’m doing this’. About 2 hours from the top my ever encouraging guide patted me on the back and said ‘You’ve hit the point of no return now Emily’ – This was at the point where I was stopping every 5 steps to catch my breath and thinking will I ever make it and can you camp up here?

We finally made it to Stella point – the crater rim of the volcano and knew we had one last hour slog to the highest point – Uhuru Peak.

It’s hard to describe the emotion I felt as I rounded the rocky outcrop and saw ‘The sign’. I was feeling so exhausted with little breath but knew I was going to make it. My son came running back to climb the last bit with me and then the emotions hit – we were all crying as one by one everyone reached the sign with cheering and singing from the guides. Papa Joe being head of the group got the biggest cheer. You cannot stay long at the top due to the thin air at this high altitude. So we had 10 minutes of photos and 5 minutes looking at the incredible view – over the glaciers and landscape below us but also at the other side down into Mount Kilimanjaro’s volcanic crater!

Apparently ‘Uhuru’ means ‘Freedom’ in Swahili, which describes perfectly the elation you feel at reaching the roof of Africa!

By Emily

Friday, 20 January 2017

Child Sponsorship

We are so grateful to everyone who sponsors a child through Beyond Ourselves. The partnership we have with you enables us to do what we do in Zambia. The sponsorship programme is foundational to what we do and is instrumental in changing lives here in Zambia.


A couple of weeks ago I was reminded, yet again, of how education is a gift, something that many of us take for granted. I was dropping off a food parcel to a vulnerable family whose children attend Janna School. Their neighbours were outside and I saw a girl I’ve been told about; she’s 12 years old and doesn’t attend school, I’m not sure she ever has. My understanding is that her family doesn’t see the need for her to get an education so despite the community encouraging her to go to school, her family (and therefore she) doesn’t see the value of going to school.

It’s heartbreaking to see situations like this but they are all too common. The work of Beyond Ourselves makes it possible for children who want to get an education to receive one. Many of the children that attend the schools we work with are dependents; they are extended family that aunties, uncles and grandparents have taken in. Many families struggle to afford to care for these children and education is one cost too many. The community schools we work with enable children to attend school if they have a desire to. This is a tremendous gift and opportunity for many children.



At the beginning of each year we send out updates to everyone who sponsors a child through Beyond Ourselves. Some of you may have received your packs this week, others of you will receive your packs in the next couple of weeks. If you sponsor a child, please check your inboxes over the next few weeks to ensure you receive yours. And, again, thank you for making such a difference in these children’s lives.


If you’d like most information about changing a child’s life in Zambia through child sponsorship, please visit http://www.beyondourselves.co.uk/sponsor-a-child/

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Directors Retreat

The Directors of the schools we work with don’t get paid a salary by for the work they do at the school. They are all full-time pastors who had a vision for seeing the need for education met in the communities within which they served. They organised and motivated others and managed to establish ‘schools', starting classes in their church halls and have been instrumental in seeing them develop into the Primary School they are today.

Some of them have been over-seeing progress at their school for 16 years now and they continue to be the primary vision carriers for the schools. We felt it was important to acknowledge this dedication and also to sew into them before this new school year begins. So last week we took them away for a couple of days retreat. We had Don and Cecilia Price visiting, pastors from the UK, so they came to minister to and encourage the directors.

It was a really appreciated time of fellowship for us all and a chance to recharge before the onset of the new school year. Next week the directors will, in turn, pass on this encouragement as they lead vision days with the staff at each of the schools. They will spend time reflecting on the successes of 2016 and praying about the plans for 2017.




Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Year, Same Heart, Expectant for More…

The start of a new year is often treated like a blank page, a ‘do-over’ as the Americans say! But the truth is New Year’s Eve isn’t a magic night; in reality we wake up on New Year’s Day much the same as we woke up 24 hours before, carrying all of our previous experiences in to that day and the 365 days ahead.

What the new year does offer is a chance to reflect on the year gone by, the good, encouraging and inspiring times and take them with us in to the year ahead, expectant for more.

For us at Beyond Ourselves, like I said in the post before Christmas, as we reflect on the year gone by there were some real highlights, things we celebrated and were excited for. And as we look to this new year, we don’t want to start afresh with a blank page. We want to take all that’s gone before, that same heart, passion and vision we have had for the past eight years and be expectant for more in 2017! Yes, there are things we will change this year, new ventures we will embark on, but it’s all from the same heart we’ve always had for the communities we partner with in Zambia, to see people empowered and communities transformed.

So I say here’s to new adventures this year, here’s to more!


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Introducing The 2017 Calendar

Introducing the 2017 Calendar…

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, 2017 is almost upon us - time to get organised!

Many of you have already bought one (or more!) of our calendars but for those of you who didn’t get a calendar in your stocking, we have a few Beyond Ourselves desk calendars remaining.

Below are a few of the fantastic pictures that feature in the calendar.

Buy now to avoid disappointment!

http://www.beyondourselves.co.uk/donate/alternative-gifts/item/3/51/2017-desk-calendar/?a=sl




Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas 2016 Blog Round-Up!

Christmas is just a couple of days away and, as always, I can’t believe the year is almost over. Looking back over the year’s blogs highlights all the many varied and incredible things that have happened in 2016.

At the end of last year, I said that I felt 2015 was a year that made us, Beyond Ourselves, feel established, that amongst other things we felt settled in the right position. And I think this year has proven what can happen when you have that strong foundation and are poised for what is ahead (and make a great plan with some focused strategic goals – oh and have some blessing and favour from God too!).

So much has happened this year but here are some of the things (in blogs) that make me smile the most (in no particular order!):

It has been both a heartache and a joy to be able to deliver some much needed sexual health education at all the schools this year and to know that this could truly empower the pupils to make wise, informed and bold choices now and in to their future. Alongside this it was exciting, after almost two years of researching, planning and crafting, to distribute the re-usable sanitary packs to the girls and women in our communities. It’s incredible such a small thing will make such a huge difference in someone’s life!


Another joy this year has been seeing the teachers and head teachers at each of our partner schools become more confident in their skills and roles. As we keep the goal of the schools being professionally and educationally sustainable at the forefront of our minds, this encourages us to keep investing in the teachers through mentoring, training and workshops, so that we work ourselves out of a job!




The fruit of this investment was highlighted at the recent Grade 7 days when the schools took full responsibility for organising and delivering the days at each of the schools, something we as a Beyond Ourselves team have always done in previous years.

We have also had the opportunity to invest in the very wonderful kitchen staff at the schools as well, by running a kitchen workshop sharing best practice, ideas and nutrition training. (Check out Joyce’s smile in the background of this picture!)


The final smile is when I think of the partnerships we are making for developing social enterprises and businesses in the communities so that they are impacted economically and the schools journey towards financial sustainability. By exploring Mama Mimis and working closely with our friend Oscar Mwila we are investigating various business opportunities which we hope to see succeed over this coming year. 


Of course, none of this would be possible without the incredible support from so many people. Thank you for journeying with us through 2016. These successes are as much yours as they are ours. I hope they made you smile too.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Grade 7 Days


The ‘Grade 7 day’ is a day of various activities after the pupils have finished all of their final primary exams. In the past the Beyond Ourselves team have hosted them but in our vision to move all of the schools towards a more sustainable practice we asked the schools to prepare, manage and host them this year – with our support if they wanted.

With a little nervous hesitancy at the start, all of the head-teachers agreed and started to plan and prepare the days. Apart from a discussion as to the content of these days the head teachers asked for no help from us, which was very encouraging to see.

Here is Pastor Festus giving a 'careers guidance' talk
The days were very different to what we usually do and very different from each other but each one was personal to the school.

We were all very encouraged to see the schools stepping up to lead these days. Although we have enjoyed hosting these days in the past, we know that this is not a long-term solution. The children in our schools need to have local people from their own communities motivating them, discussing important issues and caring about them and their future.

Below is a picture of ‘Janet’. She is a local business woman who runs her own shop from her home selling things she buys at a discount price. She allows the people in her community to pay a small amount monthly so they can afford to purchase larger items such as large blankets. She makes quite the profit doing this and eagerly told the young women “I don’t wait for my husband to bring home the money – I go out and get it myself” I think she made quite the impression!

Janet - A local business woman from the Chimwemwe Community

Between the 3 schools the sessions included

Secondary school information – Local secondary teachers and previous students talked about what to expect.

Careers guidance talk
– looking at what skills the children have and motivational talks by local business people.

Positive living
– this about how to keep yourself safe from contracting HIV and these talks were given by our head-teachers.

                   

For us these grade 7 days were a big success. All of our schools are encouraged to be reflecting on their practise so they can continuously improve. Without our questioning some of the head teachers were already saying what they would do differently next time and all agreed that this is something the schools can host easily and is very valuable to the grade 7 pupils.

We are so encouraged by this and know that next year there will be no ‘nervous hesitancy’ just empowered and motivated head-teachers planning their Grade 7 days with confidence.