Guest Blogger: Ashley Bishop
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is incredibly challenging. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sure, it’s probably the easiest of the seven summits, and it doesn’t require any technical climbing skill or gear, but it is not to be underestimated. You want to know something that makes it 100 times easier? Having a family of 29 incredible Kenyan children supporting and encouraging your every step.
My Flying Kites journey began a few years ago. I was researching trips to Kilimanjaro and came across something called the “Flying Kites Adventure Challenge.” I was intrigued, but at the time wasn’t ready to commit to such a big trip. So I bookmarked the page and promised myself that someday I would summit Kilimanjaro with this group.
Flash forward to fall 2012 and I was finally ready to sign up for a trek. Here’s what I love about the Adventure Challenge program, and about the entire Flying Kites organization: it requires commitment. True commitment. It’s not just “liking” a page on Facebook. It’s about actually doing something tangible to make a difference.
So I spent the better part of two months leading up to my trip tackling the fundraising aspect of the Adventure Challenge program. Sure, asking people for money is difficult, but the feeling of connection and support I received from family, friends and my entire community was absolutely the most humbling and overwhelmingly awesome experiences of my life.
I left for Kenya the day after Christmas. I was traveling alone, meeting the rest of our team once in Nairobi, but thrilled to be on my way to see the kids that inspired me to sign on for this adventure. Entering the gates of the Flying Kites house in Njabini is an image that will likely be ingrained in my memory forever. The staff and all the kids rushed up to our car, offering hugs and luggage assistance before we could open the doors. We were home.
I could describe the trek in detail but I hope this blog encourages some of you to sign up, and part of the adventure is in discovering the magic of Kilimanjaro through experience. I will tell you about our fearless leader, Mike Chambers, who runs the Adventure Challenge program. You want to climb Kilimanjaro with this guy. (When I first met him he was singing “Call Me Maybe” with a group of the Flying Kites girls.) The trip was incredibly fun, but also very professionally organized. Mike knows the Tanzanian guides who lead the trek, and I had confidence in knowing someone with so much experience was responsible for our safety.
So if you’ve been thinking about taking on an Adventure Challenge with Flying Kites, my suggestion is this: do it. You will make incredible friendships, see and experience amazing things, but most importantly you will learn what it means to really “take action” and care about something bigger than yourself.
I had such an amazing experience in Kenya that upon returning home I almost immediately signed on for the Everest Base Camp trek this May.
I was lucky enough to have an extended stay with the kids at Flying Kites, getting to know them as family members, and giving me even more inspiration to continue working on their behalf.
Incredible Francis, the oldest boy in the house, who has a quiet confidence and calmness like I’ve never witnessed; Lucy Obama, who kicked my butt everyday in hopscotch with the same confidence with which she flies through her math homework; clever Isaac, whose detailed drawings of car designs now adorn my wall; sweet John, who I always “let” beat me in basketball; beautiful Rahab, whose tiny frame contains more personality and spirit than anyone I’ve ever met; fierce Danny, whose smile could take down a lion; mischievous Mary, whose laugh I can still hear from half a world away; sweet Miriam, who loves and loves and loves…They, and the rest of the kids, will change you. They will crawl into your heart and never leave.
So consider taking on something bigger than yourself this year. Let the Flying Kites kids lighten your step, and take a journey that will last a lifetime.