Nancy Rademaker, Microsoft Netherlands
At the end of 2011, four Microsoft Netherlands employees came up with the idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and soon the enthusiasm spread around the office as others also joined.
The four pioneers decided to steer this project towards supporting a good youth cause and given the partnership with War Child in the Netherlands, the choice was simple. War Child is an international NGO protecting children from the consequences of armed conflict and helping them get access to education. Inspired by work of War Child and their incredible mission helping the most vulnerable youth in some of the world’s most difficult circumstances, the Kili Explorer project took off!
At first it was decided that twenty people could join the expedition, but this soon rose to fifty. Meetings were held to clarify the goal for the expedition, namely raising $300,000 for War Child – translating into each participant committing to raise $6,000.
A couple of days after registration for the Kili Explorer project started in the beginning of February, all of the available slots were taken and the journey which would lead to the actual expedition in September could begin.
As for me, I only heard of this initiative two weeks after enrollment began and so I was too late. Or at least I thought I was. Luckily a number of people withdrew so I was able to join, even though I was twelfth on the waiting list!
Immediately, two questions popped into my mind: how do I prepare for such an adventure and how on earth am I going to raise $6,000? Both turned out to be quite a challenge, but no challenge has ever kept me from acting upon it, so I decided to just get started.
Preparing to climb Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free-standing mountain at 19,340 feet above sea level is not a simple task. Although it is said that Mount Kilimanjaro is a relatively easy ascent, the sheer height can do awkward things with the human body. So how do you prepare for this climb in a country as flat as ours? The only advice we got was: walk, walk, and walk. We had to make sure to walk quite often – at least two or three times a week – and to try and extend the distance over time. So far so good; I bought myself new hiking boots and started walking!
Raising funds was the tough part each one of us had to stretch himself (or herself) to reach the desired goal. Speaking for myself, I put in a lot of effort trying to convey the message to as many people as possible by starting my own blog and making use of social media to draw attention to it. After five months of hard work I reached my goal and during the summer I even managed to exceed it. I wasn’t alone and we easily reached our $300,000 goal.
For War Child, it is the highest amount of money ever collected through a private initiative and of course they were very pleased with this result. As Marco Borsato, a very famous singer in the Netherlands and the best known ambassador of War Child, said: “I get goose bumps all over when I realize that you have given us the opportunity to help over 21,000 children in Northern Uganda who are living with or recovering from the effects of armed conflict. War Child makes a lasting impact by protecting children from violence and offering psychosocial support and education. We unleash the children’s inner strength with our creative and involving approach. And inspire as many people as we can to participate in our cause.”
One of War Child’s objectives is to increase the quality of education for children, which of course also corresponds with our Microsoft YouthSpark initiative.
“Education is a right and an opportunity for development and self-sufficiency. It gives a sense of hope and future prospect and strengthens constructive coping. In conflict-affected areas educational services and facilities are often destroyed, or seriously underdeveloped. War Child trains teachers in pedagogical skills and (re-) establishes (non-formal) educational facilities for children in conflict-affected areas, which also gives them a sense of normalcy.”
On September 6th our journey to Mount Kilimanjaro began. It took us four days to reach the top. Never in my life have I pushed my boundaries as far and as often as I did then. The last part of the climb started at eleven o’clock at night and so we covered most of the distance of this last stretch in the dark. It was truly a remarkable, fantastic, lonely, exhausting, inconceivable experience! Climbing at such a height leaves you with almost no energy because of the lack of oxygen and we all had to appeal to our own perseverance to reach the top.
Finally getting there – for me at half past seven, after watching the most impressive sunrise and quite a bit later than the first ones – was awesome and basically indescribable. I took a deep breath, admired the 360° view and tried to conceive what we had accomplished. To be honest, I didn’t succeed in realizing that. It took me another two weeks back home before I ‘landed’ and all my colleagues admitted they experienced this same feeling.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and all of us are full of feelings of pride and a great sense of achievement.
We would like to encourage all of our colleagues worldwide to start similar projects!