VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, a group of friends from Virginia Beach wants to inspire people to make impactful changes for themselves and communities in need.
The group of nine set out to climb the tallest peak in Africa to raise funds for the work of a local nonprofit, Friends for African Development.
Founder of FAD Justin Caplan says it makes a greater impact on them and the community to see firsthand how their fundraising efforts help communities in Tanzania.
“We work with the Maasai people to bring education, water, and help the community transition to a more modern society,” he said.
The group was one of the first to return for the eight-day trek since COVID-19 shut down the local economy.
Climbers like Matthew Kirk say the help now is vital, whether to construct wells or help the economy.
“COVID hit that country very, very hard,” he said. “Their entire economy is based on Kilimanjaro. So when they shut that mountain off, they shut off the incomes for basically the entire area.”
A month after their journey, the climbers say the mental, physical and emotional challenges of the journey opened their eyes to what really matters in life.
“We all take too much for granted and I think that’s the biggest takeaway,” said climber John Murray. “You go out there and you realize how lucky we are in this country to have what we have, uh, on a daily basis and I’m talking about things to sustain life.”
For him and his wife, Kirk says the experience made as great of a personal impact as it did light a fire to encourage others to help the people they met during their climb.
“It was a chance to step back, see the world from an entirely new perspective from a culture that we had never seen before and then make those changes accordingly in our lives now,” he said.
FAD is holding a fundraiser in the next few months to continue raising money for the construction of more wells in Tanzania.
Learn more about the organization here.