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Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb Will Raise Money For School In Africa

Bridges of Peace and Hope

An educator and musician from Hillsdale, New York plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness in hopes of building a school in Zambia.

John Farrell along with his daughter Maggie, who lives in Tanzania, and two others, will begin what they expect to be a four-day climb to the mountain’s 19,340-foot summit on June 14. Farrell is the founder of Bridges of Peace and Hope. The non-profit is dedicated to connecting schoolchildren from around the globe through writing, songs and poems.

Money raised from the mountain climb will go toward the construction of the Mukwashi high school in Zambia. Currently the area’s 370 students finish school after the ninth grade unless they are able to go to a boarding school, which doesn’t happen often, according to Farrell. He says teachers juggle two separate classes with an average of 75 kids for three hours each day. 

“The Mukwashi school is working hard to limit the class sizes to 30 to 35,” Farrell said. “The goal for the school is to become a teacher center in the area to introduce best practices to other schools.”

The group will take a banner with more than 1,500 photos of schoolchildren from around the world plastered on it. Farrell says the photos show kids holding words completing the phrase “I believe everyone deserves…”

“Words like a safe home, a good family, friends…things that you’d expect,” Farrell explained.  “Then some other things that you wouldn’t expect necessarily. Some of the kids in Zambia, Africa had written shoes, books, a chance to go to school.”

The climbers hope to unfurl the High Hopes Banner at Kilimanjaro’s summit. It includes pictures of children who would go to the new school.

Bridges of Peace and Hope donated $10,000 to build two classrooms for eighth- and ninth-graders at the current school. The expansion was completed in 2012. Through concerts across the country, Farrell and the non-profit have raised $9,000 toward the goal of $19,340 for the Kilimanjaro climb…one dollar for every foot of the mountain’s summit. Farrell anticipates the school’s cost ranges from $80,000 to $100,000. He says the mission is to make people around the world realize how similar we are.

“Having children learn how many similarities we have regardless of race, regardless of income, regardless of language or religion,” Farrell said. “Those things that so often divide people. The real point of our work is to show how the things that bring us together so far outweigh the things that divide us.”

Meg McLoon has been with Bridges of Peace and Hope for eight years. She teaches at the Academy for International Studies in Danbury, Conn., a partner school of the non-profit.

“It’s really important for young kids to learn how to accept and appreciate different cultures and to have a better understand of the needs that there are in different places and how things that they take for granted aren’t necessarily commonplace in other cultures,” said McLoon.

Click here to hear more about the stories of the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org