GIFT climbers experience pure giving & humanity on Mount Kilimanjaro22/07/22
In the early evening of 20 June, 26 people met at Heathrow Airport in readiness for their flight to Tanzania. All 26 had signed up for the challenge of a lifetime: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for GIFT.
It was an eclectic group: a 64-year-old man with 23 grandchildren; a teenager with her mother; two newly-wed couples; first-jobbers; lawyers; students… All were excited and full of anticipation for the days ahead.
Over five extraordinary days, the GIFT team supported each other all the way to the summit. Rabbi Sandor Milun, Managing Director of GIFT, noted, ‘It’s what this mountain does to you: it bonds you. Countless times, I heard participants say, “Are you ok?”, “Who needs a snack?”, “Drink some water”. The mountain enabled giving and kindness on a mass scale. It made us all better people.’
The group walked, talked, sung and entertained each other as they hiked, supporting each other through moments of darkness, rain, seemingly endless paths and cold. Despite the challenges, and the moments of self-doubt, the kindness and altruism kept the team on the move.
Shabbat came as a much-needed day of rest, as recalled by participant Sacha Johnstone, a magician and performer: ‘The Shabbat we spent above the clouds not only served as a rest day to acclimatise, but also provided us with one of the most memorable Jewish experiences many of us have ever had.’ It culminated in a moving, musical Havdalah ceremony under the stars, where the group was joined by the local guides.
The final push for the summit started late at night; after seven gruelling hours of walking in -10°C weather at high altitude, the whole group reached the peak, all within 20 minutes of each other, an unheard-of team effort. As one of the guides commented, ‘You guys are pretty resilient’.
Newlyweds Chani and Moshe Simon commented: ‘Embarking on a challenge like Kilimanjaro was terrifying in theory, but doing it with the GIFT group, in an environment of togetherness, absolutely transformed the experience and made it into one of extreme personal and joint growth, creating a feeling of unity and kinsmanship that will last forever. It was an incredible experience.’
For many, one of the trip highlights was a meeting with representatives of the Tanzanian Jewish community, to whom the GIFT team presented an anonymous gift of over £2,500 worth of Judaica.
Through participants’ committed fundraising, over £100,000 was raised to support GIFT’s work, inspiring and enabling giving while helping those in the community in need.
Debra Tammer – actor, writer and comedian – came on the trip with her 15-year-old daughter, and reflected on the experience when back in the UK: ‘Sharing a tiny tent together, we bickered and bonded, laughed and cried in equal measure. And then as life got back to ‘normal’, we both realised we’d been through quite the shift: understanding that life is about overcoming the physical lows to get to the spiritual highs and how this is best done with the people you love right be your side.’
To sign up for GIFT Kilimanjaro 2023, or to get involved with GIFT’s work, email firstname.lastname@example.org.