On March 8th, 2016, I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, the world's highest freestanding mountain, to honor female victims of war and raise money for peace building programs in the Congo, Syria, Iraq, and South Sudan. On International Women's Day, myself and 14 other amazing women will finish the 38,640 step, six day climb to reach the Mountain’s summit and raise a banner of peace in honor of the millions of women affected by the violence of war each year.
Here is my story:
About ten years ago, my heart first broke for the world. It was the day I first visited Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, and was exposed to the dark realities of poverty and suffering. On that day, I met women and children whose stories seemed like nightmares my child-like, sheltered mind could not even dream-up. Later, I learned about rape as a weapon of war, about child soldiers, about forced displacement, about AIDS transmission as a racial extermination tactic… And I wept for the world.
Though life continued here in the U.S., I continued to weep. Through high school and college graduation, through family milestones, through exciting career moves. In the years ahead, I managed to find time to make service trips back to Kenya and Rwanda, but little by little, as I realized I’d never truly be able to change the world, I began to intentionally distance myself from the stories of those suffering women and children…to close my mind off to their names and faces…to reduce my own pain.
Call it complacent. Call it self-preservation. Call it ignoble. It was all of those things. But more than anything - it wasn’t me. For those that know me, you know that my passion, my idealism, my belief that we HAVE to change the world, cannot be suppressed. And while it may have taken a minor career AND identity crisis for me to discover this – many of you trusted I would return to this place. I feel too deeply not to.
This place refuses to accept the status quo. It accepts blind idealism as a potential reality. It’s a place that believes wholeheartedly, despite the everyday inundation of tragic news and images we face, that individuals like you and me can impact change if we choose to try. If we choose to stand up and act. If we step outside of our comfort zones… so this is me stepping out of mine.
This month, I was blessed with the opportunity to get involved with an amazing campaign called One Million Thumbprints (1MT). 1MT aims to raise much needed awareness and funds for grassroots peace-building programs, aiding women and children living in the most violent conflict zones of our time: Congo, Syria/Iraq and South Sudan. This amazing movement envisions a world where women are free from the fear of violence, oppression, and poverty caused by war. And they believe these tragedies can be overcome - through storytelling, advocacy, and fundraising.
That is why I have joined a team of 14 amazing women to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, taking 38,680 steps and six days to reach the Mountain’s summit on March 8th, 2016: International Women’s Day. On this day, we will raise a banner of peace in honor of the millions of women affected by the violence of war each year.
This undertaking will be incredibly challenging for us all – mentally, physically, spiritually, and financially. And we will need the support, prayers, and donations of hundreds. My personal goal is to raise $1 for every step I take – reaching $38,680 by the day I arrive in Africa on February 27th, 2016.
So this is my challenge to you all. Step outside of your comfort zones. Stand in solidarity with these women. Acknowledge their suffering, and move beyond the sad sigh or burdened shoulder shrug to a place of action. In the coming months, I will be posting more information about our team, our training efforts, our fundraising goals, and ways friends and family can get further involved with One Million Thumbprints. It is my greatest hope that you will all join me on this incredible journey.