Posted by Bob Wallace
 
 
 
 
We Conquered Kilimanjaro 
 
Together, with your help, we will conquer polio.
 
As the sun came up on Saturday, June 25‎, Jennifer Boyd, Ryan Fogarty and I summited Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  It was the culmination of a year of planning, training and fundraising. We had done it. We conquered Kilimanjaro and raised $500,000 to help Rotary International eradicate polio.
 
On the first day, we were all excited to get going. Each member of our team had purchased almost $5,000 in gear for this climb. ‎We looked sharp. We were ready to Conquer Kilimanjaro.  About half way up, a twelve year old girl passed us wearing a dress and flip flops...
 
On Day 2, I asked Jennifer facetiously, "Why are we doing this?"  With no hesitation, she replied:  "Do you recall that two week old girl I held and vaccinated in India last year?”  After that, I focused on the image of Jennifer holding that baby girl as they led me up the mountain and our 1,000 donors who supported us back home.  I was not going to let any of you down.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is not just a physical challenge, it is even more a mental challenge.  Anyone can climb Kilimanjaro if they set their mind to it.  It may take some a little longer, however, they can do it.  The challenge is to not quit, push your body and pursue your goal.  It is a true test of your will power.  Our inspiration, Conquer Kilimanjaro Conquer Polio, was so strong, there was no quitting for anyone on our Team.

The morning of Day 3, we woke up to the majestic beauty of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  We were at 3,600m and saw the peak for the first time.  We had camped above the clouds.  Our goal was within reach and we were going to make it.

After that, it is a blur.  Every step was an effort.  However, we pushed on.  On Day 4, after hiking for 5 hours, we reached the base camp before our final ascent.  We "slept" for a couple of hours before starting our final ascent at 11:30pm.

Day 5:  Cold; Windy; Panting like a dog with every step; Sleep deprived; Nausea, headaches and tingling fingers from the high altitude; Unable to keep any solid foods down, we started our longest day.  One half step at a time, we finally reached the first peak at dawn.  Our guides took our picture, high fived us and asked if we wished to continue or return down the mountain.  We continued another two hours until we reached the true summit.

We were so exhausted, it was anti-climactic.  We were so happy to have reached the summit, yet desperate to get back down as soon as possible.  Our bodies were oxygen deprived. 
 
Before we realised what was happening, Ryan‎ pulled out his flashlight and removed the ring he had kept hidden all week. He dropped down on one knee and proposed to Jennifer.  After Jennifer said yes, Ryan followed with "Sweetheart, it's all downhill from here".
 
The entire way up, you are focused on the pair of boots in front of you.  Carefully watching every step you take.  Too afraid to look around.  Apparently, at one point, we had hiked along a sharp drop.  Fortunately, I was too oblivious of my surroundings.  Whenever we stopped, we would take a quick look and continue. 
 
Believe it or not, coming down was even more painful.  Your muscles are screaming from the lack of oxygen.  The soles of your feet hurt with every step.  Unfortunately, there was no alternative.  We had to climb half way back down the mountain today.  16 hours of hiking on Day 5.  Approximately 30 km.  Half in the bitter cold sub-zero temperatures.

Day 6:  I was able to eat again.  Seven hours of hiking remained to get back to our bus.  Wincing with every step.  Our guides asked me several times, do I want them to carry my pack?  They offered to get me a jeep to drive me the rest of the way back down the mountain.  I declined both.  I was going to complete this challenge on my own.
 
We travelled with Zara Tours. They were excellent. Both for the climb and safari. They picked us up at the airport, guided us for two weeks up Kilimanjaro and back, as well as, a five day safari before driving us back to the airport.
 
We had nine porters, three guides, a cook and a waiter on our Climb. All we had to do was carry our snacks and clothes for the day.  ‎Everything else was taken care of. When we reached camp each day, our tents were already set up and lunch was ready. Every morning, they woke us up with hot tea served in our tent and a basin of hot water to wash.
Rotary International started vaccinating children against Polio in 1979.  Rotary vaccinated six million children in the Philippines and eradicated the disease.  With the success of this program, in 1982, Rotary International committed to immunize all of the world’s children against Polio.
 
Polio is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects children under the age of five and can cause paralysis within hours.  About one in 200 becomes irreversibly paralyzed, usually in the legs. 
 
In 1985, there were just under a thousand children paralyzed with Polio every day in 125 countries.  Today, we have less than 50 a year in two Polio-endemic countries:  Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It is hoped that the world will be certified Polio-free by 2019 and we will have eradicated this disease once and for all. 

As of June 29, 2016, there were only 17 children paralyzed due to the wild polio virus in all of 2016.  We are so close to eradicating polio.  Please continue to support Rotary International’s 30 year effort to eradicate polio.  Your donation will be matched two-for-one by both our Canadian Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  To donate, visit our website http://www.conquerpolio.org or Rotarians may wish to donate directly to Rotary International, http://www.endpolio.org/donate, to qualify for Paul Harris credits and simply let us know the amount of the donation. 

What is next for Team Don Mills Rotary?  On summit day we all swore “Never again”.  However, just like child birth I am told, one soon forgets the pain and only the positive memories of accomplishment and pride remain.  WE DID IT!  Together, we saved over 500,000 children from ever contracting such a paralyzing and debilitating disease. 
 
‎A special thank you to my team mates Ryan Fogarty and especially Jennifer Boyd who inspired us to reach outside our comfort zone and Conquer Kilimanjaro.
 
Lastly, thank you to our over 1,000 donors who collectively enabled us to raise $500,000.

Sincerely,

Raffy Chouljian
ADG District 7070
Rotary Club of Toronto - Don Mills
 
 
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