Shirley Rush, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, recently completed the climb of a lifetime as part of a fundraising effort to help one young man from Africa go to college. With an UMPI pennant in hand, Rush climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in September for Daniel Mlangwa, from Moshi, Tanzania, who plans to attend UMPI in the Spring of 2014.
"Reaching the summit at Uhuru, I knew that the real reason was not to take a photo for proof, but rather, to symbolize the power of community, actualized interdependently, one step at a time, moja kwa moja," Rush said. "Kilimanjaro is a force of nature. I am not an alpine mountaineer. I am an educator, a social worker, a mentor and a mom. I am aging. My own life's experience is a testimony to the power of education and the commitment of my mentors and community along the way."
According to information posted on Rush's gofundme website, Mt. Kilimanjaro has 19,340 feet of elevation, is the highest free standing mountain in Africa, and is the highest point in the world that can be reached without any technical or life-supporting facilities.
Guided by Pristine Trails—which provided seven porters to pack the tents, equipment and fresh fruit and vegetables—Rush ascended the Machame "Whiskey" Route on Sept. 2 and descended the Mweka Route, to the Mweka Gate, on Sept. 9. The trek is 47.9 miles in total. She made it to the summit, Uhuru Peak, on Sept. 7 carrying the UMPI pennant and accompanied by her licensed mountain guide, Patrick Msafiri. During the final eight-hour ascent to the peak, one of the porters, Jafari, carried an oxygen tank in case it was needed. Thankfully, Rush said, it was not needed.
Prior to her big climb, Rush accomplished several long training treks with Mlangwa through Masoka, Uru Mawela, Ura Mamboleo and twice through Mweka Gates, all in Tanzania, Africa.
While the climb has helped her to make a dent in her fundraising efforts, Rush hopes to raise a total of $19,340 for Daniel Mlangwa's tuition. Donations can be made, and photos of her training and effort can be found, at http://www.gofundme.com/3wmdrs.
Rush first met Mlangwa in 2011, when she and five UMPI students traveled to Tanzania for a service learning project. Mlangwa was a local volunteer with the organization that hosted the UMPI group. Since then, Rush and Mlangwa have remained in close contact. He has assisted her with arrangements of housing and transportation and served as her interpreter for subsequent trips to Moshi, Tanzania. In August 2012, Rush and her husband hosted Mlangwa for a 10-week visit to Maine.
"Daniel has always dreamt of attaining a Bachelor's degree and he is an extraordinary young leader," Rush said. "Daniel's mother, Stella, has taught him the value of faith, hard work, good manners and community service. The only thing lacking was the opportunity to study in the USA. Daniel is a perfect match for this educational opportunity. He is motivated, he is bright, he has excellent study and people skills. He will be an asset to the UMPI campus while pursuing his degree and, most certainly, an asset to his community in Tanzania when he returns home."
Rush is still in Moshi, Tanzania, teaching at Stefano Moshi Memorial University College, which has three campuses, as part of her University of Maine System Trustee Professorship for the 2013-2014 academic year. For her professorship, she is developing the infrastructure and relationships needed for an international exchange program and gaining experience and information that will be used for professional presentations and publications. In Tanzania, she is teaching Sociology and Communications on the Mwika Campus and Poverty Analysis and Sociology at the Masoka campus.