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Teenagers Conquer Mount Kilimanjaro for a Good Cause

Moshi — IRENE Joachim (14) and her young brother Geoffrey Yohana (12) beat all odds and reached the snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro helping to raise funds for HIV/AIDS orphans.

As Irene recalls, around 7.30 a.m. on July 2, after a breathtaking two and half hour walk from Stellar Point on Mount Kilimanjaro she reached Uhuru Peak, 5,895 metres, above sea level. "For a few seconds I totally forgot that I had come along with my young brother, after 15 minutes or so I then saw him coming towards me with the second group and it dawned on me he had also made it.
We both made it with assistance from two mountain guides from the ZARA Tanzania Adventures namely, Faustine Chambo and Theophil Karia." she narrated joyfully in an interview at Mweka Gate. The seven day climb up Mount Kilimanjaro through the tough Machame route still seems like a dream to her.

"Reaching Uhuru Peak was a dream come true but the actual climb is tough, and I will forever be thankful for the support from the mountain guides and Geita Gold Mine who financed the climb" she noted. "Geoffrey my brother and I volunteered to take part in the 2013 Geita Gold Mine Mount Kilimanjaro Challenge against HIV/AIDS and we were endorsed by our colleagues at Moyo wa Huruma orphanage in Geita town.

According Geoffrey Yohana, the District Commissioner for Geita, Mr. Manzie Mangochie joined them in the climb up Africa's highest mountain. Geoffrey Yohana, a Standard Four pupil at Alloyce Ussi Primary School was the youngest child in his group. His sister Irene is a Standard Seven pupil at Mbugani Primary school.

Before they embarked on the climb the children exercised prior to their departure to Moshi on July 1, 2013. "When we arrived at Moshi, we spent the night at Spring Lands Hotel Pasua. We were introduced to our guides, Mr. Faustine Chombo and Theophil Karia and got detailed briefing on the actual climb, and prepared for the first hike the following morning at Machame," said Geoffrey. At dawn on July 2, the group of children left for Machame Gate.

After formalities which including registration of each climber the whole group was then flagged off. Former Prime Minister, Mr Fredrick Sumaye graced the ceremony who asked the children to declare at the top of the mountain that Tanzania without HIV/AIDS is possible. According to Irene the first day trek was tough. "Walking the 18 kms from Machame Gate to Machame Camp was much more than we expected.

"I arrived extremely exhausted and felt ill, wishing to return to Geita for good," she confessed. The expedition captain encouraged her not to lose hope. The real test came on the 7th July, 2013, "We left Barafu Camp where we arrived earlier in the afternoon at 4 p.m. to start the most daring climb to Stellar Point It was freezing cold and at Barafu winds were blowing crazily," Irene recalls.

The climb was very slow and the chief guide advised them to take breaks so to catch their breaths . "I felt my body ache all over, the air seemed thinner and walking with a torch on the forehead was tricky. At times I found myself slipping," she added. By morning the group reached Stellar Point, Irene thought that was the end of the climb until an order from the chief guide said they should stand up and move ahead to cover the last 200 meters before reaching Uhuru Peak.

"I can't believe the remainder of the climb up was really 200 meters. We walked for over two hours." Irene says with a serious look on her face. Coming down at Mweka Gate, after two day descent the group was welcomed by various leaders including, Dr. Ibrahim Msengi, District Commissioner for Moshi and the Regional Commissioner for Kilimanjaro Mr. Leonidas Gama.

My brother and I shook hands with the District Commissioner. So many people hugged us," she observed. Happy to be back after the adventure Irene said, she and her brother would love to thank the expedition captain, the chief guide, porters, and all members of the expedition, "I thank you for your assistance while we were on Mount Kilimanjaro. I will always remember you all."

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