Walk the distance…at a distance.  From May 10-19, TEMBO CANADA invited everyone to put on their walking shoes and virtually climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

And the response was overwhelming. More than 60 walkers and their friends accepted the challenge to Climb Kilimanjaro -Virtually. As a community of walkers, they raised more than $33,700 in 19 days to support the community of Longido in northern Tanzania.

The Climbers

Young children have accepted the challenge to walk: I am doing this walk during the pandemic to get active, have fun and raise money for TEMBO. My grandma tells me about TEMBO and the things they do in Africa. The best thing they do is help girls go to school. I think education is super important and is every kid’s right. $350 is my fundraising goal because in Tanzania that is the cost for one girl to go to school for one year. I will walk when ever I can around my neighborhood and I will tell people the I am walking for TEMBO. ” (NP, age 10).

Seniors have accepted the challenge to walk: I am currently confined to my room in my residence due to an outbreak so all my walking will be in a small circle until I can get outside again! (AN)

Individuals who have been to Tanzania (and TEMBO) have accepted the challenge to walk:  “I stayed at the TEMBO guest house from January 25 to January 31, 2009 and saw first hand the difference TEMBO makes in the community.   I am determined to walk the distance…at a distance and help TEMBO reach their goal.” (LH)


Only 4 participants have actually climbed Mt. Kilimimanjaro. But as one participant noted,

“I climbed Mt. Longido and was thrilled. I will never climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

in person but I can this way!” (EE)


This is a real family affair. The walkers included Shirley Reeder (Nana 71), Keri Blanchard (daughter 38), Jace (grandson 7), Lily (grandaughter 4), Stephanie Reeder (daughter-in-law 39), Lexi (grandaughter 8) and Mazee  (grandaughter 4). They all live in Warsaw or just up the highway in Lakefield.


Dispatches from those who have climbed

From May 10 – 19th, TEMBO Canada will share stories from our supporters who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. 

Day 1 on Mt. Kilimanjaro 

Today you begin your virtual ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. You will climb 12,826 steps, at an approximate elevation of 2895 metres, trekking mostly through the Bushland and Cultivated Zone where it is hot and dry. Tonight, you will sleep in tents under tall trees at Mti Mkubwa Camp.

Long-time TEMBO supporter and volunteer, Ken Holman and his son George climbed Kilimanjaro in 2015. On the eve of the climb, the guides carefully packed all the supplies including a portable toilet while Ken thought about his preparations and worried that they werent fit enough to handle to climb.

Before climbing in 2018, Eric DesLauriers spent time talking to the girls in the PASS program about his climb and the need to be prepared for the change in temperature with higher elevations. “Gloves? Why do you need these teacher?” He also promised to take jump shots at every camp along the route.

Day 3 on Mt. Kilimanjaro

From George and Ken Holman, October 2015

 “Walking through the rainforest was amazing and very (very!) wet. The forest is appropriately named! Watch out for fire ants where you are walking! Even a very brief step onto the parade of ants will result in hundreds on your shoe and quickly up to your neck and shoulders biting all the way.

The guides make a point of checking for health and safety. Twice a day, every day, a finger-based oxygen meter measures blood-oxygen levels. They monitor food intake. They even take time for song and dance one when we make camp early.”

From Ken Neufeld, 1986: Ken is cheering on his mother, Anna Neufeld who is climbing Kili in her retirement home.

 Today you will leave the forest and enter a completely different eco-system.  It is called “heather” or “moorland”.  Up here at nearly 3000 metres there is much less rainfall as this is often above the clouds. The ultraviolet light from the sun is very strong as the atmosphere is thinner. For you, this means you need to keep your hat on and keep the suntan lotion slathered on.  For the plant life, it means there are some strange plants. For example, there is a plant called the groundsel which is normally a tiny plant. But at high altitudes the groundsel becomes a giant known, not surprisingly, as the Giant Groundsel.  You will also get some glimpses of the three peaks of Kilimanjaro.  Tonight, you will sleep in a hut with bunk beds and a spectacular outhouse.  It is perched on the edge of a tremendous cliff.  Don’t get dizzy when you look down!

From Eric Deslauriers, 2019

“Shira to Moir Camps is the longest distance day before the summit (14km).  There was frost on the ground at Shira Camp this morning but it’s gorgeously sunny and  warms rapidly.  We shed layers of clothing during the morning.  The moorland plant life gets shorter and sparser as we gain altitude, while the trail winds between black volcanic rocks ranging in size from basketballs to houses.  This is the Shira plateau, the collapsed remains of  the Shira cone, the oldest of Kilimanjaro’s 3 cones.  Mid-morning our porters pass us carrying their bulky loads, while we only have day packs,  making us feel like slackers, but also serving as motivation. And yes, I still have energy for a jump shot at Moira Camp.”

Day 6 on Mt. Kilimanjaro

From George and Ken Holman, 2015

Some changes in altitude were gradual, some extreme. The route is not always ascending! There are many valleys where the altitude one just gained over the last three hours is lost entirely in an hour of going downhill, only to face a repeat of the three-hour uphill slog. Zero problems falling asleep and staying asleep. Morning comes much too quickly. Legs are like rubber every evening.

From Ken Neufeld, 1986

“Today you will be walking on to the shoulder of the mountain between Kibo and Mawenzi volcanic cones.  It is very high up here so the air is thin. But the good news is that the trail has flattened out so that should be a nice break for you.  Not much in the way of plants or birds up here but you have fabulous views of the cones, glaciers and the clouds below.  You might find that your appetite is dulled but you should force yourself to eat as the push up to the summit is VERY steep and you will need your energy.  Some people get headaches at this high altitude too.  Altitude affects people in different ways, and it does not seem to be linked to fitness.  A small percentage of people can get very sick with liquid in the lungs and brain and this is dangerous as it can kill.  Your guide will keep an eye on you but if you get really bad symptoms then the only medicine is to go back down as quickly as possible.  

 Have you noticed how tough your porters are?  When I climbed back in 1986 we were a group of 6.  Each porter took two back packs and stuffed them into a gunny sack and then carried them on their heads!  And they were wearing rubber flip flops.  But they always managed to get to the next camp before we did and were busy smoking cigarettes.  Made us feel very out-of-shape.    These days porters have proper footwear and appropriate clothing.  

If you look to your right you are looking into Kenya.  To your left is Tanzania.  Down on the plains, life is going on as normal with farmers working in their fields and kids going to school.  It all seems unreal to you as you focus on putting one foot in front of the other.  You will be tired by the time you get to camp where there will be some hot soup waiting for you!”

 From Eric Deslauriers, 2018

“Relaxing before dinner with Kibu (the summit) watching over us. It’s only the top of the Barranco wall, but it does feel like the top of the world, with Mt Meru peeking through the clouds behind me.”

Day 9 on Mt. Kilimanjaro

From Ken and George Holman, 2015

By now altitude sickness is impacting my desire and ability to eat. I practically stop solids and rely on fluids from this point on to halfway down the descent.

 Ive got this far; there is no way Im going to stop. I have to remember to put one foot in front of the other, and  to look up and not just at the ground in front all the time.

From Ken Neufeld, 1986: in conversation with his mother, Anna, who is walking Climb Kilimanjaro- Virtually in her room at a retirement home.

“Mom, I asked you this morning whether you wanted a day off before your big attack on the summit. But you said no, you want to keep walking. So…You will continue along what is called the “saddle” between Mawenzi and Kibo Peak. Like yesterday, it is not so steep so you may cover lots of territory although the thin air can sap your energy.”

 From Eric Deslauriers, 2019

“We woke up to find frost on the ground.  I have learned to sleep in long johns, t-shirt, long sleeved shirt, sweater and socks (all inside a sleeping bag, liner and tent).”

Day 10 on Mt. Kilimanjaro

From Ken and George Holman, 2015

“A storm blew in as we approached the summit the first time: the ice pellets and snow flew sideways and it was bitter cold, but we were dressed for it. Our guides asked us if we’d ever experienced weather like this, and we told them “Sure! We drive in weather like this!” They laughed and laughed at that.”

And at the summit,  “Jubilation! Relief! Inconsolable tears at being able to share this with my son.”

From Ken Neufeld, 1986

“The slope is nearly vertical and the rock crumbles easily so it is extremely dangerous. Instead you will continue up the steep slope of the Kibo cone taking 3 steps up and sliding 2 step back down in the frustrating and exhausting loose scree.  It is a bit of a soul-sapping slog as you can no longer even see the snow and ice covered summit…. All you see is the scree and the boots of the person in front of you.  One step at a time. Your guide will tell you to go “Pole-Pole” (pronounced POLE EH, POLE EH and meaning “Slowly”).  She was born on the slopes of the mountain and has climbed it many times.  She will be watching you closely to make sure you are not developing any serious symptoms of altitude sickness.”

From Eric Deslauriers,  2018

“We are woken at 11pm, get dressed (five layers of clothing, headlamp, daypack), have coffee and a snack, then our guides give final instructions and we start out just after midnight.  It’s clear, cold and windy-think a cold night in Ottawa in January.  The route is a winding trail, sand, gravel and rocks, not terribly steep (perhaps 20 degrees) but steady.  Very quickly we fall into the necessary plodding routine-take a step, pause, take another step, repeat.  Because of the altitude, even our slow pace has us all breathing hard-it feels to me like km 7 of a 10K race but it goes on for the next 6 hours.  I have to settle my breathing before taking each drink of water, especially since the water in the mouthpiece freezes if I wait too long.  Climbing over the occasional rock feels like a sprint.  There are a few other groups ahead of us and more behind-each just a row of bobbing lights in the distance, like glow-worms in the dark-magical.  At 5am we reach Stella Point, the rim of the crater but not yet the highest point.  The slope is gentler from here but the air is thinner, so it feels just as strenuous, and of course it is colder as we are 1000m higher than when we started.  We walk between, and occasionally over, bizarrely wind-sculpted ridges of ice and snow, with the eastern sky lightening behind us.  The dormant crater is to our right, a vast expanse filled with snow.  Just after 6am we reach Uhuru peak, the summit.  We made it!  It’s just after sunrise.  While I don’t have the energy for a jump shot, I am deeply satisfied with my achievement.”

Our Sponsors

TEMBO Canada gratefully acknowledges the many individuals who have generously sponsored their friends and family members as they endeavour to Climb Kilimanjaro – Virtually.

“One small donation from us. 128,263 steps for bettering the world!

“You will meet and complete this challenge with your heart as with everything you do. Wear comfortable shoes!”

“What a wonderful thing you are doing! Congratulations on your spirit and energy! … walking strong with purpose and caring heart inspiring us all”


All funds raised during TEMBO’s Climb Kilimanjaro – Virtually fundraiser will be used to support women and girls in northern Tanzania to manage during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.