The McReynolds siblings, Sara, of Wyoming, and Joel, of Nebraska are combining their trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro this July with a volunteer excursion through Siouxland Tanzania Educational and Medical Ministry (STEMM). STEMM, which bases its activities primarily out of Arusha, Tanzania, has been assisting local Tanzanians since 1996, and leading trips since 1997, providing both health care and schooling to thousands of local residents.
The pair will begin their trip with Adventures Within Reach on July 21st, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro along the Machame Route (also known as the Whiskey Route). The summit (19,340 ft) of the tallest mountain in Africa, and the highest freestanding mountain in the world, can be reached in under a week. The hike, though not technical, is long, strenuous and at high elevation, though Robin Paschall, owner of AWR, noted, “of the famous ‘Seven Summits,’ this is the easiest to get to and the easiest to climb. It requires no technical climbing experience, and any moderately fit person can summit the mountain.”
The McReynolds will then join the rest of the STEMM volunteers in Arusha. As the organization leads two annual trips, once in January and once in July, the pair was fortunate to have found time to participate in this unique and meaningful venture.
“Despite lifespans in the mid 40’s and a mean annual income of less than five hundred dollars a year, [Tanzanians] demonstrate daily the joy of appreciating the blessings that God has given them,” says co-founder Dr. Steve Meyer. Since 2008 the organization has performed over 500 orthopedic surgeries, correcting disabilities and enabling individuals to walk again. STEMM has also helped to address the needs of orphans, a challenge in a country with 2 million of them. However, they send 1000 children to school each year, providing scholarships, as well as “food, shelter, clothing and love,” to those who reside in their orphanage.
As the McReynolds prepare to set out on their trip, they can look forward to both an astounding climb, as well as contributing their time to a worthy cause. Meyer states, “We found in Tanzania a people who were in extreme need of a multiplicity of goods and services, and yet who seemed incredibly content, and taught us a great deal about priorities,” something these siblings will have the opportunity to experience firsthand.