Sunday, August 10, 2008

Helping Kids Climb to New Heights

Children in Ulolela excited to get "Tembo" stickers

This summer I traveled to Tanzania to work on a project of mine, Learning in a Village Project or LEVI. LEVI is a small grassroots non-profit that helps rural children gain access to books, learning materials, and sports. After not receiving the AAC's Zach Martin Grant to put a new route on Mawenzi Peak and work on my humanitarian project, I ending up dropping the climbing project and just worked with LEVI. I spent the month in two rural areas Ulolela and Kitunda building learning centers and providing school supplies, books and building a small classroom/library to supliment the rural school systems which are often neglected by the central government.

Through the Weeki ya Michezo na Kujifunza (Week of Sports and Learning) in Ulolela a remote village near Lake Malawi in southern Tanzania. We had sports activites, football (soccer) clinics, the first ever co-ed football match, building a net ball court for the girls (like basketball but without dribbling and the main game that women play in East Africa), reading and writing competitions, and classes about the water cycle and erosion. In addition, I worked with villagers to develop plans to diversify the local economy and improve infastructure.
Girls playing netball on their new court

I then traveled back to Kitunda near Dar es Salaam through an wild combanation of motorbikes, cars, and buses. In Kitunda where our main learning center is located we had 25 volunteers from the University of Durham come to assist us in finishing the construction of the center and tutor local children in chemistry, physics, biology, math, english, and geography.

I am excited by the success of the trip and only wish that I could have had
a crack at Mawenzi! During my travels from Kitunda to Ulolela I passed through Iringa which reminded me of Bishop with tons of huge granite boulder full of potential routes and bouldering problems. But the most exciting potential projects were a couple of huge appoximately 1,000 granite walls that have yet to be explored in the surrounding area. I have already started planning my trip for next summer and writing grants with the hope of including climbing into our sports cirriculm.

Now that I am back it is time to dust of the gear and head out!
Have fun and remember how lucky we all are!
Sterling Roop