Although definitely improving, Tanzania remains one of the world's poorest countries with a per capita income of less than $1,700 per person. Scarce employment is certainly a major contributing factor.
Without a diploma, Erick's employment prospects were not promising. In an area of the country where micro farming and fishing provide available sustenance, Erick became a fisherman on Lake Victoria. When government regulations changed the size of the fishing net holes from 3 inches to 5 inches, Erick was unable to afford the $100 to buy a new net and was forced out of this business.
Erick's uncle, Jonas Kyanfura, who lived in Moshi at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, heard of Erick's plight and told Erick that he should come and become a porter on Mount Kilimanjaro. As background, Jonas and his wife Nie founded the non-government organization TAFCOM with whom our groups have provided for many projects related to heath care, employment and education concerns in the most destitute of the Kilimanjaro villages including the building of the Minnesota Academy.
Working as a mountain porter is a tough job that requires great strength and stamina. But as it was work where there was little, Erick was eager to begin. A porter must physically carry his own gear plus 30 pounds of tourist gear up the mountain in both a backpack and also in a duffle placed on the porter's head or on the back of his neck. On Kilimanjaro, the roads only lead a short distance up the mountain therefore human transportation is necessary to bring camping equipment, food, personal and tourist gear from the mountain gates at 6,000 feet to the base camps at 16,000 feet. The balance of the climb up to the summit at 19,340 feet is completed only by the guides and the tourists as minimal gear and water is necessary which can be easily be accommodated by using a small daypack.
Work days for porters are long and difficult, wages (although improving) are often minimal and personal clothing is often inadequate for harsh mountain conditions. Still porter jobs remain a valuable important source of employment that continues to be sustained through the tourist trade.
After a few years as a porter, Erick was promoted to summit porter which meant that he would have direct contact with clients when extra assistance was needed on the way to the summit. Here Erick was befriended by a client from Finland who sponsored him to attend school to become a mountain guide.
The life of a mountain guide is a nice improvement over that of a porter as they interact directly with clients and are only responsible for carrying their own personal gear. Wages are higher as well.
Erick was employed as a mountain guide for 6 years when he came across a certain group of 7 Americans from Minnesota in June of 2011. Erick's kindness, attentiveness and sincerity as a guide combined with his brilliant smile that "lights up the world" instantly drew people to him. When some of the group mentioned that they would be returning to Tanzania the following year, Erick suggested that the group trek for malaria.
Thus was born the "Anna Joyce" project named in honor of Erick's mother. This project was one of several projects completed by the June 2012 trekking group. Projects for this group
included raising funds to provide for scholarships for two Tanzanian Maasai women
to attend Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota and the distribution of treated
mosquito nets to 3000 Kilimanjaro area children. The Anna Joyce project was estimated to have saved the lives of 45 children over its 3 year lifespan.
And from this first charity trekking group in 2012, the program has continued to grow. To date over 60 individuals have joined one of the Kilimanjaro Challenge Hope for Education Tanzania Charity Treks. Trekkers have ranged in age from 16 to 70. With proper preparation, nearly all have
In addition to the Maasai women's college scholarships and the Anna Joyce project, other projects include the building of two pre-school classrooms for the TAFCOM children, funding a micro loan program for 30 men and women which is in its third round of funding small business opportunities, purchasing the 5 acres of land for the Minnesota Academy and the birth of the Minnesota Academy itself with the first classrooms, lavatories, well, desks and school van now provided.
Therefore it is indeed Erick, a young man from a simple equatorial village on the shores of Lake Victoria in remote Tanzania, who sparked all of the good works that have been and are yet to be accomplished. Erick is 30 years old and married to Claudia. Together they have a two year old daughter named Anna Joyce. When you meet Erick you will know why all of our Kilimanjaro Challenge charity trekkers quickly fall in love with the country and the people of Tanzania.
Erick on Mount Meru in Arusha, Tanzania. Far above the clouds, near the summit at sunrise. 16,000 feet.
Children of our mountain guides. Derek, son of Rutta and Anna Joyce, daughter of Erick.