Freedom Climbers reach Kilimanjaro summit
United States | OM International“Each step is a step of faith,” said climber Nancy Byrne on the fourth day of the Freedom Climbers’ assent to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Since Wednesday, 11 January— National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States—47 women from around the world, ranging in age from 18-73, have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise awareness of global injustices against women and children.
Nancy’s sentiment reflects the feelings of many of the climbers. Altitude is causing many to feel sick. Two climbers turned back because of cold weather and other issues. Others are struggling with headaches and nausea.
However, on 15 January, after five days of strenuous trekking, a few of the women have reached the summit, which is fittingly called Uhuru (freedom) Peak. Reportedly, many of the women chose not to summit because of the difficult conditions.
The group climbing to the summit began at midnight. After about nine hours hiking in the dark with flashlights, a few reached Uhuru Peak, some needing to be pushed up the last steps, they said.
“[It has been] the toughest physical and mental challenge of my life,” said climber Cheryl Weber. “[I’m] feeling really rough, but the experience of making it to Uhuru Peak was absolutely indescribable! I know I will always treasure the experience once I recover!”
Many who reached the summit cried tears of joy. They rejoiced not only in persevering through the difficult conditions but also in the symbolic act of proclaiming freedom for the millions of women and children in the world who live in slavery and oppression.
Through The Freedom Climb, an initiative of OM, the women hope to impact 10,000 women and children worldwide by providing rescue and rehabilitation through skills training, micro-business and education.
After reaching the summit, the climbers are faced with the daunting task of climbing down the mountain over the next two days. Though it take less time to descend, the hike will be difficult on their knees and feet. Some of the women have exclaimed that this has been the most difficult thing they have ever done.
Cheryl Weber thanks everyone for their prayers and encouragement, adding, “Please continue to journey with us and all the women and children who daily go through much more than we have had to endure.”