Eagle’s Nest Center has begun plans for an experiential learning expedition for youth to Africa in 2017. The safari will begin in Kenya’s Rift Valley and will culminate in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
I made this trip in March 2013, including climbing Kilimanjaro with one of my sons and a friend of his, who are both geologists and experienced climbers. We reached the summit in the worst snowstorm on the mountain in 10 years... the ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’ indeed!
For me, the 58-year-old Founder of Eagle’s Nest Center, this journey strengthened my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. I’d had major back, neck, and shoulder surgeries in 2010, 2011, and 2012 respectively, so this was a life-affirming challenge, as well as a shared adventure with my son doing something he loves (climbing). I benefited much more than I could have ever dreamed.
On the night we prepared to leave at midnight to summit Kilimanjaro by dawn, I was reflecting on the journey up to that point and how this experience would impact the lives of the young people Eagle’s Nest Center works with, the wounded and at-risk kids, the ones fallen into the cracks of life. We had a blizzard to face and a summit to make, so I parked that thought, knowing I would return to it.
Which I have. Its six months later, and I’m starting the process of organizing the adventure of a lifetime for a group of young people that will positively impact them for a lifetime.
The journey will begin here, with several months of education and physical training. Everything about it strategically planned, with specific goals in teaching values and principles, healthy lifestyles, the importance of education, leadership skills, and team building.
The safari itself will begin in Kenya, with the first camp at Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley -- the “cradle of humanity.” While there, we will spend some time adjusting to the 8+ hour time difference and the climate, experiencing the local people and their culture, and finally, climb Mount Longonot, a freestanding volcano much smaller than Kilimanjaro, to experience working at an increased altitude. From there to Hell’s Gate National Park, also in the Rift Valley, where we will hike and spend a day at a traditional Maasai village. We’ll then go to the refugee camp of the Kikuyu people, who survivors of an attempted genocide six years ago where they lost their traditional land. We’ll provide help as volunteers in the camp, a humbling and enriching experience for our youth and adults alike. Some Eagles Nest Center Board members will remain at the Kikuyu camp, while the climbing group heads for Tanzania.
Once we reach Kilimanjaro, we will begin our climb and spend seven days on the mountain, accompanied by a local guide. After the climbing group has accomplished its mission, we will return to Kenya, rendezvous with the volunteers who stayed at the camp at Amboseli National Preserve in the Rift Valley. There, we will rest, reconnect, experience the wildlife of Africa, and prepare for the journey home.
We will document the experience from the initial training, through the safari, and after we return home and debrief with the youth involved and their families to record the impact the adventure has made on them.
Our plan is to take six young people who will be chosen by an essay contest decided upon by Eagle’s Nest Center Board members. The initial criteria for youth selected will be documented evidence by two each from the following groups: at-risk youth, youth of an incarcerated parent, and youth who have lost a parent(s) in war. All must be at least 15 years of age at the time of selection.
Most of the preliminary planning has been done and we have cost out the project at $5500 per individual. We have a group of diverse experienced adults to lead this expedition. There will an adult for each youth on a buddy system as well as two skilled climbers and an anthropologist.
With all said, I am asking for help with fundraising for this expedition: donations, sponsorship of an individual, etc.; we will also be looking for the necessary gear for this journey. Individuals will be responsible for passports, inoculations, and insurance for the trip.
I send this voice out with my prayers and I hope you will sponsor or donate in some way. If you are interested please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (608) 296-4023/ (715) 252-4477.
Robert J. Kohel
Eagle’s Nest Center, Inc.