If actions speak louder than words, Kurt Thurmaier is sending a message loud and clear.
The NIU Presidential Engagement Professor and chair of the Department of Public Administration, School of Public and Global Affairs, successfully completed his second trek to the top of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, on Jan. 30.
Thurmaier’s efforts were on behalf of Tanzania Development Support (TDS), a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his wife, Jeanine, in 2008. In 2012, during his inaugural climb to Mount Kilimanjaro, his group raised more than $33,000, which allowed construction of a modern library and multipurpose resource center for Nyegina schools and nearby Bukwaya communities.
“This trip was really parallel to the first trip, and this climb is for the second phase of the project which is to build a wing with computer labs,” Thurmaier said. “But in addition to being able to build this computer lab – which is essential for improving educational outcomes for poor rural girls and boys in Tanzania – the climb itself is designed to acquaint an entire new group of people to what we are doing.”
With a goal of raising $50,000, Thurmaier began the 19,341-foot journey Jan. 25 joined by 11 other climbing volunteers, including NIU alumni Ben Peterson and Mark Biernacki.
“I joined this program for the chance to support TDS’s mission in Nyegina,” said Peterson, who first visited the area in 2011 as part of Thurmaier’s study abroad program. “Also, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro looks like it will be quite an adventure on its own.”
And it was. Taking the Lemosho Route, a five and a half day trek to the summit, the TDS crew successfully reached their goal Jan.30 and unfurled the same NIU flag that made it to the Uhuru Peak in the 2012 climb.
For Biernacki, that was one of many rewarding moments.
“We were rewarded in the way that we have tested ourselves and passed the self-imposed exam of scaling one of the world’s highest mountains,” Biernacki said. “But, more importantly, we were rewarded with the knowledge that we have made a difference, largely due to our donors who have so generously given. What we and our donors have done will have real and tangible meaning for the people of Nyegina and northwest Tanzania.”
The tangible results include more than $55,000 that was raised by volunteers. The funds will support a much needed computer lab wing for the library, so teachers and students will have access to modern day technology.
“The computer labs will connect these children and their families to the global community with high-speed Internet connections and computer literacy training,” Thurmaier said. “The money we raise in the climb will change their lives forever, helping them out of poverty and into healthier, longer, more satisfying lives.”
Although this was Thurmaier’s second climb to Mount Kilimanjaro, he described it as a “totally different experience.”
“This time, we stayed together as a group and we all arrived together at Uhuru Peak about 7:45 a.m. on Jan. 30,” Thurmaier said. “The final ascent was very emotional for everyone. We had been climbing very slowly and at about 19,000 feet, the sun broke across the horizon, shining on Africa and on us. It was an unforgettable moment for all us.”
by Jane Donahue