This was the second fund-raising project underwritten by the Sarah Groves Foundation. It was a highly poignant journey to re-trace Sarah’s footsteps to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro which she successfully achieved exactly two years beforehand. It was brilliantly arranged by two of Sarah’s closest friends – Fabiana Harrington and Lucy Annika-Dennis, who now lives in Chicago.
On Thursday 25th August 2014, twenty-five intrepid adventurers, including Sarah’s father Vic and her half-brother Simon, met at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 and flew overnight via Qatar to Nairobi in Kenya. They were met there by Danny Lloyd who had flown up from Australia and by tour guide Raymond, who clearly remembered Sarah as he was her guide in 2012. Raymond had climbed Kilimanjaro more than 250 times! The successful rendezvous in Nairobi was followed by ten arduous hours in a small coach travelling south through Kenya and into Tanzania – interesting but painful! The final destination was Moshi, and a first glimpse of Mt Kilimanjaro.
After settling in overnight, everyone visited Mgungani school, which was very dear to Sarah’s heart from her trip there is 2012. In conjunction with Childreach International, the Sarah Groves Foundation had funded the development of a playground, a sports-field and associated equipment and had paid for a complete set of year-group text books. The visit included the official opening, an exchange of presents, the unveiling of a plaque in honour of Sarah, a ceremonial tree planting, dancing displays by the children and speeches. Everyone was touched by the raw emotion of this visit and by the infectious enthusiasm of each and every one of the children, who were immaculately dressed for the occasion.
The first day of the climb itself was on Thursday 28th August 2014. Apart from Fabiana, one of the organisers of this trip who had accompanied Sarah in 2012, nobody else knew what to expect. The first day was easy and the first of five nights under canvas came and went without incident. Over the next three days, as the tree line was left behind, as the clouds suddenly appeared below and not above, as all vegetation ceased to exist, as the terrain started to resemble the moon, as the night-time temperature plummeted to way below zero and, above all else, as the air got thinner and thinner - life became progressively more difficult. One team member dropped out at this stage through illness but everyone else ploughed on – despite the complete lack of home comforts.
At around 23:00 hours on Sunday 31st August 2014, the twenty-five remaining climbers set off through the dark African night for the final long push to the top. There are two ‘summits’ on Mt Kilimanjaro. The first one, known as Stella Point, is at 5,756 metres or 18,885 ft. above mean sea level. Everyone made it to Stella Point, which was a wonderful achievement in itself. The ultimate summit, known as Uhuru Peak, is at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft.) amsl and is the highest point on the African continent. All but two pushed on to Uhuru Point where they arrived at around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday 1st September 2014.
At Uhuru Peak, a small but highly emotional ceremony was held in which some of Sarah’s ashes were spread at the very point where she had stood exactly two years to the day before.
Kuwa Huru, Sarah.
('Be free' in Swahili)
All that was left was to come back down knowing that what had happened would remain in everyone’s memory for ever. The post-climb party at base camp was a sight to behold with the porters showing everyone how to celebrate in true African style.
Special thanks are due to Fabiana Harrington and Lucy Annika Dennis, without whom this trip simply would not have been possible. Fabiana and Lucy have been appointed as Honorary Ambassadors of the Sarah Groves Foundation in recognition of their outstanding efforts to keeps Sarah’s name alive.
In excess of £60,000 was raised from individual sponsorships and, with costs of around £20,000, the Foundation benefitted to the extent of £40,000 for the causes it supports.
With sincere apologies for any unforgiveable omissions, the Sarah Groves Foundation wish to thank the following for their contribution to making this trip possible and so highly successful in every way.
For overseeing the construction and equipping of the playground and sports field at Mgungani School and for arranging such a memorable visit thereto.
Firoz Patel, CEO, Childreach International
For ‘being there’ when we went to Mgungani School – a great example of ‘leading from the front’.
For hosting the farewell party at the team hotel in Moshi.
Raymond and his team of porters
For seeing us all safely up and safely down Africa’s highest mountain – they made this trip in Sarah’s memory very special.
Really Wild Travel Company
For making all the travel arrangements.
The hundreds of individuals who sponsored participants of generously
For supporting the Sarah Groves Foundation and for collectively raising a huge amount of money.
For giving the event such a high profile in the UK and in the Channel Islands.