Gervacio’s progress

In Peru, children with special needs do not have the same opportunities as other children. The Rainbow Centre exists to provide education, therapy and social support to these children and their families, to challenge stereotypes and raise awareness about disability among the local community, and to help our students develop skills for independent living.


One of the older students at the Rainbow Centre is Gervacio, who was born with Down ’s syndrome and therefore has a moderate learning disability.


Gervacio was born in Urubamba, the oldest of three children. Although initially a stable family, his parents separated after his father had an affair and since then his mother has struggled to cope both financially and emotionally. At home, Gervacio has no structure or supervision – his family did believe he would be capable of finding employment and he could be found wandering the streets of Urubamba with no purpose. Due to his disability, without support Gervacio would be unlikely to have a future where he is able to contribute towards supporting himself and his family. Read the rest of this entry »

Program engenders self-reliance

Selemani Juma’s mother had been murdered by robbers and his father was paralyzed on his left side, and with no means of supporting himself, was very poor.  Selemani Juma was about 15 years old when he came to Amani Children’s Home (a program supported by Climb for Leaders) in 2002; he could neither read nor write. In 2003, a volunteer spent six months helping Sele to learn to do both. That year, Sele also found an apprenticeship with a carpenter.

Sele’s father became very sick and without any means of support, he would eat sawdust when he didn’t have food and he slept on a concrete floor. Sele, who was very devoted to his dad, hired himself out pushing wheelbarrows to earn enough coins to buy a bed sheet for his father.  One day at Amani, Sele asked how he could get a mattress, essentially for his father to lie on as he died.  Amani had an extra one and when Sele was told that he could take it to his father, he clapped and smiled and expressed his gratitude for the rest of the day. Read the rest of this entry »

Monika’s story

Monika, the youngest of three sisters, is from Songea in Southern Tanzania. When she was 13, her parents divorced. Monika and her sisters went with their mother, Nuru, to live with her parents. Life was hard: the harvest was poor for two years in a row and the whole village suffered from hunger. Monika and her sisters all had to leave school.

Nuru befriended a woman who had a market stall selling second-hand clothes. This seemingly kind woman suggested that she could take the three girls under her wing and arrange for their schooling; they would return home for the school holidays. The matter was discussed by the family and agreed upon. The two older girls were sent to Dar-es-Salaam where, almost certainly, they were set to work in a house as unpaid servants. They have not been heard of since that day in 2003. Read the rest of this entry »

Poverty, money, and love

What do you think of people in poverty? Maybe what Jessica Jackley once did: “they” need “our” help, in the form of a few coins in a jar. The co-founder of talks about how her attitude changed — and how her work with micro loans has brought new power to people who live on a few dollars a day. In this powerful TED talk, Jessica tells the fascinating story of what drove her to co-found Kiva. is the world’s first personal micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. Founded in 2005,’s mission is to connect people, through lending, to alleviate poverty. In just over 5 years, over 477,000 people have loaned more than $150 million to 408,000 entrepreneurs in 53 countries.

In September 2010, Kiva announced a pilot of Student Microloans on Anyone can lend as little as $25 to students in three countries around the world. Founded as a means to combine the impact of microfinance with the utility of technology, Kiva is in a unique position to help lenders make a personal difference — easily, quickly and effectively — first with small business microloans and now with student microloans. Read the rest of this entry »

An ounce of prevention . . .

“Heads of school tell us consistently that a key issue that schools must contend with is the risk associated with trips – whether it’s to a sporting event at a nearby school, a service trip across town, or an international cultural expedition – and everything in between,” says Karim H. Ismail, co-founder of the Climb for Leaders.

So you should consider carefully the impact of a mishap, especially one that could have been preventable. Schools that have been through major mishaps will identify with: Read the rest of this entry »

“The most beautiful thing about teaching is providing opportunities”

Climb for Leaders is delighted to announce a partnership with Aldea Yanapay, a Peruvian charity based in Cusco. Aldea Yanapay came to fruition in 2004, with the vision of a Peruvian, Yuri Valencia Barrio de Mendoza, whose dream it was to build an orphanage, where education would be based on the belief that “the most beautiful thing about teaching is being able to provide opportunities.”

The Yanapay School started as an alternative school in 2004 where children would receive help with homework, as well as receive education in the arts, cultural expression, and topics relevant to today’s world, free of charge. With more than 160 children attending the school every afternoon, the school moved to a bigger space and started a volunteer programme in 2005. The Yanapay School is now sustained by profit from the Yanapay House, where volunteers pay for their room and board. In 2006, Yuri opened the Yanapay Village Restaurant and Café, which will help to fund the cultural centre he hopes to make a reality in the near future. Read the rest of this entry »

Students support environmental sustainability in Amazon Rain Forest

Climb for Leaders is delighted to announce its support of the Yachana Technical High School in the Amazon Rain Forest in Orellana province, Ecuador. The Yachana Foundation opened the Yachana Technical High School in October 2005  to benefit high school age indigenous and mestizo students who live in remote rural communities in Ecuador’s Amazon region.

The Yachana Technical High School is a non-traditional boarding school providing a practical and relevant experiential learning approach. It is forging a new generation of green leaders and entrepreneurs and is sparking students’ interest and desire to continue their education. The program is promoting conservation of the Amazon’s biodiversity through teaching sustainable use of natural resources, providing professional skills to improve employability, and mentoring management of student-run ecological enterprises. Subjects include ecotourism, sustainable agriculture, forest and wildlife management and environmentally sustainable micro-enterprises. Read the rest of this entry »

Students to support working girls and families in Quito, Ecuador

Climb for Leaders is delighted to announce its support of CENIT, the Center for the Working Girl, in the south of Quito, Ecuador. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic order, founded CENIT in 1991 in response to their observations that the prevalence of child laborers in Quito had increased greatly due to urban migration, debt crisis, and an increase in poverty. To learn more about CENIT, please see this short video on CENIT.

They sought to give these children the necessary skills, talents, and education so that they could find work away from the streets and hopefully break the cycle of child laborers. Over nineteen years later, CENIT continues to be run by a group of nuns from the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. These nuns work in conjunction with about 35 Ecuadorian paid professionals (including teachers, administrators, psychologists and social workers), and around fifty foreign and national volunteers in order to locate the child workers, befriend them and their families, and eventually integrate them into an educational program. CENIT helps working girls (and boys) and their families overcome grinding poverty and improve their quality of lives through education and job training, nutrition programs, health and social services, psychological help, and recreation. Read the rest of this entry »

The #1 question we get asked . . .

The #1 question we get asked is: how does your international leadership program differ from what many schools currently offer their students, either on their own, or via a service providor?

So we put together this comparison that shows how we differ along a host of key factors. In addition to these substantial differences, one of the key differentiators is our fanatical emphasis on safety, risk management and customer service. And above all, the role we assume with schools is that of a true partnership, which is essential to successfully pulling off  the programs we offer, and achieve the benefits we have seen schools and students enjoy.

– Essay
– Physical training
– Fund-raising
– Expedition
– Exploration
– Service project
– Environmental sustainability
– Wide-spread benefits
– Program costs
– Preparation and length

Please go here to access

>>>>  Climb for Leaders Ultimate Student Challenge – comparison with other programs <<<<

We’d be pleased to discuss this comparison in more detail.

Ask yourself these questions

Below is a check list of some key questions that your school might wish to answer to make any school trip or expedition as safe as possible.

  1. Do our expeditions, service trips, and international student travel programs meet the requirements of a well recognized standard like BS8848?
  2. Do we have a detailed Risk Assessment and Management System, that is communicated widely, for every phase of the trip?
  3. Do our parent permission and waiver forms adequately spell out all the project risks so that there is informed consent by parents and students? (hint: many school permission forms are woefully inadequate at this)
  4. Do we carry out a full reconnaissance for our expeditions, service trips, international student travel programs? If not, are we truly aware of the risks involved, and the competencies of the local tour operator? Read the rest of this entry »

49 Steps to Safer, Improved School Trips

Climb for Leaders is delighted to announce that it has completed self-assessment against the toughest expedition standard, BS 8848, developed by the Royal Geographical Society in the UK. There is currently no equivalent Canadian or US Standard.

The new standard aims to reduce risk from injury or illness and provides those that comply with the standard, with a way of being able to demonstrate that they are following good practice to manage the venture/expedition safely.  BS 8848 specifies operational requirements for organizers of adventurous and educational activities abroad including university and academic fieldwork, gap year experiences, adventure holidays, charity challenges and research expeditions.

BS8848 is designed to provide  a comprehensive but simple system to ensure that all participants are aware of the need to conduct risk assessments; are adequately trained and prepared; and are aware of the scope of measures to protect their well-being. BS 8848 helps minimize risk through: Read the rest of this entry »

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The Spark of Hope Challenge

Climb for Leaders is delighted to announce a new summer leadership challenge for senior high school students in the last two years of secondary school. It is an incredible opportunity for students to translate their classroom social justice learning into actual, meaningful impact in the real world.

Says Narmin K. Ismail, co-founder of the Spark of Hope Challenge: “Students, teachers and parents consistently tell us that students who undertake these small group challenges develop excellent team-building skills, much greater focus, discipline and organizational skills, outstanding communication skills and exceptional fund-raising skills, while having lots of fun and learning.” Read the rest of this entry »

Vietnam combines trekking Roof of Indochina, service and deep cultural/historical immersion

Climb for Leaders is delighted to announce a new destination: a three week trip to Vietnam for high school students from independent schools in North America.

Says Narmin K. Ismail from Climb for Leaders, “Students will get to experience a challenging six day trek, culminating in hiking to the top of Mt. Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina, at 3 143 m. It is located in the Lào Cai province in Northwest Vietnam, 9 km southwest of Sa Pa Township in the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range. Fansipan is dubbed “the Roof of Indochina”; it is approved as one of the very few eco-tourist spots of Vietnam, with about 2,024 floral varieties and 327 faunal species”

She adds, “They will also spend part of their trip making a difference in the lives of school childern aged 11 to 18 in Ho Chi Minh City through hands-on-participation with the Saigon Children’s Charity, which was established in 1992 to help children escape from the cycle of poverty by giving them an education and an opportunity to enhance their life. And they will get to experience the wonderful history of Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon and other destinations, which are replete with UNESCO designated sites.” Read the rest of this entry »

More students can now help alleviate poverty

“In all past expeditions, we have struggled with how to involve more students than just the ones participating in the climbs,” says Narmin K. Ismail, co-founder of the Climb for Leaders. “We recently added a new component via the ability to lend funds to help alleviate poverty, via the Internet, from a portion of the funds that students raise. This way, hundreds of students in the school can each lend funds to entrepreneurs based on geography, gender or other criteria, which greatly enhances their world view,” she adds. “Since the funds are loans and not donations, when the loans are repaid (98.5% of loans are repaid), funds can be loaned again, or loaned out by another student the next year, thus involving even more students.”

Kiva’s mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending. Read the rest of this entry »

Students empowered to help save the environment

All students who participate in the Climb for Leaders expeditions now have an innovative way to mitigate the environmental impact of their trips.

“All future expeditions will involve the students setting aside at least 10% of funds raised to be contributed to an environmental project of their choice,” says Narmin K. Ismail, co-founder of the Climb for Leaders. “Each student participant will be required to identify an environmental project in the country they will be visiting, which they feel is worthy of receiving funds raised. The students will then review all their selections among themselves, and come up with the ONE environmental project that they ALL agree most deserves to receive the funds set aside.”

“Our goal is to ensure that there is in-depth due diligence, great learning about different environmental initiatives, and strong consensus-building among the students,” adds Ismail. “This approach offers the students complete ownership of the edn result, and the funds contributed will normally be twice what typical carbon-offset projects call for, thus making a significant impact to the recipient project.”

Himalayan expedition has potential to impact hundreds of children’s lives

DSC_0118 (2).jpgClimb for Leaders is proud to facilitate a three week trip to trek in the spectacular Himalayas of Nepal for high school students from independent schools in North America.

Says Narmin K. Ismail from Climb for Leaders, “Students will get to experience what life is really like high up in the Annapurna range of this beautiful mountain kingdom. Students will hike to Annapurna I South-Face Base Camp at 13,550ft/4130m in the 360 degree panoramic mountain amphitheatre known as “The Sanctuary”.

They will also spend part of their trip making a difference in the lives of Nepalese school children through hands-on-participation with the Hope for Himalayan Kids project – a project which provides the best environment for proper care and development for orphaned, abandoned and at-risk children in the Pokhara area of Nepal.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Trip to Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and one of the world’s seven summits

Jan 05 - 59 - View of Kili Before First Hike.jpgClimb for Leaders is delighted to announce that arrangements have been finalized for a three-week trip by a small group of independent school youth leaders to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The trip consists of a seven-day climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a four day safari in the finest game parks in the world in Tanzania, and a week living in a local community in Tanzania and helping with school development projects. Funds raised will support the wonderful work at the Ilkurot Village Nursery & Primary School near Arusha, Tanzania and impact the lives of hundreds of children and their future.  See

Donna Duggan, an Australian who started the school when she saw the high need in the area, said, ” We welcome the involvement of student leaders with raising funds and actively contributing on site to develop educational opportunities for the Maasai children in this area. The need is very high, and the impact will be felt for generations to come. One day, we hope that a future president of Tanzania might come from our school!”

Trips can be held in December or Spring breaks.

For details, please visit

New survey to measure risk perception of off site activities

Many heads of school and those involved with offsite activities worry about the four-letter word, RISK.

“Risk is very much present in offsite activities like school trips, sport trips and other trips, something just about every school undertakes, let alone international expeditions like we undertake,’ says Narmin K. Ismail, co-founder of the Climb for Leaders. “The recent front page story in the Globe and Mail is a good example of how a regular trip can become risk-laden so quickly,” she adds.

“Understanding perception of risk can assist in tailoring programs which are within the risk tolerance and safety culture of an organization. Furthermore, an appreciation of where staff and faculty perceive risk can assist in developing and refining policies and standard operating procedures, including finding ways to mitigate risk: something Boards, parents and insurers would surely appreciate,” says Louise Melville, co-founder of Canadian International Expeditions, Climb for Leaders’ partner in developing this survey.

Read the rest of this entry »

Partnership with Kenyan girls centre to empower young women

Climb for Leaders is delighted to announce a partnership with the Hawkers Market Girls Centre (HMGC) in Nairobi, Kenya. The HMGC was created in 1996 to empower young women between the ages of 12-21 years from the Mathare slums and other similar areas, enabling them to become educated, self sufficient, as well as emotionally and physically secure.

The HMGC provides its students with a safe and secure class environment that feels more like a home than a school. The centre offers students FREE meals and lessons daily, and opportunities in skill development, as well as the opportunity to become a part of a greater organization. For as part of the Kenya Girl Guide Association, the students benefit from a life-long sisterhood, improved self esteem, and a greater sense of self worth.

“On a recent visit to Nairobi, we were delighted to learn first-hand from the program coordinators of the successes—and challenges—that the program had. Young girls from poverty stricken backgrounds now have a great opportunity to future independence and a solid livelihood, which will make a huge impact to a growing number of families,” says Narmin K. Ismail, co-founder of Climb for Leaders. Read the rest of this entry »

New partnership with Amani Children’s Home

Tanzania Amani - DSC_0106 - March 2010Climb for Leaders is pleased to partner with Amani Children’s Home in Moshi, Tanzania, on the foothills of Kilimanjaro (see

Amani is dedicated to the protection of Tanzania’s most vulnerable population: street-children and AIDS orphans. It is estimated that there are 2.5 million orphaned children in Tanzania.

Since its founding by Tanzanians in 2001, Amani has rescued hundreds of children from the perils of life on the streets, where they face a high risk of HIV transmission, malnutrition, and abuse.

Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili, provides healthy food, education, counseling and medical care for every child who turns to them for help.

“I first visited Amani in 2005 after completing the Kilimanjaro climb with my daughter Aliya. We were very impressed by the director’s professionalism and determination to expand and improve the services that Amani provided. Since 2006, Amani has moved to much larger premises, grown substantially, and supports hundreds of kids within at Amani and in the community,” says Karim H. Ismail, co-founder of Climb for Leaders. Read the rest of this entry »

Students get opportunity to impact education of a very special group of children

Peru 07 - 493 - Four-year-old girl.jpgClimb for Leaders has concluded arrangements for a two week trip by a small group of independent school youth leaders to spend some time with the local community in Urubamba and climb the mountains leading to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Narmin K. Ismail from Climb for Leaders adds: “Students will get a chance to experience what life is really like up in the Andes. They will learn about rural life from Inca Trail porters, and they will head deep into the Andes and continue your exploration of the Peruvian mountains on the Lares Trek and on to Machu Picchu. Through their fund-raising and hands-on involvement, they will spend part of their trip making a difference in the lives of special needs children.”

All proceeds from this trip will support the building and running of a local nursery school for special needs children at the Kiya Survivors Rainbow Centre in Urubamba.

Suzy Butler, Founder and Managing Director of Kiya Survivors, said: “Kiya Survivors offers children and families living in poverty, special-needs children and abandoned or abused children in Peru an education, therapy, housing and the love and support they need to overcome their past and lead a bright and positive future.

So far Kiya has built/set up and now runs five projects: The Rainbow Centre, and The Rainbow House in Urubamba, Cuzco, the Pasitos Centre and Mama Cocha Childrens Home and The Early Bird Centre in Los Organos Piura. We provide support to over 100 families and their communities.

We are delighted to have the help of students from North America, and the financial support and help they provide will mean highly enhanced learning opportunities for a very special group of children.”

Expeditions can be undretaken in Spring 2011, and Summer 2011.

For more information, please go to

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