Over the years, we’ve received feedback from many students, teachers and parents. Here are some testimonials.

1. Video prepared by students from Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland, who trekked in the Annapurna region in April 2009.

2. Peter Hunt, a student at West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, summited Kilimanjaro in March 2006 as part of the Climb for HIV/AIDS. His feedback to a number of questions he was asked is below.

1. How did the climb change your life?

The climb has motivated me to be more involved in international affairs. Because I feel more prepared and educated on issues across the globe, I have been able to speak to others and inspire them. As a result of the climb itself, I have changed my approach to fitness and how I follow through with my goals. When it comes to sports, I feel I have greater focus and endurance to push myself. I have an example in my life that I can draw upon in times of struggle.

2. What were three things you learnt about yourself from this initiative?

I learned that I can complete my goals as long as I stay organized, focused, and energized. With organization, deadlines can be met. With focus and energy, I am motivated to complete tasks and inspire others. I also learned to push myself farther physically. The final push summit climb demanded a lot of me, but I stuck to it, one deep breath at a time.

3. What were other important learnings for you, from the essay, fund-raising, travel, climb, etc.?

As I have never tried to raise a high amount of money like this before, the fund-raising was huge part of my learning experience. I learned how to write letters, and more importantly, follow up on them. Furthermore, when planning the trip, I learned that there are no right nor final answers. Almost every decision requires negotiation and there are pros and cons for every option. The planning process took from October through to February, and yet there were still items to be ironed out in the last few weeks.

4. What was the best part of the whole exercise?

Without doubt, the best part was learning to relate and connect with the people we met. Whether it be giving a speech to soon-to-be donors, or a presentation to younger children at school, the most satisfying part of the experience was sharing our vision with them. However, this was only half of the experience. The other half was meeting people in Africa. Establishing contacts and connections in Tanzania was one of greatest highlights for me. Before we can make an impact on anyone, a level of communication and interaction must occur.

5. Would you do it all over again?

Of course. Although this project required a lot of time, I would fully commit to it again. Going into the project, my knowledge of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic was limited, and I had little idea of the process. Now that I have taken part in the planning and completion of this experience, I am especially grateful to have been part of it.

6. Would you recommend this initiative to others? If so, why? If not, why not?

I would completely recommend this initiative. It is the type of experience that every teen should be a part of. I believe that this entire experience is about building respect for other people in the community, across Canada, and throughout the world. It is also about fuelling a desire to be of service to people less fortunate.

3. Feedback from Robin & John Rutherford, parents of Mike Rutherford, who participated in the Neuchatel Junior College trip in April 2009:

Dear Narmin,

. . . My grade 5 class and I have been tracking their progress on a map of the Pokhara – Annapurna Sanctuary region. We have also been learning a few Nepali words too! We hope that Mike will come back to the school and do a presentation about his year abroad.

. . . In our brief phone call, Mike sounded healthy and happy and kept saying how “amazing” Nepal is. We can’t thank your husband enough for accompanying these young people on such a wonderful trip. It is an opportunity to do something so worthwhile for others and learn about such a different culture than their own. Only half of Mike’s education this year has been received in the classroom. As with all their experiences, these students are truly becoming “global citizens” . . .

Robin Rutherford

Dear Mr. Ismail, Mr. Danko and Ms. Weber,

We just wanted to send a note of “thanks” to all three of you for accompanying the eleven NJC students to Nepal and for giving them the opportunity of a lifetime! We have spoken with Mike and he has sent emails to family and friends describing the “amazing” Nepal trek. He has sent us wonderful pictures and has had nothing but great things to say about the gracious people and beautiful landscape of Nepal. He said he would like to go back again, but to trek to the Everest Base Camp next time. I have attached a group picture at Annapurna Base Camp that Mike sent us, just in case you haven’t seen it yet.

As parents we were both excited and nervous about Mike trekking in Nepal. We knew, however, that he was with experienced guides and caring teachers, and that he would depend on the close friendships he has developed over the course of his year in Switzerland. This was yet again another growth experience for him.

Please know how much we appreciate the time you spent away from your own families to be there with our children. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


Robin & John Rutherford

Dear Karim and Narmin

Since returning from Neuchatel in mid-June, Mike was interviewed by our local paper in Stratford. He discussed the Nepal trek and the impact it had both on him and also the citizens of Uri. As a young man of only 17 when he made that trek, he will never forget that experience or the people he met. He has truly become a global citizen and as parents we hope that he will continue to participate in other service projects when he attends the University of Guelph this September.

As an elementary teacher, my grade 5 students last year heard all about Mike’s adventure. We had a map of Nepal posted in our classroom and I traced the route that your group followed. I also read Jean Paul Danko’s email to my students – they were enthralled. The students this coming year will have the benefit of seeing Mike’s many photos and learning about “Light Up the World” and “Climb for Leaders” as part of my “Global Citizenship” initiative that I am taking within my school.

Again, we can’t express how appreciative we are that Mike had that opportunity. We hope that our 15 year old son, Steve will also be afforded such an experience when he attends NJC in two years!

Robin Rutherford

4. Interview with Rira Lee, a student participant from Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts three years after she participated in the Climb for Leaders challenge to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2007:

5. Chelsea Modlin, a 17-year old student participant from Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts, said: “The climb taught me that that I can successfully overcome the toughest of challenges. The week of community service gave me a great appreciation of the many challenges facing the Maasai – and the certainty that I can make a meaningful difference in the world.”

6. Alex Shum, the teacher at Royal St. George’s College in Toronto who supervised a group of five student leaders who raised $94,000, said: “The trip was life-changing for me. I learned a great deal about the world, about myself and about team-work.”

Read about the Royal St. George’s experience below, in an article in the Toronto Star.

Click here to download a PDF version of the article

Journey teaches lessons not found in any book

Toronto students climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, then helped build school in Kenya
Apr 20, 2007 12:25 PM

Leslie Ferenc
Toronto Star
Their destination was East Africa and their mission was one of help and hope.

What five Grade 11 students from Royal St. George’s College and their teacher brought home from their extraordinary March Break trip was a new view of the world and themselves.

And the lessons they learned – while ascending the world’s highest freestanding mountain and travelling across Nairobi and into Kenya to help build a school – can’t be found between the covers of a book.

The three-week journey of self-discovery, part of the downtown Toronto school’s global outreach, began in Tanzania with a gruelling test of endurance. For Thomas Pepper, reaching Kilimanjaro’s Gilman’s Point at 5,681 metres after five days of trekking – the last at night on treacherous, icy scree trails – was an unforgettable adventure. Though the trekkers were all desperately fighting to breathe and physically spent, Pepper had high hopes of reaching the summit Uhuru at 5,895 metres.

Not achieving the ultimate goal didn’t distract him from the breathtaking view. In his mind’s eye, he can still see the magnificent landscape of Kenya and the Serengeti as he watched the sun rise from Gilman.

No amount of training could have prepared the crew, all 16 years old, for Kili’s power, according to Matthew Muncaster. During the last hours of the ascent – in the dark – all he could focus on was putting one foot in front of the other. The physical and mental exhaustion was overwhelming.

A hat presented to the group by an RSGC student who’s battled poor health motivated math teacher Alex Shum not to give up.

“I just wanted to get a picture with the hat at the summit,” he said. Their guide ended the climb at Gilman due to dangerous conditions. “We reached our personal summits and no one gave up easily,” said Shum, an avid rock climber. At Gilman’s, the team and Shum with hat on head proudly flew the RSGC school flag.

One of the most rewarding experiences for the team was in the Kipsigis region of Kenya, where they worked in the blazing sun for eight days setting the foundation for a nursery classroom at the Motony Primary school, said Jordan Hyde. The sight of 500 children singing as they ran to greet them that first day is one of his most cherished memories.

“It was hard to leave such warm, friendly and welcoming people who are so happy and cherish everything they have,” he said.

The experience also made him understand that one person can make a difference. By working together and raising even a small amount of money “it can buy so much for Africa and change lives,” providing precious treasures like education and clean water, he said.

The school is being built by Free the Children – a youth-driven Toronto-based NGO founded by international child rights activist Craig Kielburger. The RSGC students raised $94,000 for the charity before embarking on their journey. To help raise awareness about the challenges facing Africa, the school organized a speakers’ series that included Stephen Lewis, retired general Romeo Dallaire and Dr. James Orbinski former head of Medecins Sans Frontieres International.

Work on the Motony classroom began in earnest on the second day in the village. Armed with pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows, the RSGC team dug a trench through mud and rock for the foundation, said Eddie Beqaj. Like his buddies, he held up his hands to reveal hard-earned callouses and blisters. Under the watchful eyes of local experts, they mixed cement by hand for the foundation’s concrete base and mortared layers of quarried stone. Students from schools in Vancouver, Boston and Halifax also helped with building.

When the RSGC crew wasn’t working on the school, they went into the community to get to know the people and see how they lived, worked and played. They also visited another school under construction in the Maasai Mara village of Ngrone Ngrone.

Looking back, Mike Sherman has a real sense of accomplishment.

“What we did in Africa was the most pure form of community service,” he said. “We did something that actually helps a community that needs help.”

And the children he met, two brothers in particular, have left a lasting impression. “I am connected to them.”

The African children may have only known a little English, but their gleaming faces and bright smiles broke down all language barriers, added Beqaj.

“Coming home was very hard,” he said, adding he now understands that “what the people have is what they love and they don’t want to change that.”

The trip has given the students a different perspective on the world. It’s also given new meaning to community service, said Pepper. “I feel that the school is ours,” he said adding the group became friends with the people they helped. More important, he recognizes that though they have little, they cherish it and in many ways, “you understand they are better people than you are.”

For Shum, it’s been an incredible journey.

“I thought we would transform lives, but the people transformed me – transformed all of us.

“I think it’s safe to say that we all have begun to question the progress that is attributed to modern life in the West.”