Yusuf, Guides and Porters Scholarships
Help board member Rick continue his support for Yusuf, his African Kilimanjaro guide and friend. Rick and others have supported him for 20 years in various ways including scholarship for college, two trips to the USA, sending him groups to guide on trips to Africa, and in many more ways. Rick considers him part of his family.
Currently Yusuf and some of our other guides are in need of financial support to continue the education of their children. They go to local schools that teach English. Learning English and doing well in school is about the only way someone in Tanzania, with over 50% unemployment, can hope to find jobs sufficient to provide for themselves in the African economy. Local jobs like teacher or policeman do not pay enough. It is necessary to find employment in tourism or some international business. This makes English skills critical. Public schools are very crowded, with up to 100 kids per teacher. It is important to have your kids go to a private school if you want them to succeed.
The guides and porters. People come to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. What they remember the most are the porters and guides who helped them on the trek to the summit. Most of these men have dedicated themselves for over 25 years to helping hundreds of climbers reach the “rooftop of Africa”. We all age. Now they are are moving into their 50’s. Their hope lies in their children. Many never finished more than primary school. An education at a good school is the hope they have for their children and their own future. If their children can get a good job, it means security, or as secure as Tanzanians can be in their old age. Educating their children is a profound desire in a way we can not appreciate. It will change the immediate life of the family in so many ways.
Yusuph‘s Kid’s Bios
He is going to Cyprus to college for a 4 year degree in Wildlife Research
Bio: Aziza and Aisha are Yusuf’s niece. He took them in when his brother died. They fell behind in their education because they lived in the hills for a long time where they didn’t have access to school.
The challenge of supporting his family is increasing faster than he can find ways to make up the funds. Since COVID, the economy in Africa is worse than ever. It is not possible for Yusuf to support his family with only seasonal guiding on the mountain. He has started a farm in the off-season but this only produces a little income. Yusuf is known for having a heart for helping people. He adopted a son from an impoverished community, adopted his nieces following his brother’s death, and took care of both his parents at the end of their lives. He’s started a nonprofit dedicated to enabling those with physical disabilities, and is very active in his community supporting those in need.
2) Want to go to Africa again or for your first time? Yusuf has started his own guide company, offering treks and cultural tours which would be a small, private mix of local culture, safari, and humanitarian projects such as working with orphanages and schools. If you are interested in a Tanzanian adventure and supporting Yusuf’s business, visit Plains to Peak.
3) Make a yearly commitment to supporting a scholarship for the children. It can be tuition for the academic career of one child or a smaller amount annually. This is important to commit to renew this annually until the child is out of school. We have completed Yusuf’s two older nieces’ education. Contact JOS for more specific information on specific tuition and students. If you’d like to make a general donation to the fund, be sure to mark it as Yusuf, Guides & Porters Scholarships.
The Yusuph Project
As they say in the streets, “mambo.” You answer, “poa!”
We first met Yusuf almost 20 years ago. Since then he has guided all of our groups. He is a respected guide who is sought out by the National Park in Tanzania for information about the mountain and rescues. He has been selected by his peers as secretary to the Kilimanjaro Guides organization. Despite his reluctance to accept this position, the respect for his honesty and strength of character has guided him to this place.
He started out years ago on the mountain, as it was the only job in town. His careful planning and saving has allowed him to have a family, a house (just recently he was able to add water which means one outside tap thanks to the support of past clients). His natural intelligence has aided him in completing professional guides’ school with straight A’s.
Several years ago he asked to come to America. In a tedious, and difficult visa process, he was successful in a visit for two months. He spoke to over 17 groups from youth in prison to the most exclusive of country clubs about his life as a guide and the mountain. This highly unusual experience for a guide gives him exceptional insight into assisting your visit to Africa.
We admire his view of life and wisdom. We anticipate your experience will be beyond what you expect because of him.
HOW IT BEGAN?
In 2001 upon descending with a group of 10 people from Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, I was talking with Yusuf, our guide from town. It was a very successful climb in many ways. It is hard to explain what life is like in many places in the world until you have been there. Yusuf was an honest, hardworking, sincere man with a son and a wife. He lived in a cement blockhouse without running water on the edge of the dusty town tucked into a quiet glade of green. He was fortunate, thrifty and wise to have been able to save the money to build his two-room house. For $60 we put his two assistants through English school for 3 months. (Later one ran to me when I was in town with a huge hug and declared how much that had changed his life and he would never forget me, but that is another story.) Yusuf wanted to attend a computer class. For another $60 he was signed up during the slow season. As the years have gone by the relationship between Yusuf and his friends that help us on the mountain has grown.
AN AIRPLANE TO AMERICA
The story goes on with more visits to Kilimanjaro. Each time that same small question was asked. “How can I help you?” The answers got bigger as the relationship grew. One time the answer came back “I want to go to America, I need work”. I explained to Yusuf we could not give him work in America due to political reasons. Given the complexity of the world, and the fact Yusuf’s experience of travel was only to Dar Es Salaam, I could see the rationale for careful immigration control was lost. When $50/week guiding is a good salary, the wealth of America seems limitless. I told Yusuf to let me know if he could get a visa. Well, he did. That is also a long story resulting in calls to the embassy, Africa and a $2000 plane ticket we bought for Yusuf. He arrived in America from a dusty hot town in Africa. He had a 5th grade education. It was early winter here. An African lives on about $5/week for food. Here he was part of a culture where a cup of coffee can cost $5. He told me at one point, “Yes you have food, but you don’t have time to eat it.” He spoke to over 17 groups ranging from jails to corporations. The largest group was over 380 people. He missed his family and friends and a saner pace of life. He was superb at bridging the gap between our cultures. And the gap was huge!
So, the last time on the mountain when I asked that little “How can I help you?” I was not too surprised to hear he wanted to go to college. He believed in education. He had wanted to be a doctor but a guide on the mountain made more money more easily. Also when time came to continue school in 5th grade there was no money for the paper and pens needed in classes. With college he believed he could get a better job and provide for education for his son and soon to be daughter. College was a $6000 commitment on our part, including one and one half years and two hundred dollars per month to support his family, as he would not be able to work.
In January 2007, Yusuf graduated. To get there, over 40 people have contributed to his college and family fund. His schooling has touched his family and everyone else around him.
PART OF THE FAMILY
As time went on, we have taken on acting in a way as if Yusuf was part of our family. We have supported him in starting his own business, paying “unemployment” for him and his family, assisting with care of his mom and the rest of his family members. He in turn takes on many, many tasks to help people in his country. We both consider it our responsibility to help others when there is a need if we are able to. Just like we would someone in our family.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
When we hire people in Africa, we commit to paying livable wages. The fierce competition for business has resulted in the people at the bottom suffering the most. While standing outside the gates before the trek, it is not uncommon to see 100 Africans waiting for a $25/week job and experience the guards beating them back with sticks because they want to be in line first for the job. After seeing such things it is hard to justify some of the financial decisions we make in our lives. For many who have made the trip to Africa it has provided a powerful time to reflect and to make positive choices. Many have considered “matters that matter” and chosen to act in whatever way they can.