After a much more grueling hike than anyone expected, seven other members of my expedition and I reached Uhuru Peak at around 6:30 a.m. on June 28, 2007! We powered through exhaustion and altitude sickness to see a magnificent and panoramic, albeit cold and windy, sunrise over the highest point in Africa - 5,895 meters (or 19,340 feet). Reaching the summit was intense and surreal, but what really overwhelmed me was opening the Smile Train flag on top of Africa and thinking about how many families this effort of ours will positively impact.
The beauty, scale, and diversity of Kilimanjaro completely blew me away and I can honestly say that trekking to Uhuru was one of the most difficult and exhilarating things that I have ever done. I have created a new section of the blogsite called “the report” that includes both pictures and a diary of the journey. The pictures are up, but the diary is still a work in progress, so please bear with me.
I am happy to report that we are very much nearing the fiscal summit as well. We now have 185 donors from 19 different countries who have given enough for 96 surgeries!
Besides adding donors from Spain, Turkey and Poland, we had a very exciting international mini-drive in the Czech Republic. Dusan Burget of ADC Czech Republic, in Brno led a company-wide donation drive collecting almost $300 from 81 people! With this fantastic effort, the Czech Republic has more Summit for Smiles supporters than any other country – by a long shot! Great job, Dusan and team! Thanks so much for your support and enthusiasm!
After the Kilimanjaro trek, I had a chance see just how well your donations are being spent. The Smile Train’s Regional Director, Anjuna Kalsi, invited me to visit her in Nakuru, Kenya. Besides being exceptionally hospitable, Anjuna has a sharp acumen and an extraordinary grasp of how to operate in Africa. The Smile Train is fortunate to have such a powerful and intelligent leader implementing their strategy in a region that is riddled with formidable obstacles.
Anjuna arranged for me to visit the Metropolitan Hospital, a Smile Train partner clinic in one of Nairobi’s largest and best known slums: the Nairobi Eastlands. I didn’t know what to expect, but was very impressed to find a clinic as well equipped and professionally managed as the Metropolitan Hospital. In 1994, Dr. K.K. Gakombe and a group of physicians opened this clinic on the edge Buru Buru estate, a middle class enclave in the Eastlands. Dr. Gakombe, an MBA-educated medical doctor and CEO of the Metropolitan Hospital, has transformed a vision to provide quality and affordable healthcare into a 40-bed hospital targeting this historically underserved middle class neighborhood.
On my visit, I had a chance to meet Joseph Chilalo Remuli, a 23-year old man who was at the clinic for his pre op meeting. Joseph works as a security guard at a local restaurant and he learned about The Smile Train program from a restaurant patron who has also been a patient at the Metropolitan Hospital. The Smile Train surgeries are typically done on young children, so having a chance to meet Joseph provided me with unique insight into the impact of cleft palate corrective surgery. He didn’t actually talk very much, but the few comments he made as well as his body language revealed a young man excited at the possibility of change, but a bit nervous about how it would actually occur. On July 10, Dr. Kimani Wanjeri spent 70 minutes repairing Joseph’s cleft. The operation went very well and Joseph is due for his post op meeting in the first week of August.
Spending time with Anjuna and Dr. Gakombe showed me just how exceptionally The Smile Train is using your donations. The real power is in how The Smile Train empowers local people to affect change in their own communities. Throughout the Summit for Smiles effort, people have asked me why I chose The Smile Train and not a different cleft charity. There are other cleft charities that pay for western doctors to fly in, operate as much as possible, and then return home. Think about how much value is wasted by not utilizing and advancing the skills of local people like Dr. Gakombe and his staff. I chose The Smile Train because their local empowerment strategy makes a sustainable impact – an impact that doesn’t fly away at the end of the week.
We are so close to the goal! Every little bit helps, and remember if you are an ADC employee, then the ADC Foundation will match up to $1,000 of your contribution and it doesn’t count against your individual annual matching-gift program limits. No paperwork to fill out, just donate before July 31, 2007 and email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) the confirmation and we will take care of the rest!