Climbing Kilimanjaro for a Cause
By Megan Montville Powell
My first GIVE trip to Tanzania in May of 2015 led me to come back in July of 2018, but this time with a purpose much bigger than myself. I had the goal to climb Kilimanjaro for a cause to raise money for breast cancer awareness, in honor of my mom who lost her battle to the disease in 2014.
Growing up, I was the “mini-me” version of my mom and it crushed me when I lost her; she was the guiding light in my life and I considered her my best friend. When I started dreaming of returning to Tanzania, so many people would ask me why I’d want to return and do the same trip over again, especially Mount Kilimanjaro. The short answer is, while losing a parent, I lost a huge part of myself and didn’t find it again until I was away from my norm, across the world in Tanzania. I found myself when immersed in this amazing culture on a remote island, with nothing but stunning nature, the most welcoming community members, and being just one small part of a large working team to help improve the lives of others. I thought, if I was physically able to summit Mount Kilimanjaro once, maybe I could use this to somehow fundraise for breast cancer awareness.
The picture I held in my pocket to carry my mom with me on the climb
This began a lot of brainstorming and questioning if I would really be able to do something this impactful. During the summer of 2017, I ended up crossing paths with Tara, a vibrant 17 year old who unfortunately lost her grandma to breast cancer. I introduced her to GIVE and soon enough, the two of us launched an online fundraiser for breast cancer awareness together.
We arrived on Zanzibar Island in July of 2018 and to my surprise, the locals I met in 2015 remembered who I was and were thrilled to be reunited. I was taken aback that through hundreds of volunteers, I was lucky enough my friends never forgot me! I was on a personal mission this time around and the communities of Kairo and Kilimanjaro supported me every step of the way.
We had the most amazing time volunteering in Kairo before starting our Kilimanjaro adventure. I knew the six days spent on the mountain would be challenging again, but the climb was about so much more than just myself. When my body would hurt and I would feel exhausted, I often thought of the breast cancer survivors back in Ohio who were supporting me throughout this adventure. I thought of the incredibly tough challenges they faced, remaining stronger than ever while battling the disease. I often thought of my mom, a warrior of her own, battling breast cancer four separate times throughout her life. If all these amazing women could remain powerful through the hardest battles, I could successfully conquer this mountain for them.
Summiting the tallest freestanding mountain in the world twice before the age of 25 was the most humbling experience of my life. I am so proud that Tara and I raised over $11,000 to further breast cancer research and community needs. I know I couldn’t have done this without the support GIVE provided – from the staff, to the community members, and especially the friends I met along the way.
For those of you wanting to get involved, whether you are considering a GIVE trip or joining your local GIVE group on campus, I cannot encourage you enough! In the fall of 2014, I ended up getting involved with the GIVE student group on Ohio State’s campus and found such a supportive, caring, down to earth group of friends. We did really fun things to help fundraise for our upcoming trips and hung out with each other on the weekends. At that point in my life, I had never taken more than a baby step out of my comfort zone, but somehow I found myself buying a plane ticket for May of 2015 to Tanzania, for what would become my first GIVE trip. It was this giant step so far out of my comfort zone, but it exhilarated me and changed my life for the better.
Now here I am in October of 2019 as Breast Cancer Awareness Month officially begins and I am so grateful for this story I get to share. The time I have spent on GIVE trips were just two short months out of the years of impactful work they have done and continue to do throughout the world. It’s hard to put into words the gratitude I feel for GIVE, because of them I was able to inspire so many people, including an endless list of breast cancer survivors I will honor for the rest of my life.
Use your passions and abilities to make
a positive impact in the world.