Article Date: 5/1/2004

reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
The Climb for Sight
A good deed for charity doubles as a memorable adventure.
BY BRAD RUDEN, M.B.A., PHOENIX, ARIZ.

Who could possibly consider a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro -- at 19,340 feet, the highest point in Africa -- a vacation? Well, this past February, 10 hearty souls (including four optometrists) did just that as they participated in Climb for Sight, a fund-raising effort sponsored by the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity of Pennsylvania (VOSH/PA) in support of their clinic in Guatemala. To qualify for the trip, each person agreed to raise a pre-determined amount of money for the charity, which it would use for glasses and surgery in Guatemala. Once qualified, you could participate in an 11-day, physically challenging but personally gratifying African journey.


LEFT TO RIGHT: Gene Scholes; Jenny Su, O.D.; Camille Chung, O.D.; Dana Darien; the author; Cathy Hollenbach, O.D.; Ron Pei, O.D.

Better than television

The trip included a three-day safari to the Lake Manyara National Park, the Serengeti Plain and the Ngorogoro Crater National Park, where we saw Africa's abundant wildlife up close and personal. We were able to see an assortment of animals including hippos, giraffes, lions, elephants, zebras, gnus, gazelle, ostrich, water buffalo, wildebeast, hyenas, etc. The wildlife was so plentiful that I felt almost overwhelmed trying to take it all in.

Heading for the top

By now we had come to the mountain to begin our six days on Kilimanjaro. To acclimate to the thinner air at higher altitudes, our group took four days to work its way to the summit. Professional guides led the climb, with the assistance of two porters for each climber. We slowly worked our way up the mountain through a series of base camps, meeting scores of climbers from all over the world. By the afternoon of the fourth day, we reached the highest camp, called Kibo (elev. 14,500 ft.). We rested here for the evening and then departed for the summit at midnight so we could be at the top to catch the sunrise.

The hike to the top was slow and laborious -- each climber concentrated on breathing and simply putting one foot in front of the other. After 7.5+ hours we reached the summit -- and what a view it was! We patted each other on the back, took some photos and, after a few minutes, began working our way back down. Seven out of the 10 who began made it to the summit. After 12 to 13 hours of round trip hiking we found ourselves back at Kibo and proud of our accomplishment. We spent the next two days hurrying down the mountain in anticipation of the warm showers that awaited us.

Want an adventure?

The people of Africa were amazingly warm and friendly. Most on the trip kept daily journals as reminders of all that occurred. While the limited space here can only provide a glimpse of our experience, I can tell you it was one of the most gratifying I've had -- and knowing that the Guatemalan Clinic benefited made the experience even more satisfying.

VOSH's next trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro is planned for February 2005. For more information on participating in the trip or assisting with the Guatemalan clinic, contact Dr. Doug Villella at Dougv@surferie. net or visit www.voshpa.org.

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENÉ LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2004