In the shadow of Kilimanjaro: Moshi Mamas

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This is the final of four dispatches from Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann about his pledge drive to raise money for Tourism Cares by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his daughter, TravelAge West associate editor Emma Weissmann, and son Dashiell, a student at Boston University. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Byrdyak
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By combining a Kilimanjaro climb with a pledge drive benefiting Tourism Cares, Arnie Weissmann said he could overlay meaning, motivation and inspiration to a trip he'd put on hold for too long.

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"Kilimanjaro and the point of no return."
The evening before summit day, Arnie Weissmann's 19-year-old son, Dash, was nauseous. 

From the beginning, my plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro was closely tied to a pledge drive for the industry nonprofit Tourism Cares. I’m on its board of directors, and one of the things the organization supports are “social enterprises” in tourism zones, that is, businesses or co-ops which often keep alive traditional crafts and customs and are structured so that the money stays in the community. 

Tourism Cares assists by helping connect these operations to the travel industry (thus bringing in customers) and by giving grants to help them get started or expand.

There happened to be an organization in Moshi, Tanzania, which is where most climbers stay as they prepare to scale Kilimanjaro, that was already on Tourism Care’s radar as a potential beneficiary of our climb. 

It isn’t a social enterprise itself, but rather an engine that launches social enterprises.

“Give a Heart to Africa” is a nonprofit school for local women who want to start a business but lack appropriate education and resources.

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A co-op of women including (from left) Beatrice Joseph, Lusarie Kundael and Hortensia Leoni Kiwaly call themselves the "Moshi Mamas." Their shop combines crafts they make and souvenirs they buy wholesale. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann

The school screens candidates to evaluate their likelihood for success; those accepted must be literate and have the capacity to learn. Every six months, about 50 women complete a three-part curriculum that teaches them English, provides vocational training and requires classroom instruction on how to run a successful business.

In a Give a Heart to Africa classroom, a staff member translates the definition of “expenses” and “revenue” to new business students.
In a Give a Heart to Africa classroom, a staff member translates the definition of “expenses” and “revenue” to new business students. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann

It’s the brainchild of Monika Fox, a native of the Czech Republic who now splits her time between Moshi and Toronto. 

She arrived in Moshi 10 years ago. “I wanted to work with women in Africa, originally with the idea of providing microloans to start businesses,” she said. But she found the potential borrowers lacked the training that would lead to business success.

Mary Rogath Massawe and Anne Awed Lyatun (left) started the Kili Kitchen after graduating from the Give a Heart to Africa business curriculum started by Monika Fox (right).
Mary Rogath Massawe and Anne Awed Lyatun (left) started the Kili Kitchen after graduating from the Give a Heart to Africa business curriculum started by Monika Fox (right). Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann

Emma, Dash and I sat in on classes and visited three of the businesses started by graduates. The classes are taught by volunteers who pay a nominal amount for food and housing and live in the same compound where the school is located.

We visited on the first day of instruction for a new class of students: volunteer John Fewtrell was teaching the definitions of profit, loss, expenses and revenue in one classroom while his wife, Jenny, was teaching English in the next one over. Both are from the U.K.

Jenny Fewtrell teaching English in a Give a Heart to Africa schoolroom.
Jenny Fewtrell teaching English in a Give a Heart to Africa schoolroom. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann

Fox said that the average age of students is 30; 60% are single mothers (day care is provided onsite), and each Friday she, as well as volunteers and staff, visit the students’ homes with a small gift. The visit is undertaken to allow the families to ask questions and to nurture a supportive home environment for students.

The three businesses that spun off from Give a Heart to Africa that we visited were all geared to Moshi’s tourism economy. The “Moshi Mamas” run a crafts and souvenir store; the Kili Kitchen makes box lunches for tour operators to cover the first day on the mountain; and the Lala Salama Spa offers massages (and, Emma was delighted to discover, pedicures) for those just down from the mountain.

In the Lala Salama Spa, those who have just completed their Kilimanjaro climb can get a massage. Or, perhaps, a pedicure.
In the Lala Salama Spa, those who have just completed their Kilimanjaro climb can get a massage. Or, perhaps, a pedicure. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann

Fox accompanied us on those visits and was greeted warmly by the proprietors. It was clear that her program was helping these women provide services that had been embraced by travelers and had also led local women to a level of self-sufficiency they likely could not have attained on their own.

Once back in the U.S., I spoke with Tourism Cares about my impressions of Give a Heart to Africa, and we agreed that a portion of what Emma, Dash and I raised should be given to support its effort to help women begin sustainable businesses in tourism.

Part of the purpose of our KiliCares climb was to raise awareness of the important work Tourism Cares does, and the other part is to raise money for the organization. If you haven’t donated yet, please do so now, and I’ll be delighted to add your name to the growing donor list.

And do take a look at that list  --  I think you’d agree you’ll be in good company.

The Weissmanns are back from their climb, but the pledge drive that inspired their journey continues. They climbed to support the industry nonprofit Tourism Cares; click here to show your support with a donation. Also, check out the pledge drive Instagram feed: @Kili.Cares.

Climb sponsors/disclosures: Sponsor Tusker Trail provided a 50% discount to operate the climb; sponsor Kenya Airways provided roundtrip air from New York to Kilimanjaro International Airport; sponsor Northstar Travel Group, parent company of Travel Weekly and TravelAge West, provided email blasts and advertising space to solicit pledges.

Many thanks to the corporations and individuals who have donated to the pledge drive so far. Click for a complete list of donors and acknowledgements to those who supported the pledge drive. Please add your name to the list by donating!

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