Scaling Kilimanjaro to help project started by Cornwall-area mother

Scaling Kilimanjaro to help project started by Cornwall-area mother

CORNWALL, Ontario – Canada: Two Canadians will be on top of Africa next month to help an educational charity launched by a mother of three.

Mom2Mom, a not for profit charity initiated to support education of children in Arusha, Tanzania, will get a gigantic boost when Joanne Marchildon and Laura Bender scale the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

The two Canadians have signed up with a trekking company for the hectic and treacherous seven-day hike of the 19,340 foot mountain in Northern Tanzania.

The Barafu (ice in Swahili) Challenge 2015 will benefit Mom2Mom, a charity started by Alison Fraser, an environmental toxicology and mother of three.

“I am so proud of Joanne and Laura for taking on this challenge,” said Fraser, a resident of Cambridge who was brought up in Long Sault in eastern Ontario. “Both are board members and deeply care about education.”

The two have not climbed any other mountains but have been preparing for the arduous challenge with an Arusha-based trekking company, Everlasting Tanzania Travels.

This company was founded by Rob Chekwaze, who helped Fraser start the charity.

“Chekwaze was my first contact in Tanzania and I have worked with him for many years,” said Frazer.

The company provides them with nutritional and fitness goals as well and guideless to follow.

“We are doing long hikes as the time gets closer to departure,” said Marchildon. “We go on long hikes and other physical elements to prepare our bodies as time gets closer.”

The two friends also hike together twice a week with weights on their packs.

The duo will climb five to eight hours a day. Mountain temperatures will range from hot to bitter cold.

Also oxygen levels will decrease.

They will also have to go without showers for days.

“We made a pact from the beginning,” adds Marchildon. “Altitudes make people go squirrelly. It can break up friendships and marriages.”

Bender, a former home child care provider, nods in agreement.

“There’s going to be a lot of stresses.”

The two have decided whatever happens will happen.

Marchildon and Bender have known each other for four years but just recently became close friends and directors of Mom2Mom.

“We have forgiven each other in advance of the climb,” Bender emphasized with a smile. “What we have in common is we don’t complain.”

Marchildon is quick to add she cannot see herself climbing with anyone else.

Their biggest challenge is the unknown.

They don’t know how their bodies will react.

Marchildon decided on the climb as she was planning to visit her sponsored child in Arusha.

But, she needed a climbing partner and could not find one.

She mentioned her plan Bender out of the blue.

The friend immediately jumped at the chance.

“I said to my husband when your heart sings, you can’t ignore it.”

They signed up last November with the trekking company for the seven day hike – six days up and one day down.

The two are paying their own costs for the trip which will come to around $5,000 each for airfare and guided trek and another $2,500 or so for the gear.

They will leave Canada on April 29 and return on May 12.

The climb, however, starts May 3.

Both women are fit and healthy.

Marchildon, 40, has been a Waterloo firefighter for the past 11 years.

Before that, she was a volunteer firefighter.

The mother of an eight year old daughter does yoga and high-intensity training.

Bender, 39, is a runner and jiu jitsu.

She ran half marathon and she’s training for a 30-kilometre run in March.

She and her husband have two boys, ages eight and nine.

Vitamins, changes to the diet and physical training have boosted their energy.

They plan to carry their own day packs with water, rain jackets and snacks.

Guides and porters will carry tents, food and other supplies and monitor their heart rates and oxygen levels.

“Our biggest challenge is the unknown,” said Marchildon. “We don’t know how our bodies will react. For us, it will be the altitude.”

As they climb, they will be motivated by the thought they are raising money to help Mom2Mom’s most recent project – to build a well at a school constructed last year with organization funds.

The well will support a chicken program and a vegetable garden to help the food program become self-sustaining.

Marchildon and her family sponsor a 10 year old girl, whose father passed away and whose mother has AIDS.

Bender’s family sponsors a nine-year-old boy.

Today, there are 70 students, mostly girls, in the Mom2Mom sponsored project.

Some of the sponsored children live in orphanages and attend private schools in five countryside locations in Tanzania.

It all began in 2008 when Fraser started raising funds to support young girls in rural Tanzania who were unlikely to go to school without help.

The project has grown substantially to involve male and female students.

When Fraser, Marchildon and Bender travel to Tanzania, they will bring with them care packages for students and children living in the orphanages.

To donate funds to Barafu Challenge 2015, you can go to

To date around $4,000 has been raised.

Canadian school children are also trying to raise more funds.

The two Canadian mothers are hoping their expedition to Kilimanjaro will help to inspire others.

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