When the news turns dark, when I have a hard time believing my pastor, and all I want to do is switch between hot baths and my cosy bed, it’s the stories of what women are capable of right there in the middle of the darkness that I need. The stories that take place between making school lunches and fighting lice and planning for snow days.

The stories of moms like you and me who raise kids and drive carpool and offer to come over and babysit on that night you’re out of town when your husband has a work event – the moms who make the ordinary extraordinary.

My friend Chelsea is like that.

Mom of three girls she’s a photographer (all the photos in this post are hers) and in a couple months she’s going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro! It’s such a wild and encouraging story I asked her if she would share it with you guys.

Because moms do hard, extraordinary things for brave, amazing reasons. And some days we all need reminding of that.

Hey there Chelsea, so tell us what a typical day looks like for you?

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Well, they always start with 3 hungry kids who seem to forget the very things they have to do EVERY DAY to get ready for school. Like get dressed. (Don’t you love it when on month 5 of school they look at you with a puzzled face when you tell them to get dressed….*insert crazy mother emoji*).

My girls are 10, almost 8 and 5. I am not a morning person, so I am not gonna lie – mornings are rough. No matter how early we get going, there always seems to be a last minute “where are your SHOES? why isn’t your backpack packed?! NO you can’t wear nothing but a tutu when it is 30 degrees out! “

After dropping the kids off, I usually head to my CrossFit box and work out in a ladies class. Then, it is either errands, or back home to work online (photography work, One Million Thumbprints work, etc). The 5 year old gets picked up at 3 and the older two get off the bus at 4:30. The afternoons are much more manageable (and enjoyable). Tea time (sometimes), homework, dinner, reading, playing. And then its picking up the house, reading on my Kindle, and watching an episode of The Good Wife in bed before lights out.

You’re going to climb KILIMANJARO! Have you ever done any extreme mountain climbing before?

None. :) I have, however, always loved mountains. My parents told me that when we would be driving around in the Texas hill country (where I grew up), I would randomly ask them to stop the car so I could go “climb that mountain!” (I guess when you are a child, the hills looked like mountains). Now, I run to the mountains every chance I get because they are my happy place. Where I breathe slower and deeper, where I connect with God the most and where my soul feels at rest.

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Why oh WHY are you going to climb that monster of a mountain?

Well, I’m climbing for women all over the world to get the word out about One Million Thumbprints (1MT).

1MT was birthed from a single thumbprint of a Congolese women, a survivor of sexual violence.

Nearly 3 years ago, Belinda Bauman (founder of 1MT), Lynne Hybels (one of our climbers) and several others sat and listened to Esperance share her story of unspeakable violence, loss and courageous healing. Afterwards, the team was gathering permission from these brave women to share their stories. Esperance could not read or write her signature, so she stamped her thumbprint on a blank sheet of paper and asked her pastor to write, “Tell the world.”

That phrase has become our mandate.

We view thumbprints as a symbolic representation of our voice. We hope to gather a million of them. We also hope to raise a million dollars to support grassroots programs on the ground in three of the worst conflict zones in the world today: South Sudan, the DRC, and Syria/Iraq. Our implementing partner, World Relief, has been working for some time with peace-building programs that provide survival, stability and sustainable development in these war-torn area.

Can you sum up what 1 Million Thumbprints does in a tweet sized sentence? :)

Sure! With her thumbprint, she asked us to tell the world. Help #endviolenceagainstwomen like Esperance. (Click to tweet this!)

What motivated you to join the climbing team?

There are three things I am most passionate about. Ok, four. Humanitarian photography, social justice issues (specifically regarding women and girls), cross cultural travel and mountains. When Belinda first started telling me about this dream of a climb up Kilimanjaro, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

When she asked me to not only be on the team, but be the campaign and climb photographer, I just about passed out. So many dreams converging in one “beautiful collision,” as she would say.

How many moms are doing the climb?

Of the 15 climbers, 10 of us are moms! Wow, I didn’t even know that until you asked. Amazing. We are a group of singles and marrieds, 20’s to 50’s, business women, writers, bloggers, CEO’s, directors, homemakers, medical professional, students. I am very excited to be on this journey with just a rich assortment of diversity and community.

Why Kilimanjaro? And where is it? And how high is it?

Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, is famously known as the “Mountain of Light,” or the “heart, beauty and jewel” of Africa. It takes 38,680 steps to climb Kilimanjaro over the course of 5 days. It is just over 19,000 feet in altitude and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

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It will be a physically, emotionally and spiritually challenging feat. We take it on with joy, knowing our support will go directly to restoring survivors physically, emotionally and spiritually. Before the climb, we will be visiting Esperance and some other women in the DRC, visiting an IDP camp and generally just being able to see with our own eyes the World Relief programs on the ground that we are climbing to fundraise for.

What are three things you’re most nervous about the climb?

1. Altitude sickness. It’s no joke. And according to the experts, you just don’t know how your body will respond to extreme altitude until you get there. Some ultra fit people have not been able to summit because of acute mountain sickness. Some not-so-fit people have made it just fine.

2. Asthma. I have (controlled) asthma. The thought of having breathing issues while dealing with altitude issues does make me nervous. I have consulted with my doctor, am packing all my meds and we have a nurse climbing with us (along with the trained guides with the company we are climbing with). The company we are climbing with has personal oxygen systems available and I will be renting one. So, I am not TOO nervous about this, but I would be stupid not to give it proper attention.

3. The cold. I am from Texas. We don’t do cold. There is a glacier at the summit. Need I say more?!

What are three things you’re most excited about?

1. The stopover in the DRC and Rwanda before the climb. Although it will be a mentally and emotionally (and physically because jet lag) taxing visit, I feel like it will be so helpful to have those beautiful faces and stories of our sisters foremost in our minds as we climb the mountain. A fresh reminder of the WHY behind WHAT we are doing will be crucial when the going gets tough (and I hear that happens around day 3/4 of the climb).

2. The camaraderie of climbing with 15 amazing, diverse, passionate women for such an important and personal cause. I say personal because it IS personal. I am a woman, a mother, a sister, a daughter. And these precious women living in war zones are sisters, mothers, daughters. I will never know what it is like to watch my husband gunned down in front of my eyes and myself brutally raped. But this is the reality of over 17 million women in our world today. My teammates and I have come to this climb to stand with these women and amplify their voices and stories. Women for women. I really dig that.

3. Travel. I love going places. Simple as that. My parents used to tell people “Chelsea was born with her bags packed.” And its a very true statement. I started traveling overseas when I was 16 and have now been to over 20 countries. I feel most alive when I am traveling. This goes for domestic, too. Most of my friends are home bodies. :) I love to drive/fly/go and they love to stay/host/welcome. It works.

You’re the trip photographer, yes? How do you plan to juggle climbing and photography and all the additional gear?

Great question. I am going to pack as light as possible when it comes to gear. Just the essentials (and essential backups).

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I can tell you I am not looking forward to carrying it all up a mountain (my back seizes up just thinking about it), but I can’t wait to capture the images and stories. It is such an honor to be in this role, I have to pinch myself sometimes.

What do your kids think about you climbing Kilimanjaro?

They think it is very exciting! They have been watching me work very hard over the last year to get healthy and strong and fit. We don’t talk about body sizes or fat in our house, but I do talk about being strong, fit and able to DO the things God has planned for us. A year ago, I wasn’t in the place (mentally or physically) to even dream about an opportunity like this.

Last weekend, I sat down with my 10 year old and watched some youtube videos showing the route we are taking so she would have a visual picture of where I am. She really doesn’t like to move much (smile) and said “Hey, they just said 10 year olds can climb… why can’t I go with you?” Precious. (smile) The 5 year old is in for a shock when I leave, though. I will be gone for 2.5 weeks, mostly without access to wifi. :( Thankfully my mother, (super)Grammy, will be here to wipe the tears, snuggle and make their favorite meals.

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How are you training?

My current plan involves jogging ( I actually call it shogging because it is really somewhere between a shuffle and a jog) 3 times a week, CrossFit (strength training) 3 times a week and going for a long hike each weekend (last week was 9 miles). So far, I am very happy with how I am progressing but I still think I will be bringing up the rear on the trail. The Kilimanjaro mantra is “Pole, pole!” which means “Slow, slow!” Ha! That won’t be a problem.

How can other moms virtually climb along with you?

Oh! I am just giddy with excitement about this. Women, and I would say especially mothers, are some of the most empathic people on the planet. Donating to a cause that you believe in is great (and necessary) but we are doers, right? We want to DO something about the injustice we see or hear about. At least I know I do. And guess what, our team really wants you to do something, too. We want you to join the team!

We are inviting our friends and supporters to “Walk With Us” on this journey by matching us, mile for mile, over the course of the 5 days of our climb (March 4-8). And to donate per mile, or step or foot of altitude as well. I heard of one woman saying she was pledging a penny a foot (just under $200)! I love that. Any amount will be of great use. And we encourage you to gather your own friends, colleagues, neighbors, MOPS groups to join with you. Like I said before, one of the things I am most looking forward to is doing this WITH the women on my team. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that.

We want you to have the same experience with your own “squad” (look how cool of a mom I am to work Taylor Swift into this convo!).

We know our route and how many miles we will be traveling each day, ranging from 2.5 to 6.5 with a total of 21 miles up. You can bike, run, walk, hike, or swim the miles. You can do it at home on the treadmill, outside on the trail or at the gym. I can’t tell you how incredible it will be for our team to know there are hundreds of others “walking with us” in solidarity and support, especially when we ALL “summit” together on March 8, which just so happens to be International Women’s Day. We will be scheduling posts for Facebook sharing about our route, the distance, what climate zone we are going through etc. It is going to be such a great thing to do together!

1. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to join the team.
2. Give your thumbprint (add your voice) here.
3. Read our blog post today about the Walk With Us campaign for all the details.
4. Let us know via facebook, twitter or instagram how you plan to walk with us. Use the hashtag #1MTclimb4peace
5. Donate your pledge here.

 

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