American Boy Climbs Kilimanjaro To Aid Refugee Children
|Ian Lubetkin and his father Roy take a break with one of their Tanzanian guides on the first day of their trek up Kilimanjaro.|
Ian Lubetkin is no ordinary 13-year-old. In July of this year he reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and with each kilometer he climbed, he raised money to support the International Rescue Committee's programs for refugees.
Ian and his father, Roy Lubetkin, are members of a hiking group in Lake Forest, Illinois, where they live. When the group started making plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Ian decided he would use the expedition to raise money for "a worthy cause." He researched dozens of non-profits and humanitarian groups and settled on supporting the IRC, in what he entitled his Kili Rescue Fundraiser.
"While I enjoy this tremendous opportunity to see another part of the world and to test my endurance and determination, I realize that many people in the world will never be as fortunate as me," Ian wrote in his fundraising campaign letter. "I have therefore decided to use this opportunity to raise money for those less fortunate, especially many children whose lives are in danger in Africa. I have identified a very worthy charity called the International Rescue Committee to whom I plan to donate all funds that I raise."
Ian canvassed Lake Forest, collecting over $7,000 in pledges from businesses, neighbors, and other members of the community. He offered donors two ways to contribute – either a flat fee, no matter how far he made it up the mountain, or a specified amount that would multiply depending on how high he climbed.
On July 22, a plane carrying 17 members of the Lake Forest Mountaineering Club landed at Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania. Ian's adventure had begun. "I was so excited the night before the climb I could hardly sleep, especially since I had gotten all those pledges," Ian recalled.
Early the next day the group and two local guides began their daunting trek up Africa's highest mountain. "I was really good at the beginning and the guides were really impressed that I was doing the climb because I'm so young. The next day was harder. I couldn't go as fast because of the altitude and I felt like I was moving in slow motion."
|Ian reaches Kilimanjaro's summit.|
Despite the thinning air and frigid temperatures, Ian forged ahead. "The whole time I was thinking that the higher I climb, the more money I can make for refugees. So I chanted to myself, ‘Make it to the top. Make it to the top.' And I did." Ian and five others from his group, including his dad, reached the summit on day three of their trek.
"It was really amazing up there," Ian remembered. "But it was so cold that we only stayed for 15 minutes." It was enough time though for Ian to take in the view, pose for some photographs with his dad and his guides and make this addition to the summit's log book: "I raised more than $7,000 for a charity because I made it to the top."
|At a lodge in Tanzania, Ian is presented with this cake, in the shape of Mount Kilimanjaro, to celebrate his successful climb and his goodwill.|
Ian and his dad spent the next few days on a Safari—Roy Lubetkin's idea of a more relaxing way to see the beauty of Tanzania. At a lodge restaurant one of evening, waiters emerged with a large cake with lit candles and started singing a song in Swahili. Ian thought that it was someone's birthday. But the cake was coming in his direction and by the time it was placed in front of him, he could see that it was a replica of Mount Kilimanjaro. He said he couldn't understand the words of the song, but was later told that it was a special one to honor those who reach Kilimanjaro's summit. "I guess word got out that I got to the top and that I was doing this to help refugees," Ian said, describing the moment as one that he'll never forget.
He says he'll also think of the children when he remembers his trip to Tanzania. "There were so many children who came up to us on the side of the road and a lot of them were asking for candy," Ian said. "But most of the kids wanted pens, which I guess are hard to get over there, and it made me think that education is so important to them and maybe it's something that American kids take for granted."
In the end, Ian raised over $8,000 for the International Rescue Committee, including a personal gift of $62. He says he'd like the money to be used for IRC education programs for refugee children in Africa.
"I think children who grow up in more fortunate areas of the world need to learn that many people don't get things handed to them," says Roy Lubetkin. "I think Ian learned on this trip, the importance of being able to give back. Kilimanjaro became his classroom."