Posted by Xavier Sentamu on Nov 12, 2019
On 21st October 2019, I and a team of Rotary leaders, set off on an adventure to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro – the tallest mountain in Africa and also the world’s tallest free standing mountain. We had been practicing for this for months and we were in high spirits as we started out our five day climb at Marangu Gate in Tanzania. But we soon realized that regular hiking does not quite prepare you for the demands of a Kilimanjaro climb. As the landscape changed each day, from the lush green rain forest to heath and moorland, and then dusty alpine desert so did our energy levels. As we went higher up, the air became drier, colder and with less oxygen – so much so that walking became a real effort. Our movements became slower and our steps heavier. The stamina and endurance levels of each member of our group was put to the test. But two things kept us going. Our collective determination to reach the top; and the enthusiastic reminder by the tour guide at the end of each day of how far we had climbed, how far we were above sea level and how closer we were to the peak of this great mountain. Sometime in the night of 24th October, we embarked on our last ascent and sunrise found us at Gilman’s point - 5685m/ 18652 ft above sea level! We had made it, the sky was literally within reach and we proudly pulled out our Rotary End Polio banners. It was an exhilarating moment.
That night as I laid down my exhausted body, I couldn’t help pondering on the remarkable similarities between our four day climb to Gilman’s point and Rotary’s 34 year End Polio Campaign. While congratulating us earlier in the evening, our tour guide had informed us that every year, up to 20% of the people who set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro do not make it to the summit of the mountain. We learned that it is not the lack of fitness that prevents people from reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, it's altitude sickness! We learned that many of these people – some extremely fit and energetic, gave up when the peak was within sight – because they had walked too fast and had used up all their energy reserves. Upon hearing this, it finally dawned on me, why our tour guides kept urging us to walk ‘pole, pole’ i.e. slowly and gently. The lesson: taking your time is key to reaching the peak of the mountain!
Rotary has been at the effort of eradicating Polio for 34 years now! It has been a long, slow but steady walk. And we are finally within striking distance of the finishing line. But along the way, some of our members have succumbed to “altitude sickness.” They feel like they have contributed enough. Having reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, I want to encourage all the Rotarians of D9211 that we can still go further. But it will take our collective stamina and endurance to finish the last mile. And so during this month as we commemorate the Rotary Foundation, I urge you to contribute generously to Rotary’s number one programme - Polio, because we are this close!
Arch C. Klumph, the founder of the Rotary Foundation, famously said: “We should not live for ourselves alone but for the joy in doing good for others.” Every penny that we contribute to the Rotary Foundation improves a life somewhere. It is the funds that your clubs contribute to the Rotary Foundation that will enable you to accomplish your clubs’ service project goals as indicated in Rotary Club Central. It is those funds that will enable you to “do good” in your communities. To end polio and
improve the health, the education and the economic status of our people. Our Foundation is a sound investment for everyone!
Therefore, every Rotarian should strive to contribute something to the Rotary Foundation, however modest, through “Every Rotarian, Every Year (EREY) or as a Paul Harris Fellow (PHF). Ensuring the continued health of our Foundation requires sustaining members. And hence the Paul Harris Society and the Bequest Programme, where you can assign a portion of your Estate to the Permanent Fund.
But giving to the Foundation is not only exclusive to Rotarians. And so during this month, I encourage all Rotary clubs within our District to devise means to complement the contributions made by individual members. Non-Rotarians can also give to the Foundation, and I have found that when others outside of Rotary learn about the work of our Foundation they are keen to support our work.
I am also inviting you to join me at the Annual Rotary Foundation dinner scheduled for November 30, 2019 at Protea Hotel, Kampala. On that day, we shall acknowledge, appreciate and recognize those that will have contributed to the Rotary Foundation since July 2019. My deep gratitude to those who have already made their annual contribution to the Foundation and to all those who will do so before the end of this Rotary Year.
F X Sentamu
District Governor  2019 - 20
Rotary International District 9211