When they reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, sisters Katie and Abbie Taylor were a little loopy. The lack of oxygen was getting to Katie's head, and Abbie was doing cartwheels as the sun rose over the sparkling snow surrounding them.
"When you're climbing, you're like, why do people do this for fun? I think I'm going to die, I can't take another step," Katie said. "But somehow you do."
They had been climbing for six hours after an 11 p.m. start, the climate turning to tundra and the air thinning.
"Your body can do more than you think it can," Katie said. "It's a huge testament to what people can do in this world. It's just inspiring. You feel like you can do anything."
Katie and Abby, Brookfield Central grads now ages 24 and 19, didn't stop at climbing a mountain. Before their trip, they raised $11,134 for Make a Difference, which helped fund tuition for kids at an orphanage in Tanzania, where the Taylors volunteered after their climb.
The students who get tuition money are able to go to a private boarding school, regarded as a leap up from public schools. The United Nations has reported the quality of public education in Tanzania is declining because spending has not kept up with the significant influx of students showing up for class. As a result, it says schools are suffering from a lack of qualified teachers, facilities, materials, safety, water and sanitation.
Katie said the students often talked about what they hoped to get out of their private educations.
"Any conversation with the kids revolved around them telling us what they want to be when they grow up, and what their dreams are and how they want to pass it on," Katie said. "They're excited to get successful so then they can choose new kids to help. I thought it was so cool that young teenagers were already thinking about how to help other people."
In addition to the monetary donations, the Taylors took three suitcases stuffed with more than 100 pounds of supplies donated by Brookfield Central's Key Club. Abbie said this helped the students prepare for their boarding school.
"They were anxious about missing supplies for boarding school, and you could tell they really needed it and really appreciated it," Abbie said.
Abbie said many of the students had lost one or both of their parents and did not have a safe or nurturing home. In one case, she said, a boy's parents had been killed and he had run away at age 4.
"It's humbling to see how someone can have such a hard start and now they are going to private school and loving life," Abbie said. "My world has been revolutionized."
She said the trip gave her a new perspective on change. At the same time feeling small, she saw how significant her impact could be for a few people.
"The mountain makes you realize how small you are and how big the world is," Abbie said. "No matter how big your dreams are, you should still go for them, and even if you don't reach your biggest dream, you can still make a difference in little ways."
The sisters extend a thanks to everyone in Brookfield and beyond who helped make their trip happen.
"We are so thankful for all the donations and all the time people spent praying for us and thinking about us," Abbie said. "Every single person who's helped has made a difference."
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