PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An associate professor of social work at the University of Maine at Presque Isle has taken unusual steps to help a young man from Africa achieve his dream of attending college.
Shirley Rush climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in September as part of a fundraising effort for Daniel Mlangwa of Moshi, Tanzania, who is hoping to attend UMPI in the spring.
Rush said on Sunday that she first met Mlangwa in 2011, when she and five UMPI students traveled to Tanzania for a service learning project. Mlangwa was a local volunteer with the organization that hosted the UMPI group. Since then, Rush and Mlangwa have remained in close contact. He has assisted her with arrangements for housing and transportation, and served as her interpreter for subsequent trips to Moshi, Tanzania. In August 2012, Rush and her husband hosted Mlangwa for a 10-week visit to Maine.
After learning that Mlangwa hoped to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration at UMPI, Rush set up a fundraising link on www.gofundme.com. Rush attempted to raise one dollar for every foot of the mountain she climbed. According to information posted on Rush’s gofundme website, Mount Kilimanjaro — at 19,340 feet of elevation — is the highest freestanding mountain in Africa, and is the highest point in the world that can be reached without any technical or life-supporting facilities. Rush estimated on the site that international tuition and expenses for Mlangwa for one year will be $19,340.
Rush said on Sunday that Mlangwa has already been accepted to UMPI for the January 2014 semester.
She said that Mlangwa accompanied her on all of her training treks “as my faithful guide, translator and ‘son.’”
Rush turned to an independent adventure travel company, Pristine Trails, which provided seven porters to pack the tents, equipment and fresh fruit and vegetables for her trek. She began her ascent on the Machame “Whiskey” Route on Sept. 2 and reached the summit of Uhuru Peak on Sept. 7 carrying the UMPI pennant and accompanied by her licensed mountain guide. During the final eight-hour ascent to the peak, one of the porters carried an oxygen tank in case it was needed, but Rush said that it was not.
She then descended by the Mweka Route, to the Mweka Gate, to complete the 47.9-mile-total trek on Sept. 9.
By far, the most difficult part was the ascent from Barafu Base camp to the summit,” she said via email from Africa on Sunday. “It was absolutely grueling because the ascent is very steep and the air is thin. Descending was also a challenge due to the exhaustion and the wear and tear on the hips and knee joints.”
When discussing her goal for Mlangwa, she characterized him as “an extraordinary young leader.”
“Daniel’s mother, Stella, has taught him the value of faith, hard work, good manners and community service,” Rush said “The only thing lacking was the opportunity to study in the USA. Daniel is a perfect match for this educational opportunity. He is motivated, he is bright, he has excellent study and people skills. He will be an asset to the UMPI campus while pursuing his degree and, most certainly, an asset to his community in Tanzania when he returns home.”
Rush is still in Moshi, Tanzania, teaching at Stefano Moshi Memorial University College, which has three campuses, as part of her University of Maine System Trustee Professorship for the 2013-2014 academic year. In Tanzania, she is teaching sociology and communications on the Mwika campus and poverty analysis and sociology at the Masoka campus.
Thus far, Rush has raised $1,505 toward her $19,340 goal for Mlangwa’s tuition. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/3wmdrs.