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Climbing Kilimanjaro

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Alexander D'Jamoos, a Liberal Arts Honors/International Relations and Global Studies sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts, spent his summer climbing Africa's highest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Born in Penza, Russia, he grew up in an orphanage for children with disabilities. At age 16, he was adopted by an American family and moved from Russia to Texas, where he learned how to walk on prosthetic legs. His goal is to show other disabled orphans in Russia - and countries throughout the world - that nothing is impossible or unreachable.

hikingFor the past five years I have volunteered as a translator and a spokesperson for Happy Families International, a NewYork-based organization that aims to formalize adoption of Russian children in the United States and help children in Russian orphanages adapt to adult life. This summer I volunteered to participate in the organization's trip to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The purpose of the trip was to demonstrate that children with disabilities have the ability to overcome great challenges. I was somewhat unprepared to climb Africa's tallest mountain. Prosthetic legs are very difficult to use in such extreme conditions. We took the Marangu route, which includes three different camps at different heights and takes about 6 days of hiking to the summit. Due to my completely un-athletic lifestyle and under-preparedness, I set the second camp as my goal. After a day of acclimatization at the altitude of 12-thousand feet I decided to go further to the third camp. The last day I reached the third camp at the altitude of 16-thousand feet. Overall I hiked the distance of 26 miles in four days on prosthetics. The trip was the most difficult challenge of my life. The organization plans to use photos and videos from the trip at fundraisers in Moscow and New York to raise money for disabled children in Russian orphanages. I truly hope this trip can serve as an effective message that physical disabilities are by no means a barrier to achieving your dreams!

Photos by Eric Michael Johnson provided by the Happy Families International Center, Step Up - I want to Walk Kilimanjaro Project.