Supporting Gulf for Good’s Trek to Kilimanjaro

Thuraya is a proud supporter of Gulf for Good, a Dubai-based charity organization, and its activities targeted at helping underprivileged communities around the world. In its latest expedition in July 2014, adventurers made the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, marking the seventh time Gulf for Good has attempted to scale Africa’s highest peak. Polly Gotseva shares with us more about her experience in the expedition and how Thuraya’s mobile satellite equipment supported them throughout the climb.

The Trek to the Roof of Africa marked my fourth adventure with Gulf for Good. Aimed at supporting two charity initiatives, the Tanzania & Village Education Project and Larchfield Charity Organization, the funds raised by each participant will be used to build classrooms as well as a purpose-built children’s home that can accommodate up to 300 children.

The trek itself has been one of the most physically and emotionally challenging experiences I ever had, requiring each of the participants to push beyond our physical limits. Still, we managed to complete the trek in six days, taking the Marangu Route. We experienced extreme cold—with temperatures dropping to as low as -15⁰C—and had to cope with the lack of oxygen and fatigue as we got closer to the summit. Still, the entire team was enthusiastic and kept each other’s spirits up as the trek got more challenging every step of the way.


 

Having some fun interacting with the children before the real adventure, taken and posted with the Thuraya SatSleeve

Personally, it was one of those life-changing moments where you are faced with the unexpected. You ask yourself: How is your body going to react to the altitude? Will you even succeed?

I was really glad to have the Thuraya SatSleeve with me throughout the expedition as it allowed me to easily convert my personal mobile device into a satellite phone. Apart from its portability, its ability to connect in remote, mountainous environments further makes it the ideal communications device during the expedition. It helped me keep in constant contact with my husband, who provided the encouragement and words of assurance that I needed most during such a difficult climb.

When you’re up on the highest peak, the ability to simply get in touch with your loved ones can mean a lot. Knowing that I can make a phone call in any circumstance, the satellite phone becomes a pillar of emotional support—not just for me but also for my husband, who can be assured of my well-being.

When we finally reached the highest summit of Kilimanjaro, I was quite overwhelmed by the spectacular view from the top. The descent was equally challenging, but the whole journey felt more like a celebration. We were filled with immense pride and a sense of achievement after successfully summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.

More importantly, we managed to raise about US$80,000 for the children back at the village. Education is key to opening up more opportunities and improving the future of these children, and I can’t wait to see the money put to good use!

Prior to the expedition, we had the chance to visit the Village project. It was great to see the children running all around us, dancing with wide smiles across their faces and flowers in their hands. We spent some time together, having lunch and playing football. The children were also intrigued by the satellite phones we were using, pretending to make phone calls with it and posing for pictures. 

We were grateful to be equipped with Thuraya equipment as it not only allows us to communicate but also provides us a sense of security knowing that help is just a phone call away during emergency situations.

There will be an upcoming charity challenge in Mongolia in October, and I hope that Thuraya will be able to support us just the way they have been doing the past four years.

Tenacity in the triumph over K2

In 2013, increasingly harsh weather conditions and endless obstacles prevented UAE-based Briton, Adrian Hayes and his six-man international team from completing their K2 expedition. In a triumph of grit and determination, Adrian and the team returned to one of the toughest peaks in the world this year to finish their climb. Thuraya and our Service Partner Xtra-Link were honored to have sponsored his trek up the second-highest mountain on earth, with the Thuraya XT, IP+ broadband terminal and SatSleeve to document his triumphant journey. We caught up with Adrian upon his return to get his perspective.

Congratulations on conquering K2! It looked like an amazing journey. What was different about the expedition this time as compared to last year?

In short, chalk and cheese. Everything that could possibly go wrong in 2013 went wrong – weather conditions, snow conditions, lack of numbers and support and even the terrible terrorist incident at Nanga Parbat. The result was a tragic 24 lives lost in the Karakorum last year. This year everything fell into place – a larger number of teams, more Sherpa support, great snow conditions and, above all, fantastic weather. We had an unprecedented weather window of 10 days from July 22, which largely accounted for the great summit success this year.

What were some of the new challenges that you faced?

With 2014 being the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2, that was the major reason for the larger number of teams on the mountain, with interest from Pakistan and Italy in particular – the two countries who worked together in 1954 to achieve the first ascent. Whilst that helped line fixing, it did create some problems of space on the mountain camps –Camps 1 (6000m) and 2 (6600m) are literally created from nothing on the steep sides of the mountain. Thankfully on the summit push – and due to the good weather forecast – teams spread out their attempts over several days, though we did have some bottlenecks on our summit day, the first attempt of the season.

You were pretty active on social media throughout the expedition, how important is having communication channels on such journeys?

I was actually taken aback both by how many people were following our journey and how many expressed their continued concerns for my safety!  And justifiably so – K2’s grim reputation is well documented. Posting daily on Facebook and Twitter, courtesy of the Thuraya XT, SatSleeve and IP+, was our means to both reassure the thousands of followers and also share what was an incredibly powerful journey.

What were some of the new challenges that you faced?

With 2014 being the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2, that was the major reason for the larger number of teams on the mountain, with interest from Pakistan and Italy in particular – the two countries who worked together in 1954 to achieve the first ascent. Whilst that helped line fixing, it did create some problems of space on the mountain camps –Camps 1 (6000m) and 2 (6600m) are literally created from nothing on the steep sides of the mountain. Thankfully on the summit push – and due to the good weather forecast – teams spread out their attempts over several days, though we did have some bottlenecks on our summit day, the first attempt of the season.

Now that K2 has been conquered, what is next?

Rest and recuperation! First is to enjoy some down time in the UK with my daughter and a lot of friends before I return to the UAE in late September. I already know my plans for 2015 – and they are big! We will be putting together proposals and hopefully finalizing plans in the coming months.  

Editor’s note: Adrian will be giving public presentations on his recent summit success of K2 in London on September 9 and Dubai on October 15, 2014. More details at www.adrianhayes.com

Helping Global Voices Soar

Thuraya is continuing its efforts to support independent journalists through its latest sponsorship of Global Voices, an online citizen media community focused on amplifying voices from under-represented communities. The partnership focuses on empowering Global Voices through the donation of a Thuraya IP+ terminal and a full year of free connectivity, providing its community of correspondents with access to the Internet, email, social media, and VoIP applications in remote locations. Here, Eddie Avila, Rising Voices Director at Global Voices Online, discusses how the satellite equipment can support Rising Voices, their outreach initiative.

Over the past ten years, Global Voices‘ community of volunteer writers and translators have been scouring the web for the most interesting conversations happening online and presenting through careful curating, contextualization, and translation.

Through our news reporting, we have brought to light what happened during the Arab Spring. We listened to the voices of those families affected by the 2011 Japanese earthquake. And we sought to better understand the current landscape of the Russian internet by following and interpreting its unique context. All of these stories played out from our main source—the internet and the millions of digital storytellers around the world.

Yet, many underrepresented groups around the world are unable to take part in the conversation. Communities traditionally marginalized by society are often left out in the virtual world as well, without the ability to represent themselves on their own terms through digital means.

This is where our Rising Voices initiative comes in. Established in 2007, the initiative provides technical support, small-scale funding and mentoring to support underrepresented communities in using participatory media to tell their own stories, locally and globally.

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To date, Rising Voices has launched more than 40 citizen media projects across the world, including in:

  • Paraguay – Six rural Aché indigenous communities in Paraguay are using smartphones to document their culture and share news about what’s happening in their communities. This includes breaking the news on issues such as illegal land grabs, to ensure that the rest of the country, especially key decision-makers who are based hundred of kilometers away in the capital Asunción, remain updated on the current situation in these communities.
     
  • Argentina – Every Tuesday at the Provincial Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Córdoba, our volunteers gather with the patients to produce a weekly radio program focusing on topics chosen by the program participants. After dozens of radio shows, the participants saw the need to take these conversations to a wider audience by producing an audio podcast that can be shared online with other hospitals across Latin America.

With increased internet penetration and the availability of less expensive mobile devices, the ability to connect is better than ever today. However, mentoring and accompaniment can only go so far, and we’re aware that communities in areas with limited connectivity may continue to watch from the sidelines. Serious gaps in coverage remain, hindering the ability of millions of people from sharing their stories. 

This is why we hold high hopes about the partnership with Thuraya for our upcoming project in Asia, which would connect these communities to the rest of the world in ways unseen before. The combination of our two strategies: providing the access and the mentoring will help Rising Voices empower communities traditionally marginalized. As we develop the project in Asia with the community that will use the Thuraya IP+ terminal, we have the satisfaction that they will be an inspiration for other communities that will soon have the chance to share what is important to them. 

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Let’s Rise! from Global Voices on Vimeo.