Florence Ndagire a blind woman, Robert Nkwangu a deaf man and Patrick Kasirye a lame man, climbed the highest mountain in Africa which they described as more than just fun. The climb was a social cause meant to fundraise for the disabled children.
One Florence Ndagire is blind but beat all the odds to climb up to an unprecedented 3,950m ofMountain Kilimanjaro, which rises to 5,895m above sea level.
Ndagire climbed more than two thirds of Africa’s tallest mountain but did not see any of it. All she has are imagined impressions, created by her arduous experience up the climb and stories that she hears people weave.
To her story add that of Robert Nkwangu, a deaf man, and Patrick Kasirye, a lame man, who managed to reach the summit. The three were a team of Ugandans living with disabilities that set out to climb the mountain last month.
The three work at the Uganda Society for Disabled Children (USDC) in Kitante, Kampala.
Ndagire’s journey lasted only two days, coming to an end when she reached Shirra plateau, where, in fear of further steep climbs at Barancco wall, she was advised to stop because her health was at stake.
Florence was very disappointed at not being able to reach the top. But however she said, I made a point that people with disabilities have abilities and potential”.
Born 27 years ago, Ms Ndagire’s parents found out that she was blind, 10 days after she was born. Her cornea had not fully developed, the doctor told her parents then.
She advises other disabled people, “Not to sympathize with themselves because sympathy does not work,” adding, “Disabled people are just like other people with a simple impairment but the rest of the body is functional.”
Robert Nkwangu unlike Florence, made it to Uhuru peak, the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. He says the reason for his ascent up the mountain was to create awareness that disabled people, once included, can be a change to society.
Through an interpreter, he said. It was very challenging. I felt very happy although I was very weak. But when you are happy, you can achieve strength.
I felt like I was on top of the world. Reaching the roof of Africa; that’s the achievement I got,” he says. “At the top, I saw Moshi town, Tanzania and Mount Meru but we were advised to come down quickly,” he adds.
Nkwangu was not born deaf. “I became deaf when I was in P.3,” he says. His parents were however very supportive and they encouraged him to continue with his studies like nothing had happened.
According to Ndagire and Nkwangu, their Kilimanjaro trek is symbolic of an even bigger struggle that disabled people go through daily.
For every hardship faced up the trek, Robert says, be it peeling and swollen lips, altitude sickness, nausea or the steep climb, it symbolised the challenges of stigma, denial and abuse that people living with disabilities endure, just to achieve their dreams.
They equated a climber failing to reach the summit, thanks to a hardship or two, to society’s barring disabled people to archive their full potential.
Many able bodied and financially able people have never climbed a mountain. But Ndagire and Nkwangu, who are blind and deaf respectively, have shown that you don’t need to be the most likely contender to create a path where there is none.
Hiking Mountain Kilimanjaro is one of the activities one can partake during a Tanzania safari. Mt. Kilimanjaro national park boasts of its incredible wildlife including elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion, serval cat, eland, bushbuck, duiker, hyrax, bush pig, collobus and blue monkeys.