Dubai Cares Makes Key Grant Expanding Luminos Ethiopia Program

Dubai Cares Makes Key Grant Expanding Luminos Ethiopia Program

Dubai Cares

The Luminos Fund is delighted to announce it is the recipient of a key grant from Dubai Cares that will give more than forty thousand children in Ethiopia’s Oromia, Tigray, SNNPR, and Amhara regions access to impactful, joyful education and literacy. This $1.5 million (USD) grant will focus on increasing Ethiopian government adoption of the Luminos Second Chance model and child-centered pedagogy.

“This grant will provide important professional development for many government teachers and be life-changing for thousands of children in Ethiopia,” says Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund. “We admire Dubai Cares’ vision and commitment to solving the world’s toughest education challenges and are thrilled to be expanding our partnership. In 2016, Dubai Cares support enabled Luminos to launch our Liberia program. This Ethiopia grant marks an exciting international expansion in Dubai Cares’ support for our work.”

For nearly a decade in Ethiopia, Luminos has implemented the Second Chance program, an accelerated learning program that brings joyful learning to out-of-school children denied a chance to learn due to poverty, conflict, and discrimination. Over the course of 10 months, Luminos helps children between the ages of 9 and 14 (girls and boys in relatively equal numbers) to become literate and numerate and then to transition into government schools with their age peers. The curriculum covers the first three years of school so children are ready for 3rd or 4th grade when they transition and uses a play-based learning pedagogy that is child-centered, activity-based, and facilitator-supported. To date, Luminos has helped 113,000 Ethiopian children become literate and continue on the path to opportunity.

Between 2017-2019, the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia piloted a government-run version of Second Chance with positive results. The national government then requested that Luminos expand the collaboration and build the Ministry of Education’s capacity to support and deliver the program directly.

This Dubai Cares grant enables Luminos to realize this strategic goal: to deepen its partnership with the Ethiopian government and regional education bureaus, capacitate the government system to adopt Second Chance as a national strategy, and deliver innovation at scale.

Ethiopia remains among the countries with the highest number of out-of-school children, with an estimated 2.2 million children not in primary school. This said, Ethiopia is making significant strides towards universal education. This is due to the Ethiopian government’s increased investment in education, its well-organized education system, and its positioning as an experimental hub for innovative models like the Luminos Second Chance program.

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About Dubai Cares
Since its inception, Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has been working towards providing children and young people in developing countries with access to quality education through the design and funding of programs that aim to be integrated, impactful, sustainable and scalable. As a result, the UAE-based global philanthropic organization has successfully launched education programs reaching over 18 million beneficiaries in 57 developing countries.

About the Luminos Fund
The Luminos Fund is a philanthropic initiative dedicated to advancing education innovations for the world’s most vulnerable children. Luminos works to ensure children everywhere get a chance to experience joyful learning, especially those denied an education by poverty, conflict, and discrimination. The organization’s core offering is Second Chance: a 10-month program that empowers students to catch up to grade level with a focus on reading, writing, math, science, local contexts, and play. Luminos has enabled 120,000 children to have a second chance at an education and currently operates classrooms in Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Liberia.

Media Contacts

Dubai Cares
Skender Hacine
PR Manager
E: skender.hacine@dubaicares.ae
T: +971 4 450 4550

The Luminos Fund
Maretta Silverman
Director of Communications
E: maretta@luminosfund.org
T: +1 617 383 4732

Event Recap: “Dynamic Philanthropy: A Remedy for the Global Learning Crisis”

Event Recap: “Dynamic Philanthropy: A Remedy for the Global Learning Crisis”

On September 26 during U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) week, the Luminos Fund hosted “Dynamic Philanthropy: A Remedy for the Global Learning Crisis,” an intimate conversation featuring Phyllis Kurlander Costanza, Head, UBS Philanthropy and CEO, UBS Optimus Foundation; Pascale de la Frégonnière, Executive Director, Cartier Philanthropy; His Excellency Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares; and Alan McCormick, Managing Director, Legatum Group. Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund, moderated.

In the last fifteen years, enormous progress has been made in global education, such as a 40% decrease in the number of children out of school, a doubling of the school system in Africa, and the emergence of near parity in girls’ and boys’ education in the primary phase. However, much work remains. Globally, three-quarters of children and adolescents are still not learning at minimum levels.

Now in its third year, the Luminos UNGA week event convenes key funders, thought leaders, and implementors around the subjects of education and international development. This year, we were delighted to have a packed room of participants all focused on real solutions for the 260 million children around the world who still fail to learn the basics.

Caitlin Baron moderated the discussion

Innovative Approaches to Solve the Global Learning Crisis

At Luminos, we believe in philanthropy’s power to fuel breakthrough innovations that will tackle the global learning crisis. We feel extremely fortunate to work with these four leaders and their respective organizations, and were eager to hear their timely, energizing insights about the power of philanthropy in education development.

Cartier Philanthropy, Dubai Cares, Legatum Group, and UBS Philanthropy/UBS Optimus Foundation have funded an array of innovations that are moving the needle in educational opportunity around the globe. During the event, each speaker discussed his or her organization’s approach to philanthropy, innovation, and international education.

“The power of UBS Philanthropy is bringing clients to the doorstep of the world’s greatest problems,” Phyllis explained, noting that up to 80% of UBS clients are interested in investing in education. “UBS Optimus is a foundation of our clients: we route money from clients towards solving many social challenges. With education, we are trying to move clients from building schools to focusing on the quality of learning happening in the classrooms.”

One key area of innovation for UBS Optimus Foundation has been investment in outcomes-based financing. Phyllis described outcomes-based financing as one way to help build capacity in the space and encourage NGOs to focus on results. UBS has achieved strong returns through Development Impact Bonds (DIB) that can then be re-invested to achieve even more impact.

Meanwhile, Cartier Philanthropy seeks to fund scalable, high-impact innovations while moving toward an unrestricted funding model.

“Cartier Philanthropy believes in unrestricted funding,” Pascale noted. “We work for our grantees. They don’t work for us.”

“Cartier Philanthropy is quite independent of Cartier, which has been great to let us be experimental and find organizations working on exciting ideas that scale. Our work isn’t dictated by how we can further the Cartier brand: we were left free to draft our own strategy. Test, try, learn, fail, and try again is a philosophy we believe in,” she continued appreciatively.

Tariq described Dubai Cares’ founding vision to improve children’s access to quality primary education and, more broadly, increase funding for education as this sector receives far less investment than health.

“The Millennium Development Goals were set in 2000 and the 2nd Goal was universal access to primary education. Five years later when the UN met, they said Goal 2 would not be met by the deadline. Dubai Cares was founded in 2007 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. HRH is a strong believer in youth and education. He wanted to convince others to invest more in education, as health always gets more investment compared to education. Dubai today is where it is because of its focus on youth and education. Since 2007, Dubai Cares has worked to provide quality education around the globe.”

“The job of philanthropy is to pilot and test innovations, and do your best to see them to scale,” Tariq continued. “Philanthropists’ job isn’t system strengthening. But, partnership with government is key if you want to influence the mainstream. We have to work within the priorities of governments if we are serious about achieving systems change – or help the government to prioritize an issue if we feel it is important.”

Legatum has a unique relationship with the Luminos Fund. A Legatum Foundation grant launched Luminos as an independent organization in 2016. Alan currently serves as Chairman of the Luminos Fund’s Board of Directors.

Pascale de la Frégonnière, Alan McCormick, and Phyllis Kurlander Costanza

From left: Pascale de la Frégonnière, Alan McCormick, and Phyllis Kurlander Costanza

Alan explained, “We run a purpose-driven investment business at Legatum. The mission at the heart of our business is to generate and allocate capital that helps people prosper – and we’ve funded 2,000 projects across the developing world. Our philosophy is to test ideas and then bring others to invest in proven solutions. The best way to help people succeed is to give them the freedom to innovate.”

Describing the Luminos Fund’s origins, he noted, “When we saw how the program makes children numerate and literate in 10 months we were blown away.”

Words of Encouragement

As the event drew to a close, panelists offered advice based on their experience in philanthropy.

“We can’t do this alone,” Tariq said. “We need more donors to collaborate, like how Co-Impact is bringing funders together.”

Phyllis shared recommendations for prospective grantees: “Learn how to ask for money and go big.” Funders are pitched frequently and potential grantees must stand out from the crowd to succeed.

“Reading the news, it’s easy to focus on problems,” Alan cautioned. “Get out and look for solutions and innovations. The innovations out there today give me such hope. Be hopeful and persevere.”

H.E. Dr. Tariq Al Gurg discusses Dubai Cares' focus on education

H.E. Dr. Tariq Al Gurg discusses Dubai Cares’ focus on education

Images by Hannah Cohen Photography

Our 2018 Annual Report Focuses on Girls

Our 2018 Annual Report Focuses on Girls

The Luminos Fund is delighted to release its 2018 Annual Report. We’re working to ensure children everywhere get a chance to experience joyful learning, especially those denied an education by poverty, conflict, or discrimination.

In this Annual Report, we review 2018 through the lens of the Luminos Fund’s contribution to girls’ education. When girls get the chance to learn, they can positively transform their lives and those of their families.

Around the world, an equal number of girls and boys are out of school. Luminos programs prove you can give girls and boys a second chance at education right alongside one another — with great results. In fact, research shows that co-ed programs like ours may be one of the best ways to reach girls.

Highlights

  • 118,437 – To date, we’ve helped 118,437 children get a second chance at a good education, half of whom were girls.
  • 10 months – Luminos delivers accelerated 10-month programs covering the first 3 years of school, with 4 times as many reading hours as mainstream school.
  • 95% – Overall, 95% of children transition to mainstream school upon completion of our programs.
  • 11,185 – In 2018, 11,185 children (46% girls) received a second chance education in Ethiopia.
  • 1,615 – In 2018, 1,615 Syrian refugee children (43% girls) participated in our back-to-school programs in Lebanon.
  • 3,150 – In 2018, 3,150 children (46% girls) received a second chance education in Liberia.

Read the full 2018 Annual Report here.

Acknowledgements

The Luminos Fund team extends sincere thanks and gratitude to our funders, implementing partners, government ministry allies, Board of Directors, advisors, and friends for joining us on this vital journey.

Learn more and support our work

Learn more about the Luminos Fund and our work by exploring our website or contacting us at info@luminosfund.org.

Help more children get a second chance at a good education. Please donate here.

The Power of a Second Chance: How we’re delivering lasting change through education

The Power of a Second Chance: How we’re delivering lasting change through education

2018 was a big year for us at the Luminos Fund. Through our Second Chance program, we were able to help 11,457 children get a second chance at a bright future. Children like Nathan and Mechan who, both at age 12, were able to rejoin their peers at school and find encouragement, support, and mentorship from teachers, family, and us.

Each child we are able to support has their own unique story about why they left school, be it financial limits, family hardships, or conflict. What’s exciting is that these stories no longer stop there. For example, an incredible 97% of our students in Ethiopia transitioned back into mainstream school after just 10 months catching up through our Second Chance program.

In 2018 we built upon the incredible success of the Second Chance program in a number of ways. In Ethiopia, we began partnering with the national government to train their teachers to implement our unique model of instruction. In Liberia, we built out a new child protection curriculum for children and parents. And in Lebanon, we expanded our arts education work, providing more ways for our refugee students to reflect on their arduous journeys through creative self-expression. The work across all three countries reflects continuous innovation within the context of our core values of providing joyful learning to children in some of the toughest corners of the globe.

Most importantly in 2018, we gained proof that the lives of children in our program are transformed for the long term. A six year external evaluation from the University of Sussex showed that graduates of our program are completing primary school at almost twice the rates of their peers.

We’re excited about these program developments because we know the economic impact that our work has. One extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10% and the effect can be double for women according to UIS and World Bank. When we see that 97% of our students transition back to school, we know that with every year, their opportunities grow, as do their dreams. Subsequently, each additional year of schooling raises the average annual GDP by 0.37% (UIS).

While we love the numbers, we love the students even more. You can meet some of our students and read their stories, highlighting the resilience of the kids and families we work to support, and the commitment of Luminos Fund teachers, partners and donors. If you’re interested in hearing more about the kids we work with, the teachers who support them, and the next part of these kids’ stories, follow along on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Nathan, Mechan, and the 11,457 other children were given these opportunities thanks to the support and contributions of our donors. We can’t thank them enough for making our mission of giving children a second chance at education a reality.

Want to learn more about how rich education is possible, even in the poorest corners of the globe? Visit our website to learn, participate, and find out how you can help.

Accelerating Learning in Africa: The Expansion and Adaptations of Second Chance (Part 1)

Accelerating Learning in Africa: The Expansion and Adaptations of Second Chance (Part 1)

Thomas Hatch is a Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Co-Director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST). In December, he posted two articles with his reflections on Luminos’ unique approach to accelerated learning. These posts have been reproduced here with permission from International Education News.

Accelerating Learning in Africa: The Expansion and Adaptations of Second Chance (Part 1)

Despite significant increases in educational access around the world, one out of eleven children of primary school age remain out of school.  For adolescents, that proportion reaches one in six. Illustrating the depth of the problem, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the 21% out-of-school rate for primary school age children balloons to 58% for upper secondary school age children (the highest rate in any part the world).  With global efforts to increase access stalling, UNESCO and the Global Monitoring Report conclude: “Targeted interventions are needed to reach the most marginalised children, such as the millions obliged to work, the girls forced to stay home and the families displaced by conflict… We can no longer only rely on ‘business as usual’ strategies based on more teachers, more classrooms and more textbooks”.

Accelerated learning programs, like Second Chance (formerly called Speed School), serve as one such targeted intervention. Second Chance aims to meet the needs of children from 8-14 years of age who have never been in primary school or who have dropped out of school for two years or more. The program covers the content of first, second and third grade in just 10 months and helps the students to catch up to their peers and transition into the public school system in third or fourth grade.

Second Chance works by identifying a region with a high number of primary school-age students who are not in school and then establishing Second Chance classroom of no more than 25 students and a teacher (or “facilitator”) in that region.  Although this constitutes a relatively small “unit of implementation,” the results have added up. Launched in West Africa by the Legatum Foundation, the Strømme Foundation, and Geneva Global in 2007, what was then called Speed School reached over 100,000 out of school children in West Africa and Ethiopia by 2015.  Building on that initial success, Legatum created the Luminos Fund to expand the program in Ethiopia and to other parts of Africa.

According to a 2018 study tracking Second Chance graduates in Ethiopia from 2011-2017, about 75% of the Second Chance graduates were still in school compared to 66% of a similar group of students who had attended government schools.  Furthermore, the Second Chance graduates had higher aspirations to progress beyond primary education and were over 30% less likely to dropout than comparable students in government schools.  With those results, in 2018 HundrED identified Second Chance as one of 100 inspiring global educational innovations and in 2017 the  World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE)recognized Second Chance as one of six awardees for their creative approaches to crucial education challenges.

As Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund notes, Second Chance “has evolved, as any successful model has to.” That evolution includes the development of several key program elements across contexts:

  • An active-learning pedagogical approach
  • The hiring and training of unemployed youth from the local community in Second Chance’s active-learning pedagogy
  • Partnerships with “Link” government schools to help ease the transition of Second Chance students into the public system
  • “Self-help” groups for parents to encourage them to keep their children enrolled in school

These key elements can be considered “micro-innovations” because they are practices and structures that are new to the contexts in which Second Chance works – but their success depends on the ways in which Second Chance adapts and responds to the specific needs and circumstances in those contexts.

 

Active learning for basic skills

            “The thing I find truly unique,” Baron explained, “is that when you work in really low-resourced environments, the assumption is that to do anything at scale in education it has to be stripped down and dry and narrow and ‘just the facts’… But Second Chance is a model of very creative, play-based learning, carried out with teachers with minimal qualifications.  It’s a powerful example of being able to do something pedagogically complex in a low-resourced setting.”

            That pedagogical approach was one of the key developments that facilitated Second Chance’s expansion. Developed by Jeyachandran Madurendrum after he became the country director for Geneva Global in Ethiopia in 2010, Second Chance’s approach marries a focus on key skills in literacy and numeracy with an emphasis on active learning.  As the Facilitator’s Guide explains it, students work independently and in groups on learning activities that involve handling and using objects and materials from the local environment, sorting, grouping, and experimenting with them, making observations, recording findings, drawing conclusions, making generalizations, discussing what they’ve observed and learned with peers and facilitators. This active approach stands in striking contrast to conventional classrooms in surrounding areas, which are often overcrowded, with students in rows and the teacher in front delivering a lesson. As Nikita Khosla, Senior Director at Luminos observes, “If you walk into a Second Chance classroom in Ethiopia or Liberia, you will see about 25 children sitting in groups of 5. There will be work on the walls. It might be mud walls, but you will see chart paper stuck to them. You’ll see alphabets made out of clay. You’ll see children using lot of local materials for math, or going outside for nature-based learning.” In the process, Second Chance seeks to create a place where children want to come to school.  Fostering that kind of environment is particularly important given the challenges many of their students face in getting to school and in keeping them motivated throughout an eight-hour school day (with almost twice as much instructional time as government schools).

Khosla makes clear that Second Chance’s emphasis on developing relationships with children is another crucial ingredient to the approach.  “When we have principals and teachers [in government schools] asking us why the children in Second Chance are happy, we tell them, we don’t hit children, we talk to them, we ask them how they are, and this is very different from the teacher led classrooms in conventional schools, so even a slight deviation of that is welcomed by the students.” Both the active-learning pedagogy and the relationships with students aim to prepare Second Chance’s students to be independent learners and to help sustain them throughout their school careers.

This approach responds specifically to the opportunities and challenges in the local environment in two key ways. First, the program treats the facts that the students are older and out of school as assets. As the Facilitator’s Guide outlines, they see these students as able to learn at a faster pace and over a shorter time span than younger children and as more motivated and enthusiastic about learning.

Second, rather than developing and delivering a stand-alone curriculum, Second Chance facilitators use the active learning approach to teach the content of the national curriculum where they work. This approach also allows the facilitators to use the textbooks and other materials created to support the national curriculum – content with which local most facilitators and local partners are already familiar.  This choice also eases the transition of Second Chance students into government schools that are using the same materials, and it reduces the costs of having to produce their own materials substantially.

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Hiring and training unemployed youth

In another move that takes advantage of local circumstances, Second Chance looks for facilitators who are unemployed youth who know the local language and have at least a 10th grade education. Khosla reports that although this group has “zero experience teaching,” they bring other assets: “they have a real hunger for learning,” Khosla notes, “And we’ve seen they are very open, and they really absorb everything like a sponge.”  On the downside, these facilitators are familiar with the content, but the active learning pedagogy is entirely new.  To help them take in such a novel approach, 21 days of training are spread across the 10 months of the program.  That training focuses on the activity-based pedagogy and equips facilitators to develop their own lessons that are linked to the national curriculum, draw on the Second Chance activities, and utilize local materials.  In addition to the training, Second Chance tries to cultivate a “professional learning community” by bringing together facilitators periodically to share their learning and discuss their challenges.

From Khosla’s perspective, two aspects of this approach help to motivate facilitators. First, they can get a job at only slightly below the salary of government teachers and at a good rate given their qualifications. Second, they have an opportunity to develop positive relationships with the students. “The facilitators talk about how happy and excited the children are, and that motivates them to employ the approach,” explained Khosla.

 

Establishing “Link” school partnerships

Recognizing the challenges that Second Chance students face in staying in government schools once they graduate, Second Chance now establishes relationships with “Link schools.”  Link schools are government schools that Second Chance graduates may go on to attend.  Through the partnerships, Second Chance seeks to build some understanding of the Second Chance approach among the Link school staff and to encourage the staff to welcome the Second Chance graduates. “If a school already has a classroom of 70 children in grade 4,” Khosla explains, “and now Second Chance sends 15 more children, the principal and teachers really need to be on board with accepting the children. So this is just a way for us to develop some good will.”  To build that good will, Second Chance provides the teachers and the principal in the Link schools one week of training to expose them to the active learning model. In some instances, principals may also allow Second Chance to operate inside a Link School by using an empty classroom.  With this arrangement, the students are already in a government school building; they get into the habit of going to the school; and the parents get to know where the government school is as well. Seeing the Second Chance children engaged and happy at school has the added benefit that it can lead principals and teachers to try to learn more about the approach.

 

Creating parent “self-help” groups

Second Chance has also grown to recognize the importance of engaging with parents to address some of the cultural and economic barriers that prevent some children from getting access to schooling.  Economic barriers include things like registration fees and, in Liberia, “hidden” costs like the need to buy textbooks and uniforms.  Beyond the costs, the prospect of lost labor and a lack of clear benefits from sending their children to school can also undermine parental support. Given these challenges, to complement their work in schools, Second Chance establishes self-help groups for mothers.  These groups generally meet once or twice a month to encourage mothers to come up with income-generating activities like raising chickens or selling cassava in the market.  As an incentive, Second Chance provides a small “cash-injection”, matching the money that the mother’s raise.

Khosla noted that a 2016 evaluation of the program’s expansion in Ethiopia led to the realization that they were not paying enough attention to the self-help groups.  In response, they established a new position with a small stipend for a volunteer from the local community who helps to make connections and support the work of the group. The 2018 evaluation tracking the performance of a group of Second Chance students and a comparison group from government schools for six years highlights the importance of addressing these kinds of economic and cultural issues outside of school.  That study shows that costs remain the biggest reason former Second Chance students drop out of school; however, the difference between the drop-out rate of the “richest” and “poorest” Second Chance students narrowed much more than it did for government school students. Although it is impossible to make causal links between the self-help groups and Second Chance outcomes, that same study also found that household assets of Second Chance students improved by about 45%, and the average livestock increased by about 53%, while the household assets and livestock average of students from government schools stayed almost the same over the six years.

                                                                                                — Thomas Hatch

On Top of the World: Ruth Wynne’s Kilimanjaro Climb

On Top of the World: Ruth Wynne’s Kilimanjaro Climb

“I have wanted to climb Kilimanjaro since I saw it in the distance on a backpacking trip 12 years ago. This is the year! I also believe education is a key ingredient to people having more opportunities in life, especially in underdeveloped or developing countries. So, I thought why not combine these two things and attempt to raise some money for the Luminos Fund through my Kilimanjaro climb.”

On September 18, Ruth Wynne achieved her goal of 12 years and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa standing 5,895 meters tall. Her campaign raised $5,115, exceeding her initial goal of $3,000, and will help bring 34 students in Ethiopia back to school. We, at Luminos, are incredibly proud of Ruth and her impressive feat, and grateful that she chose to dedicate her hike to support students receiving a second chance education through our programs. We had the chance to chat with Ruth about her experience climbing Kilimanjaro, and why she believes education is the key to unlocking prosperity around the world.

Luminos: Can you walk me through your final ascent?

Ruth: We were woken at 2am, breakfast at 2:30, and we left camp at 3am in pitch dark apart from the most amazing sky in terms of the number of stars and the visibility. You’re up so high. You’re above cloud level. It’s amazing, and every night was like that. So, we had two and a half hours of uphill, I guess, almost moonlit terrain. I hadn’t done night hiking in the past, and I found that quite tough. All you see is the tiny distance in front of you that your head torch lights up. And my body obviously decided I should be sleeping, and I actually nodded off a couple times as I walked, though I quickly jerked awake. I scared myself a little because obviously I was walking and there were rocks and I didn’t want to twist my ankle and have that impede me from the summit. But luckily, I didn’t trip. It’s quite strange how your body reacts: as soon as I could see light on the horizon, it’s like somebody flipped a switch and suddenly I didn’t feel sleepy again until 4pm that evening.

We had to cross a glacier, on the real peak itself. At that point, you’re tired, so the glacier was hard. You’re slipping a little bit. It’s packed ice up to your knees and then there’s little pathways through. You don’t want to slip with the ice being so packed and hard. And then we reached the peak itself, Uhuru peak. It was amazing because we had it to ourselves. We were worried about whether we would have to stand in line for a photo at the summit, but then it was just us. You feel like you’re on top of the world, and you’re getting to have this moment with just a few people which is quite phenomenal.

Luminos: How does it feel to have completed this goal you’ve held for so long

Ruth: It was a relief when we summitted. Although it’s not people’s fault if they don’t summit due to altitude, it would have been quite disappointing. I got very lucky and the altitude didn’t seem to bother me. When I have been up high before, it has been tougher, so I felt not just relief but gratitude that I had made it. I felt gratitude also for the opportunity to do the climb: that I had the funds, that I could take the time off work, that I have a colleague and friend who was willing to go with me because it wouldn’t have been the same experience hiking solo.

Luminos: Do you have any advice for anyone planning on climbing Kilimanjaro?

Ruth: If you haven’t night hiked before, try and do it a couple of times because that was what I found to be mentally tough. The other thing I would say was yes, [cardio] fitness helped, but strong legs would have helped more. You can stop and get your breath back, but you can’t build up your legs when you’re already there. So, squats, dead lifts, lunges, all that fun stuff. I would have loved to be more fit than I was, but I was stronger than I thought I would be. I thought back to one of the instructors from my gym class who said, “don’t get too caught up in the cardio side of things and forget about the strength side.” It really did prove true.

 

Luminos: Why did you select Luminos as a charity to support?

Ruth: I chose Luminos because education, I think, is one of key components to achieving prosperity and exiting poverty. It’s such a good base and starting point and allows people to move forward and open more doors regardless of the country or how developed it is, but I think that’s especially true in under-developed countries. The difference between literacy and non-literacy, and how that affects your earning power, etc. And with a better education potentially comes a better salary or means to provide which has that ripple effect through generations. I think it really is something that is very hard to measure where that actually ends. Also, my mom’s a teacher, my sister’s a teacher, my aunt’s a teacher, friends are teachers, they’re a constant in my life! So, I suppose I did grow up in a household with a respect for education which has filtered through a little bit as well.

Luminos: You significantly surpassed your fundraising goal. What does it mean to you to receive this support from your friends and family?

Ruth: Firstly, a massive thank you to all who did support me, it was really humbling. As I said, I come from a teacher family and also know a lot of teachers. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of support, but this definitely far outweighs any expectation. And I’m just really grateful and touched that people took the time to click on the link to actually go and do it. Different friends shared the fundraiser because it touched a chord with them. It wasn’t just supporting me; Luminos touched a chord in them. It’s interesting to see people think about the education space. I believe it’s a key to helping people move past the poverty line, so maybe it made people think a little bit or have a brief discussion with a few friends and who knows where those discussions could go.

Luminos: Anything else you would like to share about your experience?

Ruth: If anyone is thinking about Kilimanjaro, it’s doable. It’s so doable. It’s not technical climbing, you can do it in less than the 8 days if you’re worried about leave from work. It’s one big hike as opposed to mountaineering, so if anyone does want to put it on the bucket list but is slightly afraid, don’t be. Go do it! It’s a fantastic experience!

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The Luminos Fund is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization registered in the United States (EIN 36-4817073).