It started as a way to stay connected with the world outside of her own, says Air Force spouse Leia Johnson. But now she'll climb her first major mountain -- the highest in Africa -- as the cap on a fundraising effort supporting hurting women in third world countries.
Johnson, who lives at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is the president of Somebody's Mama, a non-profit that collects money to support global women-centric relief. After marrying into the military Johnson said she wanted a way to stay connected with her pre-military life travels and humanitarian work. Her organization, launched initially as a way to contribute to a single rural maternity ward project in Uganda, now supports projects worldwide, with past locations including Costa Rice, Togo and India.
The Kilimanjaro climb is way, way outside Johnson's comfort zone, she said. She has never climbed a mountain. She trains by hauling around a heavy backpack while wearing hiking boots and climbing as many stairs as she can find. She likes the outdoors, she said, but she doesn't consider herself overly outdoorsy.
But the climb, part of the One Million Thumbprints campaign which collects thumbprints and names, is an important one. Not unlike a son running a marathon to raise money for cancer research in honor of his father, the climb is meant as a way to have just a small amount of the psychical discomfort experienced globally by vulnerable omen in war-torn developing countries, she said.
The group, almost entirely made up of middle-aged women with little climbing experience, plans to summit on the United Nations designated International Women's Day, March 8. The thumbprints and names, Johnson said, will be presented to the UN Commission on the Status of Women as part of an effort towards a resolution supporting the prevention of violence against women. On the trip they'll also be meeting with impacted women in nearby areas to hear their stories first hand.
Johnson said her life as a military spouse is what has caused her to get involved in this effort in the first place. She started organization after witnessing the power of spouse groups during deployment. If they could come together and support each other like that, she wondered, why couldn't they support other causes globally? She said witnessing deployments from the states has also given her a unique feeling of solidarity with women in the countries most impacted by war.
Johnson heads out on February 26 and will the climb in early March, she said. You can follow her journey on the Somebody's Mama Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Roman Boed via the Creative Commons license.