More than just a Mountain | Caleb Hughes’ Reflection of Tanzanian Immersion 2019/2020

By March 6, 2020March 8th, 2020Event, Team, Travel

More than Just a Mountain 

Here at yLead, we believe in the power of storytelling; we know that when experiences and memories don’t get captured, they fall through the cracks and sometimes end up lost. Caleb Hughes graduated from Grovedale Secondary College at the end of 2019 and celebrated his 13 years of schooling with us in Tanzania! We asked Caleb to share his adventure in Tanzania… check it out!

What led you to Tanzania with yLead?

What guided me to going to Tanzania with yLead was them coming to my school and speaking about the various trips they offer, for not only schoolies alternatives, but also other trips. Of course the Tanzanian Immersion trip stood out the most to me, as the way it was presented and spoken about was passionate and seemed it would be the most rewarding. Both my best friend and I decided to commit ourselves to this trip as a way to celebrate the end of our secondary education and it would end up being one of the best experiences of our lives.

How did you feel before the trip?

As this would be my first overseas experience I was very nervous – to be surrounded by new people, new environments and different cultures was a very overwhelming thought. What if I wouldn’t be able to mingle with the group? What if I wouldn’t enjoy the trip? Those little questions filled my mind until I actually met my fellow Rafikis and took in the beautiful sights of Tanzania. It eased me as I felt I was now at home with amazing people. Another worry that plagued me before the trip was my knee dislocation a few months prior. I was worried my injury would taint the trip for me, especially on Kilimanjaro as I had no idea how my knee would hold up. However, it remained strong and allowed me to push myself on the trip and realise nothing can hold me back.

I do believe that the mountain changed me for the better and altered the way I view life, also revealing to me that the support of others can have the most significant impact on you.

What did Kilimanjaro mean to you? 

Kilimanjaro had a significant impact on me, allowing me to truly reflect back on my morals, experiences and values. From the beginning of trekking Kilimanjaro, I went in with the mindset of pushing myself past my limits and not allowing anything to hold me back. I did not want my knee injury to prevent me from reaching my full potential on the mountain, so to conquer Kili to my personal best was very emotional and meaningful to me. Being on Kilimanjaro also brought many beautiful sights that sometimes would bring you to tears, which while trekking and taking in the scenery, I was able to think to myself with no distraction and delve into my mind and reflect on my life and where I want it to go from there. You do gain an appreciation of nature and life itself on Kili. I do believe that the mountain changed me for the better and altered the way I view life, also revealing to me that the support of others can have the most significant impact on you. Kilimanjaro was special, for that I can now see that I am more than I imagine.

Recount one of your favourite days from beginning to end…

One of my favourite days in Tanzania was while we were staying at St Jude’s. The school itself is that astonishing, it was probably one of the best times on the trip. Beginning the day with a Q&A session with the founder Gemma Sisia was a valuable experience as we got to really get a grasp on her story and how vital the school’s role is in improving the poverty situation in Tanzania. After this we moved on to touring the school, being able to interact with the children and their classes – one of the most precious moments from this was when we entered the music class and one of the girl students welcomed us into the school through singing, this definitely warmed our hearts and made us smile. As it moved onto lunch time, we assisted the kitchen staff in serving up the student’s lunches – which led to being able to sit and eat with the children – they are genuinely so joyous and friendly. My highlight for this day was when we went on the home visits which allowed us to visit the home of one of the students of St Jude. The student I visited was so happy to have us there and so was the family. They greeted us with snacks and tea, but we also learned how grateful the families are to be given the opportunity by St Jude. It made me emotional to see the visible impact that St Jude is having on the community and how lives are improving. The day ended with spending time with my fellow Rafikis, which enabled us to reflect on our experiences from the day and I believe we felt more thankful for the privileges we have back in Australia.

Describe a moment/experience in which you felt connected with Tanzania and the local community and culture

The home stays where we stayed the night at a Tanzanian teacher’s house really made me feel connected to the local community and culture. It wasn’t until the morning after staying the night when we went to a church service that I felt really involved in the culture. In church, we were able to sing and pray with the locals in their local language which was so different from anything I have experienced in Australia – it was so bizarre to me that this was something people do every week and I appreciated the experience. When it came to leaving the home and heading back for the hotel, we had to catch a little bus crammed with the locals, leaving you with no comfortable space. This was another moment that I actually enjoyed and made me feel immersed in the culture. The trip back to the hotel was so confronting and insane, however I actually really enjoyed it.

You never know what you could learn by doing something that is foreign to you, and with the assistance of yLead, it will be an experience that you’ll never forget.

What would you say to someone that was nervous about travelling with yLead or exploring a unique culture?

Travelling with yLead, especially to a unique culture, is one of the best experiences you will ever have. yLead itself is organised and have so much love to share. You will feel appreciated and thought about while travelling with them, they also provide experienced ‘mentors’ to guide you on the trip. They will challenge you on the trip, guiding you to reevaluate your morals and values, further making you reflect to become a better person. I suggest that you embrace the culture that is presented to you, try new things and step out of your comfort zone which will allow you to get the most out of the trip. You never know what you could learn by doing something that is foreign to you, and with the assistance of yLead, it will be an experience that you’ll never forget. I know I’ll never forget Tanzania.

Caleb Hughes, 18