In the past, I have had experience working with porters on Mt. Kilimanjaro as I helped start the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project for the International Mountain Explorers Connection. We started a project that allows porters to check out gear, and gives them first aid and english classes. It also helps to educate the tourists on the problems that face porters on the mountain.
While working with some climbers, many have thought that porters must love their job. I remember a climbers asking a group, “Do you love climbing the mountain everyday and watching the sunrise and set?” The amazing thing was, this group of over 20 porters, actually told us that they didn’t like climbing the mountain – at all.
They didn’t find anything special or spirtual about it. It was cold, hard work, and they didn’t get to see their families for more than one week. They had to pay bribes to work with certains guides, get low wages (compared to what the companies charge), and it was tough competition.
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For many porters, it is just a way to make money. That’s it. There is no other goal with being on the mountain – it’s purely a way to make money, pay school fees for their children, buy food, and live to see another day.
For some climbers, this is really hard to believe, as many of them are drawn to distant places around the world, to climb big mountains, watch the sunrise and set, and tell the tale to their friends. They have a love affair with mountains and think others do too.
In Tanzania, it’s different. I am sure some do enjoy the mountain, as many were raised on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. For porters though, the work is for survival. If they weren’t carrying gear up the mountain, they would most likely be farming corn, which isn’t a way to make much money in Africa, but does provide your family food.