Why did an Olympic gold medalist hockey player trek Kilimanjaro as a female porter?

Olympic gold medal hockey player, Crista Cullen, has trekked Mount Kilimanjaro acting as a female porter to highlight the growing number of female porters worldwide, of which there were none just ten years ago

New research has revealed the British public want new experiences and a sense of social responsibility from their holiday experiences this year. The research, commissioned by Exodus Travels, shows that 72% of British holidaymakers see new experiences as the top take-away from their holiday. Further, aside from the 42% who want to relax, 27% want to see new countries, 21% seek adventure and 16% wish to experience new cultures.

Kilimanjaro is one of Exodus’ key trekking destinations, and for years Exodus has been supporting the Kilimanjaro Guide Scholarship Foundation, which runs educational courses during the trekking off-season when employment is scarce. It gives the porters the chance to learn English, receive training, and improve their employment opportunities. To date, 800 porters have benefited from the school – nearly exclusively male. Tanzania, the patriarchal society has meant that it’s always been the men who have gone out to earn a living, but Exodus are helping to change that.

By employing women as porters, Exodus are giving them the chance to gain their independence – and it has been a long road from skepticism to now, acceptance as the norm.

Crista Cullen, who has Kenyan heritage and speaks Swahili is a trustee of the Exodus Travels Foundation. In October last year Crista trekked up Mount Kilimanjaro with a team of female porters to experience why this project is making such a difference to the lives of these women. To understand exactly what these female porters do and to experience life as a female porter, Crista completed the challenge carrying a bag on her head, as the local porters do.

Crista said:  “I was excited to be offered a great opportunity to put myself out of my comfort zone and into an environment where I felt personally both mentally and physically challenged. It was exciting to be a part of a female team breaking down gender barriers and proving that the only thing that really matters is resilience.”

Interestingly, alongside 4% who want to learn a new language before setting foot on a plane, over 4.7 million British travellers would consider a walking holiday – truly immersing themselves in their surroundings, and the social and cultural aspects of their destination.

Among the top tier destinations and experiences that Brits consider their most-wanted for 2019 were viewing the Northern Lights from the Arctic wilderness (28%), a safari (21%), the Great Wall of China (16%) and Niagara Falls (15%).

The research was commissioned to mark the launch of the Exodus Travels Foundation this March. At the heart of the foundation is Empowerment, Education and the Environment, and the Exodus Travels Foundation will support several projects that deliver sustainable, meaningful change.
Peter Burrell, chairman of the Exodus Travels Foundation said: “We’re delighted to announce this exciting new chapter in our commitment to the world we love to travel. A natural step forward, it brings together all the projects we have already been contributing towards and allows us to focus on distributing funds in the most efficient way possible.”

The Foundation will be the cornerstone of Exodus’ commitment to ethical practice, fair treatment, and charitable endeavour. There are five hero causes the foundation will be focusing upon, including the Kilimanjaro Porter Project.