An excellent, heart warming story from Calgary Herald.
Few experiences can bring you closer to God than trudging through a pitch-black night in the rarified air of Africa’s highest peak.
Almoonir Dewji, vice-president of Calgary management consultant firm Callow and Associates, said summiting Mount Kilimanjaro near sunrise on Jan. 2 capped a profound spiritual journey.
“It’s a very meditative exercise, putting one foot forward, heel-to-toe, in the darkness,” Dewji recalls. “It forces you to slow down and think. It’s so quiet, sometimes all you can hear is your breathing and your heartbeat.”
Dewji, 45, is an Ismaili Muslim who is active in a Calgary Muslim-Christian dialogue group. He found plenty of time for prayer as he wound his way to the 5,895-metre Uhuru Peak summit of Kilimanjaro.
“I thought about God’s grace in my life. I went through a lot of reflection on the generosity of the human spirit and on the imperative of giving back,” says Dewji.
In the final hours of the ascent, Dewji suffered dehydration, pounding headaches and complications from his asthma and seriously considered turning back. But he was determined to wave the Flames’ car flag his wife Nimira had given him to take to the top of the inactive volcano.
“Nimira’s image in my mind got me through the final hour or two. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a stronger bond with her,” he says.
Dewji was part of a 37-member group of Canadians, including eight from southern Alberta, who tackled Kilimanjaro to raise money for Save the Children Canada HIV/AIDS programs in Kenya. Dewji credits selfless help from team members and even an Australian stranger from another climbing party, who gave him energy bars at a critical point, for getting him to the top.
Dewji was able to raise $15,000 to support Save the Children projects. He says he was humbled by the outpouring of both donations and prayers from Calgarians who heard about his climb.
He added one of the trip’s most profound moments came when the 37 Canadians were able to deliver clothing and school supplies to children at a Tanzanian orphanage and even to youngsters they met on the roads.
“I was the recipient of such generosity during my climb, and it drove home to me the importance of giving back, of the Bible’s instruction — to whom much has been given, much is expected,” he says.
The trek to Kilimanjaro was the first time Dewji had been in Tanzania, his birth country, in 32 years. Dewji hopes to return to Africa in the future and explore other avenues for humanitarian involvement.
Dewji says a phrase from the Sufi Muslim tradition best captures the humanitarian lessons he learned from his African experience: Past the suffering walked he who asks, “Why oh God, do you not do something for these people?” To which God replied, “I did do something, I made you.”