Elizabeth's Way
(In Her Own Words)

Her Story:

Soon after graduating from NYU in 2007 and while working at the American Cancer Society, I learned about an extreme fundraiser to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to benefit ACS. Several family members and close friends had been affected by cancer so I felt it a fitting tribute to climb in honor of their valiant battles while fundraising for ACS. Likewise, remembering my bold teenage proclamation about moving to Africa, I dared wonder what, in addition to a mountain climb, might lie ahead of me.

The short time we spent in Tanzania left a lasting impression upon me: I saw hues of colors I never knew existed, had animals within an arm's reach and met many warm and smiling people and children. Through the trip it also became clear that I wanted to explore the world of international development work so I applied to graduate school shortly after returning to the US. God had a different plan for me: REJECTION! Though initially shocked (and humbled!), I took it to mean there was something else for right now so I continued working as an event planner in NYC and contacted Rick French who had just started a volunteer-run nonprofit, Journeys of Solutions, (JOS) to see about getting back to Tanzania.

What I thought would be a three-month stint (September-November 2009) to help me gain the minimum amount of experience needed to reapply to graduate school, turned into nearly 5 years of straddling the worlds of event planning in NYC and development work in rural Tanzania.  Living in Tanzania reminded me of the Sunday School lesson from many years ago: do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have worries of its own; rather live in and be thankful for the present. Admittedly, this approach has proven to be very difficult at times for an event planner with a color coordinated to-do list! Nevertheless, volunteering for JOS and creating a sponsorship program for Shalom orphans to attend the local English-language school Tumaini Junior School (and later working for Tanzania Education Corp, TEC) has brought indescribable joy. The gift of education is invaluable and can so easily be taken for granted. I certainly have been guilty of this at times! Education is one's passport to opportunities and as the late Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Just days before my intended return in 2011, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Instead of moving back to Tanzania I packed up my apartment and moved home to New Jersey where I spent the next 9 months caring for Dad. The time at home was bittersweet to say the least and at many moments I was reminded of all I had experienced during the Kilimanjaro climb and with the Tanzanian people and children alongside whom I had lived. On Kili I had found myself on the high peaks above the clouds (elated at a positive diagnosis or pain-free day), but also in the thick fog-ridden valleys (distraught and frustrated by chemo's failure). With my Tanzanian friends I was reminded of living in the present, appreciating all that is. With the uncertainly of each day's comfort or pain and the various chemo attempts, I was ever reminded that our gift is the present. My friends from the Kili climb, those involved in JOI and JOS also provided much comfort given their own experiences with battling cancer. Sadly this present that can be so easily be missed or overlooked when planning for the future. In the end, the time at home provided precious moments of being present and getting to know Dad better and also sharing my dreams with him. Though he had always financially supported my work, accepting his young daughter's desire to live/work in Tanzania was a little more difficult.

Upon receiving Dad's terminal diagnosis, in true John Kallop style, Dad requested memorial donations be sent to JOS so that we could finish a water well project at Tumaini. On February 21, 2013, almost 5 years to the day since I'd first visited Tanzania, life came full circle: with my mother, brother, and close friends by my side, we dedicated the water well at Tumaini to Dad. With the 500+ students and staff, we danced, sang and celebrated as the water freely flowed- both from the well and our eyes!

Most recently, (for the past 18 months) I have lived in Tanzania developing projects for TEC while maintaining JOS' initiatives. My time in Tanzania has been so rich and full of adventures though it has become clear my days here will soon end (for now?). Having returned to Tanzania just weeks after Dad passed provided a welcomed distraction/delay in processing the devastating battle our family faced with Dad's cancer.  Though I know it is time for me to move on, the path is unclear. I feel like I did in 2007 when I learned about the Kili Climb: ready and open for change- whatever that may mean.

Though I haven't made it back to graduate school (yet), each day continues to be filled with new lessons, whether I purposely pursue them or fall upon them! At so many points in my young life, it has been clear how God has abundantly provided more than I needed. I could not have imagined all that I would learn and experience through signing up for the Kili climb. I know with God all things are possible so remain thankful for today, with full certainty I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Why She Wants to Go on The Way:

In December 2012, while up in the Rochester area for a few days pursuing a safe space to decompress after several tumultuous months, get my fill of JOI time, and hold a few musical concert fundraisers for my TEC salary, Rick mentioned the pilgrimage to me as we hiked through the forested area behind his home.  Our time together would always consist of long talks about life and the adventures that came along both those we pursued and those which pursued us, the ensuing struggles and hardships, joys and celebrations. Between the sounds of nature that filled my senses: the trees whistling as they swayed in the wind, the water of the stream rippling over the rocks, and the (sometimes) far off songs of birds, I heard every few words about the trip: Pilgrimage. Uprooting. Prayer. Reflection, overwhelmed at the inner peace I felt at the thought of such an adventure... a purposeful step in a direction abounding with unknowns.

Though indeed I hadn't a clue as to where I'd be in the months leading up to May 2014, 18 months from that time, I knew the pilgrimage had begun just then. A few shorts weeks after learning about The Way, I returned to Tanzania, continued grieving the loss of my father and the accompanying loss of childhood one feels at the death of a parent, and consequently felt the need for uprooting. So too did I feel a sort of determination deep within my heart that the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was one that would be transformative, vital to my life's journey. After deliberating (er, praying!) for nearly a year about the trip, almost to the day from that first discussion with Rick I found myself sending him an email. Rather than the noncommittal inquiries I had sent on several occasions before that time, the December email solidified what I knew, what I'd heard from God: "GO! Seek and you will find!"

Admittedly, I was fully aware of the fact that the trip would tug tightly on my already short purse strings, and while I acknowledged that in the email to Rick, I also found comfort in the fact that with God all things are possible; knock and the door will be opened. Within a few days, I learned about the newly created scholarship program. While walking home on the dusty roads of Karatu, the words were blurred by my tears. God's provision.

At present I am weeks away from leaving my job and life in Tanzania and returning to the US for an undetermined length of time. While a difficult decision, it was made easy through much prayer. A nearly six-year chapter is closing. There have been several moments of anxiety about leaving behind all that is comfortable and familiar, however, even more I am filled with eagerness and anticipation for all that is to come. I am positive that my participation in the pilgrimage is yet another step along the adventure of life. Admittedly, it's unclear if I am pursuing this one or vice versa! Either way, Spain, here I come!

Tom's Support:

"I am Elizabeth's champion because I have seen how she loves the children of Karatu, Tanzania. I have seen Elizabeth talk to and counsel the children in a way that only a mother would do. Elizabeth's heart is so big and her vision for the education of the children and orphans is above what we all think we would like to accomplish. I am proud to be part of her life and help her realize her dream."-Tom Stevens

Donations are not tax deductible.