While most Yalies were enjoying the last few weeks of summer, men’s lacrosse midfielder Michael Barry ’09 was enjoying the view from the highest peak in Africa.
For two weeks in August, Barry and 12 friends were in Africa climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain rise, to raise money for the Kucetekela Foundation. Barry’s trip raised between $50,000 and $60,000 for the foundation, which was founded by his brother Oliver Barry MED ’11 to help Zambian children gain access to secondary education.
“I asked a lot of my friends and was really happy with the turnout because it’s a difficult thing to commit to,” Michael Barry said. “It was a great mix of family and friends from high school and college, and everyone contributed in doing their part and fundraising.”
Oliver was inspired to start the foundation when traveling in Africa on a fellowship after he graduated from Princeton, where he served as the Tigers’ lacrosse captain. While doing HIV/AIDS-related work in Zambia, Oliver said, he saw the need for better access to secondary education, which was painfully lacking in the government’s educational offerings. Oliver said that he wanted to encourage the hope and promise that he saw in the children, so he founded Kucetekela Foundation and led a fundraising climb of his own during the summer of 2006. The foundation’s name means “hope” in the major dialect in Zambia.
Inspired by his older brother’s success last year, Michael Barry sent out letters to family and friends explaining the foundation and this year’s climb, asking for pledges to support their 6,000-meter climb.
Encouraged by the support he received, Barry set out with 12 others, including friends from high school and college, his father and his uncle. After a challenging six-day climb to the summit, the entire team was able to make it to the top, a significant feat considering that 60 percent of hikers who set out on the climb don’t make it to the summit.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to the top because it’s such a long climb — you never really feel that close to the summit,” Barry said. “Many of us, myself included, got tired and sick from the altitude, so I was really happy that everyone was able to make it to the top.”
Fellow laxer Bryce Pyle ’09, who participated on the climb, joined the trip after Barry pitched the idea of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and explained how it would raise funds for the foundation. Pyle seized what he described as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and decided to join Barry in Africa.
Pyle said traveling to Africa and climbing the mountain gave him an tangible experience that was more meaningful than just raising money from a distance. The opportunity to try to understand the situation while in Africa, and Barry’s passion for Zambian children, were the two major draws for Pyle.
“The work that Mike does for this foundation is really something else,” Pyle said. “It’s really amazing how much he cares and all the work he did in organizing the trip with so many different details.”
In addition to this August’s Kilimanjaro climb, Barry has also been involved in the foundation’s other fundraising efforts. Together with Oliver Barry and their sister, Barry has helped organize fundraising events in New York, securing donations that have added to the approximately $200,000 that the group has raised to date. Last year, they were able to sponsor the full education of 10 Zambian children, and as the organization expands to other schools, Barry hopes that even more children will be able to experience secondary education.
“This climb was his own initiative and resolve, and I really commend my brother for doing such meaningful work,” Oliver Barry said. “I admire him for what he’s done, his contribution to K.F. and all the great work that’s come out of his trip.”