The Ultimate THBP Experience!

"My first encounter with the Tanzania Heart Babies Project came in first year, while I was living in Vanier.  Then co-president, Anne-Sophie Deman walked through our hall with a box of mountainous cupcakes. Really, these things were glorious. She had somehow gotten them donated from a bakery on Broadway, and was selling them to raise money for the project.

I remember thinking, cupcakes? Really? How can that possibly contribute to funding life saving surgeries of children halfway across the world? It seemed naïve, and fruitless. But I would soon come to realize that this girl, along with all of the other members of the THBP team, didn’t stop at cupcakes.

Around the end of first year Anne-Sophie told me about the team’s plan to couple a fundraiser with a trek to Everest Base Camp. She asked if I would be interested in joining. “Sure, why not,” I said, thinking it would never actually materialize. Yeah, well I probably should have realized that these guys wouldn’t propose ideas they didn’t fully intend to carry through.

So one year later I found myself sitting on the Kathmandu Airport runway waiting to board a ten-seater deathtrap to take us to one of the most dangerous airports in the world, the Tenzing-Hillary Airport, literally built into the side of a cliff.  What’s more insane though, is that by the time we boarded this flight, enough money had been raised to fun the surgeries of ten children. That’s ten real lives, being saved, because of a bunch of nineteen-year olds, who started with cupcakes.

Of course, it’s fair to say that these nineteen year olds are not your typical first year university students. Not to say that they don’t have fun (believe me, they do) but the energy and passion behind their drive is unique. Its something I haven’t seen in many people my age, and its visible even on the most miserable of days.

I remember arriving at the final village (and by village I mean, two medium sized tea houses) before base-camp day. We got there earlier than expected, around eleven AM. This village sat at the bottom of Kala Patthar, a “small” mountain, which peaked at 5,600 meters. Part of our plans were to spend one day doing Kala Patthar, where the views of Everest are spectacular, and the next Base Camp before heading back down.

Well at this point, our heads were pounding, lungs screaming, bowels very, very unhappy, and not to mention many of us had come down with a nasty cold that made everything ten times more difficult. I remember joking to some people, “Ha yeah, lets go for a quick climb up Kala Patthar after lunch, we’ve got time”.

Again, as has come to be a common trend in my life, I should have realized, this was exactly what these guys were planning to do. They got together, Kunal Sethi- co founder- being the driving force behind this plan, and proposed it to our guide after lunch, arguing that the weather was fine, and we’d have a clear view of Everest before dark.

And so, two hours later I found myself nearing the top of Kala Patthar, positive I was about to throw up, or pass out (or both). Regardless of mine, or anyone else’s misery, the team was constantly supporting each other with, “we’re almost there, we can do it” and other words of encouragement. Luckily, I did not vomit or pass out, and soon we found ourselves feeling very little and looking out at the most incredible view I have ever seen, and likely ever will see.

Though my experience with the project has mostly been that of a cupcake purchaser and a tagalong, I still feel incredibly grateful to have played a small role in this incredible thing. I still don’t really understand how they managed to raise such funds, but I am no longer surprised by it. I will not be surprised by anything this team does. And now the team has grown, and spread, and the positive forces behind it, who I have come to be best friends with and respect, are entirely responsible for jump starting the whole thing. "

- Johannah Cramer