Lois and Katy are gearing up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in a once-in-a-lifetime fundraising journey to help fund training and facilities for the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings and Credit Association (ACCOSCA).
Ben is flying solo this time, but that's okay because he's talking to two intrepid adventurers who are giving their all to help ACCOSCA and the Africa Cooperative Development Foundation invest in state-of-the-art training facilities to benefit the SACCOs (African credit unions) across the continent of Africa.
Our guests talk about how they got involved with the African credit union movement, and how they're preparing for the climb along with other climbers, a dedicated ground crew, and international supporters.
Click the player below to listen to this episode of Awsomology. You can also find us on Wistia or your favorite podcast app.
Awesome things to share:
Learn more about Climb Africa and donate today!
School carpool line signs FTW!
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Wayne Dyer
Katy Zaleski, Lois Kitsch, Ben Bauer
Ben Bauer 00:10
Hello and welcome fellow Awsomologists to Awsomology. I'm Ben. And while I'm super excited to introduce our guests, I have to mention that this episode will sound a bit different as we'll be without my world famous co-host Sue, I'm gonna do my best to keep it awesome. And I'll have to try hard because Sue is definitely responsible for no less than 95% of the awesomeness that makes our podcast so great. So smart and so fun. We'll miss her but I know that she's enjoying some well deserved time away from our busy work lives. And I promise she'll be back for our next episode for those of you that are going to miss her, which is all of you, I'm sure. Now on with the show. In this episode, we're happy to welcome Lois Kitsch from CU Difference and our very own Katy Zaleski from Simplicity Credit Union to talk about their upcoming adventure as they prepare to climb Africa. Welcome Lois and Katie.
Katy Zaleski 01:03
Lois Kitsch 01:04
Morning. We're both excited to be here.
Ben Bauer 01:06
Yeah, definitely. We're so excited to have you. So before we start, and we dive in to this big adventure you have coming up, let's get to know you a bit more. And why don't we start with Lois. Lois, why don't you tell us a bit about yourself who you are, what you're up to nowadays, and then maybe give us a 30 seconnd elevator speech about what climb Africa is all about. And we'll dive deeper into that later.
Lois Kitsch 01:30
Okay, so good morning. Again, my name is Lois Kitsch again, and I am the co founder of a consulting organization called CU Difference. And CU Difference is really designed to help credit union professionals recognize the opportunity in serving all of their membership, including low wage working families. I have been doing this since I left the National Credit Union foundation in 2018. My career over credit union spans about 42 years. And if I talk about all the things I've done in credit unions, that's all we would talk about. But some quick highlights, I think that I am probably most known for the role I played at the National Credit Union Foundation as the executive director of the development education program or the director of DE, I also have experience working with the World Council of credit unions Filene and working within credit unions. So all of that has led me to this volunteer work that I'm doing right now for ACCOSCA. ACCOSCA is the Pan African trade association for credit unions, which means 28 of the countries across the continent of Africa. Incidentally, there are 54 countries in Africa. Oftentimes people think Africa is a country and I say no, it's a continent remember 54 Different cultures, 54 different governments 54 different credit union movements. The idea of climb Africa started about 18 months ago when we recognize that access to quality education for credit union professionals was sparse across the continent. So climb Africa is meant to, to be used to build out the first ever state of the art training facility or Academy, as we call it for African credit unions. And the ultimate goal is to raise $1.2 million to secure an office space, you know, the build out of office space curriculum and the development of a research institute for African credit unions. We're making great progress. We're not there yet. We are making good progress towards making this African dream come true.
Ben Bauer 03:52
Excellent, thank you. Thanks for the great introduction and the teaser for so much great information about climb Africa, which we'll jump into in a bit. Katy, why don't you tell us a bit about who you are, what you're up to, and maybe how you got connected the climb Africa?
Katy Zaleski 04:07
Yeah. Good morning, or afternoon, I guess, depending on when you're listening to our podcast. I'm Katy Zaleski. And as Ben mentioned in the intro, I am at Simplicity Credit Union and have the privilege of working with Ben in the credit and my credit union career and then working with Lois, in our work in Africa with credit unions or Sacco's in Africa. I'm the VP of human resources at Simplicity Credit Union. So in my day job at simplicity, I get to champion professional development and really finding amazing people who want to work for simplicity and enjoy working at simplicity like we do so professional development and making sure that we're taking care of the the all the awesome people that work with us is get what I get to do on my day to day job, which is exciting and amazing. Um. And Climb Africa. As Lois said, kind of started about 18 months ago, and was this dream and this idea. As I mentioned, professional development is something that I am passionate about. And I'm fortunate to champion and work with it simplicity. So when we talked about or when Lois talked to me about climb Africa and building out an academy and a resource like that, for SACCOs, and credit unions in Africa, it was a yes. And then wait, what are we doing so kind of Africa came kind of through the work that I've been doing with Lois, and with George and the ACCOSCA team in Africa. And that started as as Lois mentioned, she oversaw D, E. And I had gone through D, E, and 2016, with Lois Kitsch. And so in that class, she talked about a first ever international DE workshop in Kenya, I hadn't even graduated DE at that time. And I called our former CEO, Pat Westenberg, and said, Hey, there's this trip to Africa, I really want to go what what do we need to do to get me to go and she said, Well graduate DE first, and then we'll talk about it. So that's kind of how my relationship with Africa started. And my involvement with Africa attending that DE workshop, and then since then, I've been privileged to attend workshops, do development work, and then also work with the ACCOSCA on professional development and working with SACCOs and credit unions on operating principles and the philosophies of credit union. So it's been a whirlwind, it's crazy to think that it's been every year since 2017. And then I'm gearing up in a couple days for my seventh trip to Africa. So.
Ben Bauer 06:51
Excellent, awesome, clearly, some passion in the room here for Africa and all the development efforts over there. And it's awesome to hear everything that you guys have done and are doing. And to that point, why don't we dive a bit deeper into this climb Africa thing? And we'll kind of follow the flow of the who, what, where, when, why, how, and maybe let's start with the why. So Lois, you kind of teased a little bit, or mentioned the the academy like the end goal of what these funds are going to do and what they're going to be created. Can you talk a bit more about, you know, how the need was identified? And then maybe once this thing exists, like, what's it going to do for people?
Lois Kitsch 07:37
So thank you for that question. It's so the climb Africa whole idea, again, came because we recognize that access to training for credit unions was really critical. And not only building institutional strength and strength so that the SACCOs, we call them SACCOs in Africa, are safe and strong, and that members money is protected. But also the recognition of building the financial capability of members is part of their mission. So at a ACCOSCA, we spend a great deal of time measuring and balancing the business opportunities that happen from running your well run credit union, that also enables social opportunities, such as living the values that you have within your institutions. And so that is that has been the role here of recognizing with so many different countries and so many different levels of, of sophistication and credit unions, that there needed to be a central place of information and sharing, and also a convening place, a place where people could come and not only get reliable information, but have an opportunity to meet and discuss issues that are important to the continent. So in doing that, we had the opportunity to really start and talk to some American credit union professionals about this idea, and got some strong support and kind of a go ahead to push forward and actually start this to work out to build this whole concept. The outcome of what will happen here is that there will first and foremost through the research institute be reliable data, which Africa does not have right now, we don't clearly understand for sure how many members are part of credit unions, we don't clearly understand who our members are. We don't clearly understand the regulatory environment in every country. So part of the work that ACCOSCA the ACCOSCA Academy will do is also to enhance the work of convening regulators to build out solid regulation and and create a regulatory environment that is enabling but also strong enough to support strong credit unions. We'll also be doing a lot of work with credit unions to help them look beyond what's happening inside institution to the greater community. So how can credit unions transform communities, while at the same time building the financial wealth of their members, the financial well being of their members, while at the same time being sure that the institution is safe and strong? And that members money is protected? In 28 different locations? Yeah. So therein lies the complexity and also the excitement of the work that's being done.
Ben Bauer 10:29
Right. Yeah, it's so interesting to hear about the lack of, or maybe the non existence of structure to support data to good quality data, you know, maybe it's something as simple as, like, how many people are even members, just knowing like, how much of our day to day is so reliant on good data, right, you know, at the very least, who our members are, and how many members we have, but not to mention, you know, everything else that goes into our decision making and our planning. And so that's, that's a interesting outcome that comes of a training academy like this, and the support that I can give to the whole movement on the continent. So interesting,
Ben I always, I always think to when I first started traveling and Lois hit on it with the regulators, and this push for additional regulation and training with regulators and CO training with regulators, regulators, it's so different than kind of the language here where there's so much regulation that credit unions talk about that regulation and the impact on you know, maybe the time it takes us to do a mortgage lending where SACCOs in Africa are asking for regulation for that stability, right. So it's, I always think it's really interesting to see that and the work that they're they're doing in Africa to bring that regulation in recognition of the importance of that. And I think that that's one of those things that stood out so much to me, when we started having these conversations, just some of those differences, right. And it's a very different side of the coin that we have with our regulators or conversations and, and you know, that that education component on the why the why for climb Africa, and I think lowest is so much good work there with ACCOSCA and ACCOSCA is doing so much good work. And, you know, as I talked to them beginning to about professional development, you know, conversations are a professional development for us is just recognition and our staff have just that desire to grow and that desire to learn and the all the tools that we have accessible to, to implement that that kind of drive and that investment in our employees. And so for me climb Africa that why is the development of this academy, and then also that online learning platform where the SACCOs in Africa will be able to look at those resources and provide that to their employees. And we talk about we're as an institution, we're only as good as our employees. And so the stability of professional development that will bring to their members, by investing in their employees at those SACCOs is just going to be really amazing, too. So I think that why component is what really speaks to me, in addition to all the very amazing things that are going to come with it that was talked about, too.
Ben Bauer 13:21
Yeah, yeah, that's amazing, and maybe a good moment for us to pause and appreciate what we have when it comes to professional development and the focus that we have on talent and our people, and maybe something that we forget, as we get stuck in our day to day and how that really does affect our members. Right. Like we have great people on our team that are trained and continually developed. And that's great for us. But you know, really, that end benefit does come to the members into our communities, and to see that trying to be grown in another place in the world is just awesome. That's That's amazing. So we talked a little bit about regulation and how this might be, you know, one of the developments of or one of the outcomes. When all of a sudden done here, what's what's happening right now, or what does it look like without this structure and with this regulation in place, like what's going on that is making these people say, Hey, this is the thing we need. And we also need like help and structure and maybe this academy to help us pull this thing off.
Lois Kitsch 14:25
So if you if you think about the fact that in the US and in most developed countries around the world of if you put money in a credit union, it's relatively safe. If you think about the idea that we have insurance that covers $250,000 of our savings and we know that that money is fair and it's safe. There are very few movements across the continent of Africa that have a deposit guarantee they call it DGS deposit guarantee scheme that really says all of our members money is protected. You If you look at even though those that have the best deposit guarantee system, they may have 50% of their money actually being protected. So if you look about that, and you recognize that first and foremost, we have to protect the savings of members. It's one thing to protect wealthy members who also need their savings protected. But when you have your entire life invested in an institution, and it fails, and your money is gone, that has a tremendous impact on individuals and the SOCO movement as a whole. So the idea for me, first and foremost, regulation has to happen to ensure that members money is protected. And the reputation of sockos is also protected. If a Kenyan if a credit union in Kenya fails, it impacts it in you know, has an impact on the entire movement there. So, first and foremost, we have to make sure that monies, the members money is safe, that they're running strong financial institutions, with the business strategy that works for members. So if the outcome of the academy first and foremost is that and we've been successful, and we've succeeded, those that are mostly looking towards regulation and legislation towards this are running really good credit unions, they want the credibility that comes from being regulated, to really help their move their institutions grow, the ones that are less confident, we have to work with them, for them to also see the benefits of being regulated. And also to recognize the value in building really strong and safe institutions.
Ben Bauer 16:45
Yeah. For those that maybe aren't quite on board, yet, I imagine there's a bit of trust building or what other challenges need to be overcome to get them on the same page of some of those bigger or more stable institutions.
Lois Kitsch 17:03
Do you want to answer that? Or do you want me to-
Katy Zaleski 17:06
I mean, I think I was thinking more along the lines, when Ben had asked like things that are already being done was kind of really where I was doing, I think, I think, Ben Yes, I can speak to some of this. I think Lois probably has deeper insight. Right. So, you know, I think that there's definitely trust building. But I also think that there's the development also is is all the way back to, you know, what is it? What is a good board makeup? What is a board governance look like? Board involvement versus operational and management involvement. So, I mean, I think, I think that there's a lot of layers to that, then. So it is trust, but it is also sometimes conversational around those credit unions, that may not be as stable. It's not just probably one piece that's making that, you know, it might be linked to leadership, it might be linked to governance. So it's hard to say with one organization, what what it looks like, but it is usually multiple different facets of what might be causing that. I don't know Lois um...
Lois Kitsch 18:12
No, you make that makes perfect sense. Because there is so many levels of sophistication in the African movement. We have very sophisticated credit unions across the continent, state of the art data systems with state of the art protection systems with products and services that are ahead of us. So the challenge is, is matching those cycles with those that are developing, and have less sophistication. So it's finding that common ground through ACCOSCA, to build to continue to provide value to the really sophisticated credit unions, but at the same time, help the others grow to a point where regulation is something they really seek and will benefit from. Part of it also is going to regulators and we have solid, strong, wonderful people that are regulators across the continent. But it's building a level of if he would say prudential standards, for example, and I'm not speaking from ACCOSCA, I'm speaking of my many years doing development work, and recognizing that prudential standards that are uniform across the continent, is going to help everybody grow together collectively. So for example, you cannot say that the standard for capital adequacy is this in this country and this in this country? Of course you can, but ideally, it should be the same throughout the continent. And that's where the joy of ACCOSCA comes in. Because they're the convener of regulators that can have this conversation about things like prudential standards, and general norms.
Katy Zaleski 19:53
And Ben, I think that that's another really key component of climb Africa, right. So we've talked a lot about the Academy but it's also the ACCOSCA space. So ACCOSCA one of the things that ACCOSCA does do, and I believe their quarterly, right, Lois is the regulator roundtables. So ACCOSCA is facilitating really phenomenal conversations around what Lois was just talking about on those standards on a quarterly basis with the regulators. And there's components to it, they travel across the continent, obviously, because they do serve all 28 countries that are involved in ACCOSCO. But so it's not always in Kenya. But if it is hosted in Kenya, it's always been off off site, because the facility in the location that ACCOSCO was at prior to this initiative, wasn't conducive to hosting these roundtables. So it was off sites at hotels, and so there's Climb Africa, in addition to building this academy now has a space and a location that they can actually facilitate these conversations that they have been having. So it, it will be able to really enhance the things that they've been doing. So it's not that there that there hasn't been the work being done and Climb Africa is going to start all the work, it's just it was really going to help them enhance what they've been doing, and have a have a location that they can do so and build out an online platform that allows them to reach an entire continent. So I think, you know, those enhancements are a really key piece of the of this climb Africa Initiative. So and we're busy, we're building,
Ben Bauer 21:38
it's so complex
Lois Kitsch 21:39
curriculum, we're building out, I think, for the first time that I'm aware of I could be wrong, but financial coaching modules and certifications, for example. So credit unions will have the opportunity to help their members for the first time start to think about talking about money, and recognizing how to prepare for retirement, how to start to save how to not spend everything you earn, how do you plan for the future. So we're the academy is going to start to tackle those things that are needs across the continent that have not been addressed in the past, in a way that's productive and fun. And we'll bring, you know, we use a facilitated training style at ACCOSCA that is very, very hands on. We don't get any rote learning. Everything is done through participatory and experiential training techniques. So that, you know, it's it's people are learning we are learning really, as much as they are about things that seemed so different where we are. And we realize now they're pretty much the same,
Ben Bauer 22:46
right? Yeah, yeah, as you're speaking, I'm, you know, some of these things between certifications, financial education, I mean, these are things that exist. And maybe we have, I don't know, structure resources in place for it to be a bit more active here in the States. But at the same time, like, we also know that there's plenty of members and people here in our own country that you know, need this same stuff. So it's interesting to hear the dynamic between where we are in Africa and how, like you just said, Lois, like, at the end of the day, a lot of it is the same. It's just maybe where we're at on that journey.
Lois Kitsch 23:21
You know, it's interesting, you say that, so I believe in my former role, I spent 25 years ago, I ran a project in the southern Philippines for the World Council. And when I went off on this journey, I went there and I could see development issues everywhere. If you think of inadequate housing, if you think about hunger, you think about transportation issues. You think about access to financial services, all of these things are called development issues. As you know, from DE. When I came back from the Philippines, I went, Oh my God, those same issues are all across America. How did I not see that before? And so when when I personally do work with my African counterparts, I will talk about global development and rec to help them recognize this isn't just Africa. These are issues that are facing our entire global system. You know, in in Great Britain right now they call it eat or heat. Because they know people right now are really struggling of the the low wage working families working families are really struggling with it to buy buy groceries, or I'm going to have money to pay for heat. So it's it's recognizing those issues that are happening globally, are also something we can have an impact right here in the US. So if you think about why support this whole initiative, it's because there is no fit in what you're learning in Africa to help members right here in the United States build their quality of in their financial lives, because we can take lessons we're learning here and apply it right here in the States. Yeah,
Katy Zaleski 24:59
I think Um, I don't remember who we were talking about it on a climb on a climb call. And it was, you know, why why would a US credit union? You know, when we're talking about that, why why would a US credit union get involved support this project. And I think that's the key right there that Lois said, you know, for all of us that have I say fortunate, I'm thankful every day that I've had the fortunate opportunity to travel there, and I come back knowing more about the way credit unions function, I feel like I'm, I come back, it is collaboration, I learned, I think far more than I contribute. And I it's, it's eye opening to just see how you have maybe a perception and you go and then you realize that the entire country of Kenya and extends into Uganda and eastern Africa has an entire mobile payment system and everybody functions on a mobile payment six system were here in the US, we've struggled to get that to get off the ground, you know, so it's, it's very interesting to see different elements. In different parts of the in different parts of the continent, you know, in in the Gambia, they have a completely shared branch network, every one of their credit unions, functions on the same core platform, like, imagine what we could do to our to serve our members if something like that existed, you know, so I think that why is anyone who has who has interacted with any of the credit union professionals, are Sacco professionals in Africa comes back learning tenfold. And we bring that all back to our credit unions, and ultimately, the credit union movement is international. Right. It's a global movement, and we are stronger when that movement movement across the globe is stronger. So I think that that, that has really been one of those things that has been a strong why as to Yeah. This has been awesome.
Ben Bauer 26:59
Yeah, well said in one of the ancillary benefits of this project that might seem super localized around this big mountain in Africa, right.
Katy Zaleski 27:10
The mountain, right, haven't talked about that yet.
Ben Bauer 27:13
I was just gonna say I think I'm one question in my list of questions. So I better get us moving along here. So to that point, we, Lois, you mentioned at the beginning of the show, we talked about this big chunk of money, right 1.2 million. And I can imagine that, you know, what those dollars will do? impacting people's lives is virtually imagined in measurable, you know, in dollars. So, can you talk a bit about like, what, how did you come to $1.2 million? And what is this doing this building the building? Or is there additional stuff that's happening with the funds generated here.
Lois Kitsch 27:51
So we came up with this number through a I mean, it took us a while to really think it through and part of it is recognizing, when a cost have bought the new office space, which is a condo in a high rise. Building, we recognize that a mortgage, and that's something we're trying to take care of we they use all of their institutional reserves to put it into this building, which means that can make liquidity tight. So we want to pay off the mortgage. First and foremost, the second piece of this is building out the environment within that space, that is highly professional, that is highly warm, that when a donor, a potential donor, or a government official comes into that office, it screams professionalism. It really does say that this is an organization that is progressive and is is because it's very, very modern in the approach we took when it was actually built out. So if you look at it from that perspective, we're also looking at building solid curriculum curriculum that has to weather 28 different countries. And we're getting some nice support for and I'm not at liberty to say until the I think they release it from an organization that is helping us build out a lot of work around underwriting of loans. For example, we have a colleague of mine, Mark Winch, who is been contracted to write out the financial coaching piece. So what what it cost is doing very deliberately and carefully is saying, yeah, there's all this content out in the world. And we have many of you willing to just throw this content at us. That is not what we need. We need solid content that is African eyes, that it meets the needs of Africans, that has African pictures that has, so there is a whole process that needs to happen to make sure that the content is effective, relevant, and will be easily adopted. The first then and the next piece, as we talked about is the Research Institute. So if you combine all of that and a cushion to make sure that we've got enough, the number is 1.2. We have right now is a bit over half of that. So we have been successful in we've gotten wonderful support from the US credit union system $125,000, for example from CUNA Mutual, which is, yeah, what's really and we've gotten 50,000 from three credit unions helped me Katie schools first credit union coastal credit union and government employees Credit Union from Carolina. And then we've got smaller donations, one from right in Wisconsin. My own credit union, Summit credit union has committed 20,000 towards this effort. So we're not and this is a one time asked. Yeah. So we're not we're not coming back next year, in the year after in the year after this is a one time mask.
Katy Zaleski 30:55
I think it's also important to recognize that there's some really great support on the continent of Africa to, you know, the Kenyan National Police SACCO has 60,000, I believe, and all of this is in US dollars. So in Kenyan shillings, that's a substantial difference. Lois helped me with that conversion. I know, it's,
it's it's so 60,000 is about 600,000 shillings. And then we have gotten really nice support. Initially, we said we wanted to raise about 60% from off the continent and about 40% from the continent, we're going to easily we've gotten wonderful support from African credit unions, and national associations. So I'm comfortable, we'll get the support we need from Africa.
Katy Zaleski 31:46
Yeah. And I think it speaks volumes that way, right to have that support on the continent as well as there's that value in that investment in it as well. Sorry.
Ben Bauer 31:57
Yeah, no, that's, that's okay. So, yeah, I mean, I amazing to hear the people that have come together the organizations that have come together to support this thing. And, you know, I think, clearly, there's proof that you've put time into the complexities of this thing and being able to answer the, the why, you know, and like why this is really important to Africa to the global credit union movement, and important to credit unions, you know, right here at home, in the US in Wisconsin. So, you know, clearly lots of people's and partners to pull off something of this scale, we probably don't have time to list them all, but who have been some of the key people or organizations that have, you know, really made this thing real?
Well, the first three that we mentioned, if we look from the US, we also have support from PSCU, we've had support from University Federal Credit Union, we're getting support from other credit unions across the US that their name isn't on the ledger yet, but we expect it to be. We also have a team. So if we can up quickly divert us just quickly for this whole idea of climb Africa. So climb Africa is a whole year's effort. But what's coming up in October is the climb team that will be climbing Kilimanjaro to raise awareness of the importance of the African credit union system to the global movement. The other piece of it is a ground team is going to be working at a school for the blind called Selena and Selena Malawi, to actually shore up poor infrastructures, they're going to actually go in with paint brushes, and they're going to go in and build a mural painted mural across with the kids hands and stuff. The value in doing that is for the from the foundation's perspective, as chair of the African cooperative development foundation that is kind of a lead peep group of all of this is that we want to bring awareness through the climb, we want to bring the values that our foundation has in serving and building communities through the ground team. So we have I think 16 Americans are coming with others. We have Canadians, we have others that are coming. For the ground team, we have another I think 12 of us that will be doing the climb team. So we have a pretty good delegation of us folks coming to Africa. One of the things a good example of why this all makes sense is Tony Budet, who is the chairman of current chair of CUNA. He is also the president and CEO of University Federal Credit Union in Austin was just with us in Eswatini at the Congress, and he said it was one of the highlight of his professional career. So if you think about you're coming to teach, you're coming to share and to learn. And that's what we expect to happen from both the climb team and the ground teams. Yeah, I mentioned.
Yeah, I absolutely, I think that's a really, really important piece to share in this, I think the other piece to share that's really, when you think about those numbers, there's a commitment, there's a level of commitment. So our ground team, in addition to support Ben, right other SACCOs other credit union system sponsors, each of the climbers are committing to fundraise $5,000. And the best part, right as climbers, the climb itself, is a commitment and commitment on our own. So the climb is at our as is at our cost as a climber and the 5000 that I raise, all goes directly to the Acosta Academy, the ground team is raising 2500. So you know that that raise it that will raise a really good chunk towards climb Africa, but it also really looks at that outreach, right. So for, for me, my outreach is a lot of my friends and family and colleagues, that simplicity that I nudge, and I'm like, Hey, want to support this, that money, all of that money goes to the academy so that reach of donors far spans outside necessarily just the credit union movement. And so that's really fantastic. We've had a lot of really good work Lois, you know, as low as said she's lowest as a volunteer, right she is. She's a co founder of CU difference but volunteers her time and and outside of climb Africa, there's there's a great deal of time. But Mark Lynch with CU difference and Angela Prestil with CU difference both of them are donating in kind gifts. So we've we have that we have ground crew donors that are bringing items for the school and Salima. You know, we have as you know, Ben, like, I've been sending lots of emails, right like Exclamation, which is part of simplicity donated? Well, you donated your time and creation of the amazing logo that we have. So I think the outreach that Lois was talking about, and the and I think we can't even put a number to really the sheer number of people that have just become familiar with this thing that we we talked about climb Africa
Lois Kitsch 37:28
We love so much.
Katy Zaleski 37:29
Ben Bauer 37:30
Yeah. All in what's not to love, it's a really cool effort. Obviously, amazing cause behind it. You both are on the climb team, we'd need to make sure to make some time to talk a bit about Kilimanjaro, the climb itself, like what's this thing gonna be like? How are you feeling?
Lois Kitsch 37:50
So it's my second time to do this. And so I know what I'm up against. And I will tell you so first and foremost, Africa is the highest free standing mountain in the world. So people don't recognize that the summit is 19,340 feet. And I had friends here last night supporting this effort. And they said, but there's oxygen, right? And it's like, no, there's no oxygen up there. You're doing this out of sheer will. And honestly the climb is a nice climb until we get to the summit and the summit will start at about between three o'clock and four o'clock in the morning. It's cold, it's dark, and it's slow. It's one step in front of another.
Katy Zaleski 38:36
Lois Kitsch 38:38
So it's gonna take a tremendous amount of discipline, and physical strength as well as mental string for us to get our entire 18 person claim team to the top.
Katy Zaleski 38:52
So clearly a mental Look, I know Lois, I know that Lois knows what to prepare for one of one of our climbers, Randy sent out a video of the route that we're doing and what to expect and I started watching the video and the first probably 2020 of the 30 minutes of the video I was feeling like right I feel really good about this like that looks great. The trail like yes, there's that I can do this. And then it got to the summit day. And I realized that all all the physical training I've done will help me get to summit day and and the rest of it will all be mental. And so I think there's of the night of the 18 of us. There's a good chunk of us that know each other there's some people that I don't know, but I have no doubt that like that support and that cheering of each other going up the mountain and as I as I said poloepole is slow in Swahili that's going to be the key and it's just really truly going to be that that mental game aim. And, you know, you can train and you can I mean, I keep I keep saying like, I'm training in Wisconsin where there's no altitude, so I don't really know what to expect or Florida, right? Lowest, like, even lower. But yeah, so you know, I, I've been jumping on my spin bike with a mask wearing an N95 just to like, see what that's like just to try to prepare. But really the recognition is that this is it's going to be mental. And it's also going to be the fact that we have 18 people champion each other for a really amazing cause. And I think that's what's gonna get us to Summit.
Lois Kitsch 40:40
So recognizing I was hallucinating on the first trip, absolutely hallucinating, I thought the sky was on my head. And I kept trying to push it off my head until the the guide said, What are you doing? It was like nothing, nothing. I'm fine. Because if there is any indication at all, you're struggling, they'll bring you down. So we'll see this time whether I mean, the last week, why did people were throwing up. And so it's not easy. And I think that 18 people willing to commit to something that we understand isn't going to be easy, easy talks to the level of commitment that we have for doing this for Africa and doing this for credit unions. So it's going to be we're going to be sending pictures as long as we can. Because we'll eventually lose the ability to send stuff back, but and we'll be capturing as much as we can. But it's so and one thing that I think is really critical is when you get to the top you come down rest for two hours and you start down the same day. Sure. Well, the physical exhaustion from the summit isn't enough, they're going to punish you more-
Ben Bauer 41:56
Yeah, maybe, literally, maybe not literally. But this is definitely one of those uphill both ways sort of situation because like, neither way is easy.
'Cause it's harder to come down and go up at the end because you're already exhausted. And your legs are not used to that. They used to climb up you climb stairs, you climb but coming down is the exciting part is because we want to climb Africa to be about awareness and about the love of community is our ground team will be meeting us on the mountains. So they will start the climb toward us on our last days. We're coming down. And we'll meet as far as they get. And we'll all come off the mountain together. Awesome. There will be champagne, because right now, the thing is dry. None of us are drinking your no wine until we get through.
Katy Zaleski 42:50
Yeah, a month. No, no wine or beer a month prior to the climb. So-
Ben Bauer 42:57
yeah, I'm sure it will be worth it.
Lois Kitsch 42:59
Some don't care about that. For me. I like my wine. So this is like, Oh-
Ben Bauer 43:02
Yeah. Wow, that'll be the best tasting champagne you'll have.
And thankfully, Lois built in like a day of rest in the agenda for us. So good.
Ben Bauer 43:14
Well, last call anything that we missed, or anyone that might be listening, is there anything else that you'd like people to know where what can they do? How can you support?
Lois Kitsch 43:24
Yes, I would like to say that we have a wonderful website that allows you to make contributions to any of the climbers, including our African friends. And I think we could probably put the link at the end because it's very long. But we really invite you to go out and look at this, you can also do a virtual ground or a virtual climb team. If you're a virtual climb team, you have to raise $1,000 and walk 19,340 steps a day for the time on the mountain. If you're a virtual ground team, we need you to raise $500 and do some type of project. For example, my yoga ladies, my yoga friends from my neighborhood, just raise $600 for the climb and their project is going to be to solicit books from the neighbors to bring back to one of the libraries that we're supporting. So this is a one this is history making. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help change a continent. We're also looking for the school in Salina. Things like flip flops, kids don't have shoes. We're looking for things like T shirts, we're looking for blankets. We're looking for those really basic items. So if you have and you're willing to provide we carry this stuck in suitcases back to the continent. It might not go this trip, but it will eventually get to the children that really need access to these goods. Katy-
Katy Zaleski 44:53
No, I was just gonna say I know that Ben will add links. I absolutely think it's super important. You know, go out there, you can support Lois you can support, obviously myself, help me to get to my 5000. So I'm almost there. We also know like, all of the money donated gets directly given to a Casca. You know, when you give to a foundation overhead costs usually come out what does that look like? So AACC the donation goes through their site, it's getting sent directly to a Costco. It's been amazing. And so for any donors in the US, it is tax deductible. And if you itemize, add it, add it to your donations. So I think that, you know, for people that are giving that that does matter, where does those dollars go? How much of my dollar goes? So you know, that 100%-
Lois Kitsch 45:15
Directly goes to this effort. It's not going to build pay for operations indirectly.
Ben Bauer 45:53
Yeah, no, thank you. Great. Yeah, that's super important. Well, hopefully, our audience gives you just that last little boost to at least at your goal, Katie, but then, of course, support the overall cause for sure. So Okay, before we wrap, we have to go into our something awesome segment where we share recommendations for things, we've done books, we've read podcasts, or listening to things that are just awesome that we want to share with the world. And in tradition, I'll kick us off, I'm going to be sharing a link with all the other links that we've talked about today, to the Climb Africa page and other information that will help help people learn more about the effort and the Academy. But the link that I'll be sharing is, this is totally unrelated to climb Africa, I'm so sorry that I didn't do that. I saw this awesome article about a school that did these really funny carpool line signs. So I'm totally in back to school mode right now dropping off my son at school occasionally throughout the week. And, you know, there's just no perfect system to do that at whatever school you're at. And clearly the school that made these creative signs to tell people where they can and can't park and what to do with their children and stuff just brought like a level of humor to it that I thought like, first off, we just need more of in our world right now anyways, right? The ability to laugh at a process that just isn't ever going to be perfectly awesome that you might as well enjoy yourself and have a chocolate while you're there. So I can't I won't say more. I will share the link, you just got to check out the images. There's some really good ones that are also very nostalgic. Clearly whoever designed these signs was like born in the 80s or something because they like all the things that I like, like friends and MC Hammer and stuff like that. But that's awesome. Yeah, it's a good one. So check out the link there. Katie, anything awesome to share? Go ahead.
Lois Kitsch 47:52
Okay, I'll say two things, I'll recommend a book. And I'll also say something awesome. Last week in Eswatini, I have met a future queen, but I've never met a king. And I have the opportunity to shake hands and meet the king of Eswatini. So when you say we're going to the kingdom, it's the kingdom of Eswatini when you go to this country, so who can say and also met the Prime Minister and the deputy prime minister on the same day, so that's a pretty big day. For someone visiting a country. The book I'd like to recommend is a book called change your thinking change your life. It's not as much fun as signs for the school lines. But it's a book that I've read for many, many years. It's it's it's the all the old Lao Tzu teachings from the 2500 BC, as told by Wayne Dyer. And it's a really practical guide to how you live your life. So think about change your thinking change your life, or might be change your thoughts change your life, something to that.
Ben Bauer 48:58
Okay, we'll get the exact title and we're sure we'll share the link to that book recommendation as well. Awesome. That's awesome. Thanks. Totally different. I like obviously I'm on a yes and love adventure and travel and going. And so my awesome is that I get to see that in my crazy boys. So I have two boys. They're eight and they're 11 Almost 12. And in the last couple of weeks, they have in my training for Kilimanjaro, gone, trail riding on mountain bikes, including some wipeouts on some hills on routes, and they just bounced up and kept going with me. And then my littlest son and my older son double water skied as I pulled them behind a boat this past weekend, and then I double slalom with my oldest son behind the boat. So my awesome is that I just love seeing their excitement for adventure and activities and doing all the cool Raising things with me. So I have two small humans that are as crazy as I am. And that's what I wanted to celebrate as well. So well done. That's good or bad. Actually, I don't know. It's good. Good, Katy. Yeah. So that's awesome. Great. Thank you both for sharing. I don't know Katie, maybe we can get a link to like a video of double slalom waterskiing, or something that might be kind of cool to share. But I guess people just have to imagine, but
Katy Zaleski 50:28
I do have video of course, so I will share my boys.
Ben Bauer 50:32
Perfect. Okay, well, gosh, this went so fast. Thank you both so much for the time being here today. And for everything that you're doing. Best of luck, we'll be thinking about you praying, knocking on all the wood crossing fingers, doing everything that we can to make sure that the trip goes well, and the climb goes well. Really appreciate you taking time out. Tell the story and share what you're doing. So thank you both for being here.
Lois Kitsch 50:59
Thanks so much. It was great fun.
Ben Bauer 51:01
You bet. Reminder for our audience. We'll share links to everything that we promised will share links to today. And if you're listening to this on our website, you can find us on your favorite podcast apps. Or if you're listening to us on your podcast app. You can check us out at exclamationcuso.com/blog To listen to all of our episodes. Thank you again Lois and Katie for being here. Thank you friends for tuning in. And this has been one of your self proclaimed professors of awesome ology, reminding you that life's awesome if you make it awesome. We'll see you next time.