It’s unsubstantiated, but when 23 Barker Senior School students stood on the summit Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, last December … maybe … just maybe, it might have been the largest number of students from one year group to simultaneously ascend ‘The Roof of Africa’. Of course, there are no records kept, but tour leader Bernie Kelly from Global Immersion, who has taken 922 students to ‘Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak’, believes that the Year 11 Barker class of 2019 might be able to claim that piece of history.

“Not many students climb the great mountain in the first place and then to have so many at the same time, it is unheard of! Regardless, the effort was mighty.”

Bernie is very familiar with the strong Barker spirit and by his own admission sometimes watches it carefully it when Barker students ascend Kilimanjaro.

“The greatest threat to safety on oxygen-compromised Kilimanjaro is ego and peer pressure. This makes climbers continue when their body is exhausted. It’s a recipe for altitude induced illness. The students had to first build an environment in which anyone of them felt comfortable to return to the lower hut. They had to feel that the option to pull out would be supported by the group”.

This is what impressed Bernie most about this special Barker achievement.

“While they certainly had this ‘let’s do it together’ mentality, never once did it push students beyond their limits. Consequently, we had a number who attacked the summit but turned around during the toughest of nights. I was so proud that these students created such a safe, respectful and supportive environment.”

“I am not sure exactly who, but when faced with the final 90 minute journey to Uhuru Peak from Gilman’s Point, it was suggested they were all ‘doing to do it together’ and they DID. There was no stopping them!”

In his own words, Bernie was ‘in awe of their effort’.

“The beauty of Global Immersion is that everyone’s effort is applauded, whether they make it or not. Our motto is ‘It’s not the destination … It’s the journey that provides all learnings’. I am so proud of their courage to make it, but I am equally celebrating the character of those who said, ‘No … My body has had enough now’. Either way, it was the best of the Barker spirit in action."

Two of our Year 11 Barker students, Abbey Hill and Jasmine Braban, along with 22 Queenslanders and 50 young men and women from the great slum of Nairobi, Kibera, also had the unique opportunity to come together for three extraordinary days.  Not only did they visit the homes and meet the families of Kibera, they spent every minute of these three days learning of a slum culture that can only be described as loving, flooded in friendship and bounded by the strongest sense of community.

But the highlight was joining their Kenyan peers as ‘choir’, where remarkably students from the other side of the planet came together and inspired a remake of the 1985 classic ‘We are the World’.