NORFOLK — Dr. Jocelyn Bailey's first encounter with Mount Kilimanjaro came during a 2005 mission trip to Tanzania.
At the time, she was in her first year of medical school, so Bailey — who is now a hospitalist for Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk — spent much of the trip working at a hospital at the base of the mountain.
Unfortunately, clouds obscured her view of the peak for several days.
"Everyone had just said, 'Oh my gosh, Mount Kilimanjaro is so beautiful, just wait to see it, it's amazing,'" she said. "After like three days of being there, we went out to this church in the country, and we stepped out on this balcony and literally, as I stepped out, the clouds started to part, and I finally got to see Kilimanjaro for the first time."
At that moment, Bailey knew that someday she wanted to climb the mountain.
In January, she will.
Bailey is one of 13 women who will climb Africa's tallest peak in an effort to raise money for an organization called Africa New Life, which is finishing construction on a hospital in Rwanda.
The organization was founded by a Rwandan pastor with the goal to break cycles of poverty in the country. The organization seeks to do so mainly through educational sponsorships. The organization sponsors 8,000 children, but the need for a hospital also became apparent.
"Part of them building this hospital was all these kids they had in their sponsorship program, they started having really specialized cases that needed specialized medical care and they started shipping them to America to get them taken care of," Bailey said. "You know, that's time away from their parents, their family. Granted, they'd get really good medical care here and they'd go back — but this organization started thinking, 'What if we just put a hospital here and had more specialized medical care than is available now for them?' "
The concept for the Dream Medical Clinic was created.
The facility, which is located in Kigali, Rwanda, is partially done, but Africa New Life needs $250,000 to complete it.
That's where Bailey and the other climbers come in.
Each person raises money before the climb. Bailey's personal goal is to raise $20,000. All donations go toward funding the hospital, as each climber will be paying his or her own way in January.
Bailey got involved with the cause after her most recent mission trip in July.
She traveled to Rwanda with IF:Gathering, an organization for Christian women that happens to partner with Africa New Life. During the trip, she visited the hospital being built and was told that the upcoming climb needed two more people.
"When I heard about the trip, I was like, 'OK, I finally have my reason to go back and climb that mountain,' " Bailey said.
And she's excited about the purpose behind the climb, particularly because she sponsors a child — an 11-year-old girl named Kevine — through Africa New Life.
"I got to ask her, 'What do you want to do when you grow up?' " Bailey said. "Of course she was like I want to be a doctor. So I was like, 'Oh, tell me why you want to be a doctor?' "
She wanted to decrease the death rate of impoverished people in her country.
"I thought, 'Oh my goodness, for an 11-year-old, that's a pretty profound answer,' " Bailey said. "And her social worker said, 'You know a lot of children will say what they want to do and they change all the time, but Kevine, her answer has stayed the same,' and it just got me really excited to think about a place where not only people in Rwanda and these children will have really good access to medical care, but it’s potentially a place for some of these kids to work when they grow up."
The plan is for the hospital to be staffed mainly by Rwandans.
Between now and January, Bailey is training for her nine-day trek — seven days up and two days back — on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Since Nebraska has sparse hiking opportunities, Bailey makes trips to Colorado. She recently climbed Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado. She also tries to run and do incline work, she said.
Even though Bailey describes herself as an adventurous, outdoorsy person, that doesn't mean she's free from nerves about her upcoming climb. Her biggest worry is the altitude change, because she doesn't have much of a way to prepare for that.
But she has some pretty great motivation to make it through this trip, she said.
"I think part of it for me is I think so often we take for granted that we have access to really good medical care, and I think about working in northeast Nebraska and how blessed and fortunate I feel to know that if I ever got sick, there's a hospital and staff to help take care of me," Bailey said. "In developing nations, that's not always the case, so I feel really strongly that all people in the world should have access to really good medical care. I can't imagine if my family was sick and I didn't know where I was going to take them."