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LAU’s Kilimanjaro climbers live up to their motto: “Never Give Up”

February 11, 2015—

The LAU Kilimanjaro expedition team returned home to a warm welcome from the university community after its eight members challenged themselves to climb Africa’s highest peak. “You can see from the many hugs and warm smiles that great bonds were formed on that mountain,” said Survival Team leader Alan Kairouz as the team — composed of both students and staff — gathered on stage at the Byblos campus to talk about the challenging experience they shared.

“We climbed much more than Kili,” said Kairouz to the crowd of students, faculty, media and supporters gathered to both show their admiration and hear about the challenges and successes of the first fundraising effort held in support of the LAU Department of Mechanical Engineering’s exoskeleton research and development project. “People with different ideas and ideals, from different backgrounds, were working together as a team, and that was amazing.”

The team’s three young male students — Iyad Abou Ghida, Richard Bchara and Karim Ramadan — came to be known affectionately as the three musketeers. “They were always giggling from the neighboring tent,” said fellow student and climber Carol Estephane, who shared a tent with Rida Loutfi and LAU Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Management Elise Salem.

“I was going to give up after our first night in the tent at minus five degrees,” recalls Salem. “But we stuck together. These climbers epitomized LAU and symbolize what is best about the university and Lebanon.”

Also among the climbers was staffer Charbel Harb, whose “love of climbing, beautiful scenery and photography came together in this amazing challenge.” The audience was treated to one of the many video montages he filmed and edited during the seven-day hike, showing the team’s journey in Tanzania, including their visit to an orphanage and their daily climbs towards the summit.

At times, the climb seemed to push the team members to the limits of human endurance. “We had to learn to eat, drink and sleep in a different way, but we are survivors, so we don’t quit,” said Loutfi defiantly. Still, on the last and most difficult day of the climb, Abou Ghida found himself tested in the extreme.  “I was at the highest and lowest points in my life on that mountain. The air was at less than 10 per cent oxygen. Carol was fainting, Karim vomiting and I was going to make my way back down, but I couldn’t turn my back on them.”

Ramadan, a long-time athlete, did not anticipate that the climb would be so difficult. “I thought it would be a simple 45km walk.” The climb, however, taught him much about teamwork. “Alan told me to stay behind Dr. Salem so I could help her, but it was she who dragged me up.”

Unlike Ramadan, Bchara had never been athletic and was amazed by his own achievement. “I lost 20 kilos during my training. I stopped drinking and smoking and acquired sound self-discipline.”

Students and staff alike, the climbers were all motivated by team leader Alan Kairouz. “He was ill and feverish from day one,” said Estephane, “but Alan infected us with his determination and got us to the top.” 

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The team found the time to visit an orphanage in Tanzania during their trip.

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The members of the Never Give Up team set themselves a challenge: to climb Kilimanjaro.

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For team leader Alan Kairouz, the beauty of the trip was that “people with different ideas and ideals, from different backgrounds, were working together as a team, and that was amazing.”

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The audience was shown one of the many video montages filmed and edited by student Charbel Harb.

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According to fellow team mate and Vice President of SDEM Dr. Elise Salem, “These climbers epitomized LAU and symbolize what is best about the university and Lebanon.”

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At times, the climb seemed to push the team members to the limits of human endurance.

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This challenge was the first fundraising effort held in support of the LAU Department of Mechanical Engineering’s exoskeleton research and development project.

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President Jabbra expressed his regret at not having been with the LAU kilimanjaro expedition team but expressed great pride in the achievements of the university community.

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“It’s the LAU spirit. You created it and you’re making sure it continues to provide us with energy, not to conquer but to serve,” Dr. Jabbra said to the audience, praising the team for their hard work and achievements.

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