HILLSDALE–This June for six days folk musician activist John Farrell will travel to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
Mr. Farrell, who came of age in the anti-war activist 1960s, and whose career has been inspired by the example of the late Pete Seeger’s artistic activism, is not climbing to 19,000 feet just to cross an item off his bucket list. His daughter Maggie Farrell is currently teaching in a village near the mountain, and that may be one reason for the expedition. But his real purpose is to promote the school-based projects of his foundation, Bridges of Peace and Hope, that aim to instill a sense of understanding and respect between school children from different nations through music, writing and art shared across oceans and borders.
He’s also climbing to raise funds for the effort he is leading to build a high school in Zambia in a town where his foundation has already to built two school classrooms for younger children in recent years. Toward this end, the group is striving to raise $20,000, the approximate cost of educating 150 children for four years.
In addition to his daughter Mr. Farrell will be accompanied on his climb by BPH colleague Riley Feehan, and filmmaker Michael Donaghey, who is working on a documentary film about the effort.
Mr. Farrell, who lives in Hillsdale, will carry a banner with a photo montage of 1,500 pictures of the children he has worked with here and abroad during the past year in a project called High Hopes and Common Threads: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. He will unfurl the banner at the summit for a photo representing the real reasons for his climb–these children whom he hopes will grow into peace loving adults.
In the pictures, each child holds a drawing in which he or she expresses in words and pictures the responses to a simple statements or question posed by Mr. Ferrell about their hopes and expectations: I would like to become a…; I believe everyone deserves…; If I could do one thing to help others, I would…. The answers reflect the children’s hopes for the future: to be a driver, fireman, mother, nurse, to have a house, family, love, education, freedom, clean water, food, to play, to read, and to save the Earth. They also tend to be repeated by children from all backgrounds, and the exercise illustrates how much children everywhere have in common.
Mr. Farrell’s message to children is repeated in lyrics from one of his songs:
Common threads unite us everywhere we go….
We all share this one planet…
We all have hopes and dreams.
“Once you understand someone, you can’t try to hurt them,” he said.
As his departure draws near Mr. Farrell continues his fundraising efforts. On Sunday, June 1 from 3 to 5 p.m. he will present an informational musical event at the Hudson Opera house for those who want to learn more about the trip.
To learn more about High Hopes and Common Threads or to make a donation or see a trip blog: call 845 216-1939 or go to www.johnfarrell.net .