If you had a months-long paid leave from work, what would you do with your time? Endless spa sessions, napping, and TV bingeing may to come to mind first. For Rahel Mwitula Williams, it was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
By day she works as the Director Of Innovation for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and by night she runs her own socially responsible fashion brand ILAVA.
When she was approved to take a three-month sabbatical from her day job earlier this year, instead of taking a staycation, she set her sights on tackling one of the most challenging treks in the world as an emotional reset.
Many Americans feel the same, as 89% of Americans have suffered from burnout within the past year. But for Mwitula, she also sought the work respite as an opportunity to culturally reconnect.
“I feel a special connection to the mountain because its home is my home,” Mwitula tells ESSENCE, who is Tanzanian-born. “I wanted to do this instead relaxing in the traditional sense.
Many aspects of her life centers around her mission to promote everything Black and African—the trek was no different.
“Much like the mountain, African culture can be misunderstood, and its beauty is obvious to those who regularly experience it, but I want more people to know and love them.”
The mountain, which is 5,895 meters (19,340 feet), and is the largest free-standing mountain rise in the world, took Mwitula six days to climb. But the journey was worth it.
“Climbing this mountain is a sign of it can be done,” she tells ESSENCE. “And for little Black girls not to be afraid to take risk and to experience beauty because we deserve it too. It’s ours to experience. Without fear. Black women are always taught to be fearful of everything, even our own ambition. It’s time climb away from that.”