Family takes safari, hiking trip to Africa, helps children along the way
NATCHEZ — When Lena McKnight went on a trip to Tanzania, Africa, with a group of friends last year, she always knew she would go back.
But next time, the Natchez resident knew she would bring her family.
McKnight got that chance in March, and she brought her husband, Tim, and her two boys, Hunter Yarbrough, 15, and Sterling Yarbrough, 13.
“Last time, it was kind of a time to get my feet wet. We were with a big group, and you’re restricted to the group’s agenda,” McKnight said. “I wanted to take the boys because I wanted them to experience another culture and country, especially one that doesn’t have the amenities we have here.”
The trip became even more of an outing when McKnight’s father Pat Brandenburg and his girlfriend, Mona Beavers, and McKnight’s mother in-law, Sheryl McKnight, joined the trip as well.
The mission of the trip was to explore a different culture, and with McKnight being a fan of the outdoors, it included a little hiking, too.
The family grabbed their backpacks and water bottles with the goal of climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain at 19,341 feet above sea level.
Sterling said the sights were the best part of the hike.
“It was a lot of fun, it’s the altitude that gets to you and makes you nauseated, but we got to see a lot of nature and cross a couple of creeks,” Sterling said.
Though they didn’t quite reach the peak, other experiences in Tanzania helped them realize how privileged they were just to be there.
The group visited the Ebenezer Orphanage Center, and the sight of children who cherished the things they once took for granted was an eye opener for the family.
“Realizing how good we have it was a big part of the trip for me,” McKnight said. “I get mad when they put pickles on my hamburger, but one of those kids would love a hamburger, it opened my eyes to the little things I gripe about.”
The family took it upon themselves to go to the local market with their tour guide, Living Remen, pool their money together and buy everything on the list of foods the orphanage needed to make wholesome meals.
Hunter said he enjoyed giving back to the children.
“I did like playing with the kids at the orphanage,” Hunter said. “We did donate stuff like our old clothing and food. They all wanted to come to America.”
Though Hunter said he became more appreciative of the things America has to offer, he was happy to see some of the things he could only experience in Africa.
The group went on a three-day safari with Remen and it was almost like jumping into the television for Hunter.
“I was happy we got to see animals eating other animals,” Hunter said. “I enjoyed the action of it because it’s what you see on National Geographic, but not in real life.”
Sterling said he could definitely see himself going back to Tanzania with his family in the future with his mind set on finally reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.