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Military spouse climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro for women

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Megan Friedl
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
For 35-year-old Leia Johnson, hiking to the top of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro March 8 was not only the completion of a life-long dream, but also a way to raise awareness and funds for women in East African war zones.

Leia, wife of Maj. Scott Johnson, the Aide-de-Camp to the Air Mobility Command commander, summited Mount Kilamanjaro with a group of 14 other women and one man ranging from 26 to 64 years old who also had the same goal of helping women in war zones.

Before the climb, the group spent a portion of their time in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo talking with women about finding peace. She said she wanted to go beyond just providing relief to help these women rebuild their lives.

"These women recognize the need to build peace on a personal level, and that they can't just rely on policy or laws," Leia said. "When it comes down to it, there's a responsibility as a citizen that they understand fully. However, they do need all the support we can give."

That is why she teamed up with the nonprofit organization, "One Million Thumbprints," along with her own nonprofit, "Somebody's Mama," to provide a portion of their fundraising efforts to women of South Sudan. They supported a program called "Tools and Seeds," which gives women the ability to start an agri-business.

Each woman is granted $24 to start a business and provide for her family.
It also creates a community among the neighbors. Through this grant, the neighbors work or trade with each other, which is important because in the past there has been conflict within the neighborhoods.

Leia's desire to start her own nonprofit was also a result of the influence from her father who runs a nonprofit to help people in Africa.

And, although Leia said she doesn't consider herself an athlete, she said she was proud she completed the tremendous task of scaling Mount Kilimanjaro and that there was a combined effort made to make a tangible difference in women's lives.

Her husband, Scott, said he loves watching her work and advocate for those who do not have a voice.

"To be able to watch someone live out their calling is a really special experience," he said. "Her motivation drives me to be a better person and being a part of efforts like this is a fantastic way to help those in need."