Alexander Djamoos, Teaching Fellow in Russian, trekked up Mt. Kilimanjaro during the summer of 2014, with a group of volunteers and children with disabilities. He was also born with a disability that prevented him from being able to walk. After a six-day hike, he and his group reached the top of the mountain and watched the sunset.
“My hands were bleeding because I crawled half the way. Come to think of it, it was also the biggest mental challenge I’ve had to overcome,” said Djamoos.
The group Djamoos was travelling with was from Happy Families, an adoption agency and organization that seeks to bring Russian children with disabilities to the United States for orthopaedic treatments and to raise money for orphanages in Russia. Djamoos’s own adoption was aided by Happy Families.
Last summer was not Djamoos’s first attempt to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro. His first attempt was three years ago, but the summer of 2014 marked his first successful trip to the summit.
“Physically, [the hike] was probably the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome. It was easily the most gruelling thing I’ve done… There would be times when I would take my [prosthetic] legs off and just crawl on the ground and be bitten by ants and various other things… It was so dangerous and so out of my comfort zone, [but] I wanted to do it,” said Djamoos.
Djamoos was born in the small town of Nizhny Lomov, Russia, and spent his childhood in an orphanage. He was born with physical disabilities that left him unable to walk until he received orthopaedic treatment at the age of 16.
“For me, home is where my friends are, and I have friends almost everywhere. I would say I have multiple homes. It is nice to go back to Russia. I go visit my orphanage almost every year, and I go back to just remind myself where I came from,” said Djamoos.
At the age of 16, Djamoos came to Dallas, TX., for his orthopaedic treatment and surgery and to attend high school. He then attended University of Texas, where he majored in political science and foreign relations. This topic started to interest him during his time working for the Happy Families organization in Russia.
“I’ve been dealing with the Russian media as a representative of [Happy Families]. Sometimes we have politicians who come to our meetings and our fundraisers so that’s how I got interested in the political world of Russia. I also am interested in seeing how Russian politics juxtaposes with politics in the United States,” said Djamoos.
While working on his thesis in Russian media during the summer of 2014, Djamoos interned at “Kommersant,” a Russian newspaper devoted to politics and business.
“I was working on my thesis in Russian media and whether it was propaganda or not, so I wanted to know what it was like being a journalist. I did it so I could write a good thesis, and I think it’s important to experience whatever you’re writing about. It’s fairly dangerous to be a journalist [in Russia] nowadays, especially if you are critical of the government. It’s dangerous to be an objective journalist,” said Djamoos.
At Andover, Djamoos teaches RUSS-200 and RUSS-600. He also serves as a House Counselor in Stearns House and Advisor to the Philomathean Society. After his year at Andover, Djamoos plans to study law at Boston University.