Laura Hartstone from Peaks Foundation explains how climbing mountains helps others climb out of poverty
Peaks Foundation grew out of a desire to support existing organisations with critical funding. I had worked in East Africa and saw endless organisations, all with passion and drive, but many lacking funds. Fundraising is not an easy task, but we were ready to do anything to raise funds.
And by anything, I mean climb three of Africa’s highest peaks... And do so in less than three weeks time.
I met an Australian while living in Tanzania who felt similar about lending a hand – and together we urged eight of our friends to join us in this monumental challenge. Many had never been to Africa, but we promised they would be utterly impressed by the organisations we had chosen to support. Many had never climbed mountains, and we urged them to try. Others didn’t think they could raise a dollar, so we made it mandatory for each one of us to raise $10,000 dollars.
I won’t bore you with the history, but in short, all ten of us together raised over $365,000 – far exceeding our goal and all of us stood together on the summits of Mount Kenya, Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro.
The 3 Peaks, 3 Weeks Africa event has now run successfully four times, and in summation has raised over $685,000 for nonprofits in East Africa. The answer to why we keep doing this, is best told in a story... A story about Julieth.
Julieth's house is what some people would call 'make-shift' – a bit of mud and cow dung caked together and shaped into a one-room abode. She has a bed. One bed. And the entire place she shares with four other family members.
Julieth welcomed our 2011 team to her house and offered a cup of tea while she introduced us to her family and gave us a glimpse of her background. She is 15 years old, one of the most clever kids in her age group and yet, comes from an impoverished background. Luckily for Julieth, she won’t be forgotten about like many young girls in Tanzania who are already married by the time they are her age, or perhaps even have children.
Julieth is sponsored to go to the School of St Jude, likely the best school in the whole of Tanzania with open doors to the brightest Tanzanians. The catch is, they must also be the poorest. Julieth fits the profile.
Peaks Foundation was created to continue supporting initiatives like the School of St Jude that provide an opportunity for girls such as Julieth to be given an opportunity to reach her full potential. To provide critical funds to the school and other local initiatives, our teams climb mountains, literally.
Every step up Kilimanjaro can seem like a struggle, but it can serve as a reminder of the struggles that girls and women in these mountain communities face every day.
If Julieth can succeed after coming from a background where school is unheard of for girls, our teams can surely make it to the summit of Kilimanjaro.
Climbing mountains is tough. But climbing out of poverty is even tougher.
This is the passion behind Peaks, and perhaps Julieth said it best, “I am really excited to be near the mountainside.There is a day that I will reach the peak of the mountain and I will find my success.” We, too, hope that she will find her success and that Peaks will empower girls like Julieth and the women on our climbs to also reach their peak.
Laura Hartstone is a founding member of the Peaks Foundation, an organisation offering global mountain challenge trips for women, raising funds for organisations based locally to the treks themselves, all supporting the advancement of women and girls through education, maternal healthcare and community-led conservation.
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