Educated Women Climbing to Educate Girls
Back in March 2013 I asked my friend and colleague Janelle Curtis if she was interested in leading a team of women up a mountain to raise money for charity, “something to do with educating girls and women”. Despite the vague nature of my request, her answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!”
I have been interested in learning more about the girls’ education movement for some time, and had recently discovered Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” initiative, which supports a large number of projects aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty through investment in girls’ and women’s education. With courageous advocates such as Malala Yousafzai making headlines around the world, it seemed the perfect time to combine our love of British Columbia’s incredible outdoors with the opportunity to fundraise for this powerful global movement.
It took us no time at all to assemble a team of thirteen professional women who were enthusiastic about the climb and the cause. The team, consisting of nine marine scientists, two nurses, a veterinary nurse and a lawyer, share a common love of the outdoors, and perhaps more importantly, first-hand understanding of the importance of education to a girl’s ability to make independent, informed choices about every aspect of her life. In many countries, girls are more likely to live in poverty, be undernourished, and to be denied access to education because they are girls. But when educated, girls have tremendous power for global change because they are more likely to reinvest what they have into their families and communities.
We received incredible support from friends, families and colleagues, as well as from the wonderful Moksha Yoga Nanaimo , who held a special yoga class for us and donated all proceeds to our campaign. By early September we had surpassed our original fundraising goal of $6,867 (one dollar for every foot in elevation of Mt Albert Edward) and raised our goal to $7,500. With each girl’s scholarship worth approximately $300, this represented scholarships for 25 girls, and, with Plan’s partners matching each donation 3:1, it actually represented 100 scholarships. Less than two weeks later we had surpassed our new goal and raised it again to $9,000 (120 scholarships) and, as we set out on the trail on the morning of September 20, we had raised more than $8,600.
Our hike would take us through alpine meadows to our base camp at Circlet Lake on the first day, to the summit of Mt Albert Edward and back to base camp on the second day, and, finally, back to the trailhead at Raven Lodge, Mt Washington, on the third day. Despite a torrent of rain on the morning of our hike and a storm in the forecast, we set off toward base camp, inspired by the girls who endure far more challenging conditions every day in pursuit of their own education. The rain was still falling steadily as we went to bed on the first night, with many of us wondering what was in store for us on the mountain. So what a wonderful surprise to wake up on the morning of summit day to one of the team, shouting “It’s a miracle!” outside our tent. The sky was clear and blue with a gentle mist rising from the lake – it was a bluebird morning. Over the course of the day we were met with light rain, blowing snow, fog, wind, and mud, but also sunshine, bluebird skies, delicious blueberries, incredible views, and camaraderie.
It was an incredible experience for all of us that will not be forgotten quickly. And, with plans to make a slideshow of our trip, to host a showing of the 10 x 10 film, Girl Rising, and plans afoot for a new challenge next year, perhaps we are at the start of something bigger than we could have imagined when this all started less than a year ago.
We have now raised more than $9,300 and are still receiving donations. Learn more about our campaign and donate. You can check out more pictures and read more about our hike on our Facebook page, and also read this article on us posted by Because I'm a Girl.
The team at 5500 ft before the final push to the summit. The dramatic ridgeline and summit of Mt Albert Edward can be seen behind the team on the left. This photo was taken by a lovely man named William, who serendipitously appeared just after we arrived at the cairn below the Mt Albert Edward ridgeline. He was the only other human soul we saw all day and he arrived just as we needed an official photographer. Read what he had to say about meeting us in this blog he posted on the Comox District Mountaineering Club website. Funnily enough, when we arrived back at our cars on Sunday afternoon, we met a woman who had already read William's post about us! Photo credit: William Wright