23 March 2011

Team to climb Kilimanjaro, raising funds to benefit the Water School

Beginning today, 23 March, with their arrival in Nairobi, Kenya, a multinational team have dedicated themselves to raise awareness of the water crisis and to helping the mission of the Water School by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The Water School is a Canadian-incorporated non-profit organization whose mission is to provide clean, sustainable water to villages around the world for life. There is more to this climb than just reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. Each of the eleven climbers was responsible for raising one dollar for every meter of the climb.  In total, the climbers had hoped to raise $75,000 leading up to Water Climb 2011, all of which goes directly to the field work that Water School is doing in places like Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Haiti to bring clean drinking water to villages and communities.  Although one of the easier of the Seven Summits of the World at an elevation of 5,858 meters (19340 ft), one can't say that Mount Kilimanjaro is a cakewalk.  With its more gradual slopes it is, however, less a mountaineering experience than an extended trek, and it is one of the few big mountains of the world on which fit climbers have a fighting chance at the summit.  Having hiked a half-dozen fourteeners in Colorado (of which CO boasts 54 summits over 14,000 ft, the most of any state in the US) in various weather conditions, I certainly envy this group at their intended accomplishment.  With this summit attempt soon after World Water Day, the $75,000 raised for the Water Climb would go toward ultimately saving the lives of 7500 people.

But I've had good news from a member of the communications team associated with the Water School and their climbing team (thanks, JF!) that, by World Water Day (yesterday), the team had far surpassed their goal and up to that time had been able to raise $90,000!  At an estimated cost of $10 per person for the provision of clean water on a village and community basis, these contributions will help save 9000 people from contaminated water over a lifetime of improved health, livelihood and productivity.  And what better and more fun way to help those in need of such a vital resource than by direct contact and adventure?  According to the Water School's blog post on the event:
"The proximity of the mountain to Water School projects in Kenya makes Mount Kilimanjaro the perfect destination because climbers get the opportunity to visit the projects and see first-hand the impact our program has on thousands of children. After a two-day visit to Water School projects in the Nairobi and Kajiado area, the climbers will ascend the mountain on Saturday, March 26th via the Machame route, also known as the 'Whisky Route.'  Machame is one of the most popular routes and is widely regarded as the most scenic route on the mountain. They will spend 6 nights and 7 days on the mountain."
Sounds like an awesome opportunity to me!

For a little context and background, Water Climb is an annual event which first took place in March 2010, raising almost $200,000 for Water School projects in Africa and Haiti.  And what methods does the Water School promote?  Sanitation and hygiene, of course, but also solar disinfection (SODIS), a proven way to neutralize bacteria in water that is almost embarrassingly simple!  It is easy to learn, easy to implement, almost labor-free, and requires little more resources than the equatorial regions already have in abundance.  And to be clear, I mean "embarrassingly" for us in the so-called first-world with all of our fancy, expensive, energy-hungry water treatment plants and HEPA-quality activated-charcoal reverse-osmosis buffered-solution filtration systems.

What is SODIS, you might ask?  Look at the picture provided by the Water Climb website.  That's it!  Bottled water, lying out in the sun!  With the right clarity of bottle plastic and enough space to lay them out, 24 to 48 hours of the natural UV rays in sunlight will disinfect any amount of water the village needs.  When I was contacted by the Water School communications team, I recognized immediately this method from my earlier viewing of the film "One Water" by the University of Miami but had no idea at that time what it was called.  BPA-free plastic bottles, recycled from those formerly filled with dubious "spring water" in the west, something disposable and undervalued (though far overpriced) that Americans throw away in abundance, can be devoted to a true lasting purpose for those who really need it.  The UV radiation kills the bacteria that cause diseases like cholera, typhoid, dysentery and life threatening symptoms like chronic diarrhea.  Water School provides the bottles and educates local people on proper health and hygiene practices.  In addition, by working with local businesses to provide the bottles necessary for the SODIS process, Water School is one of the few organizations to deliver a truly sustainable solution to developing nations around the world.  While this does not shorten the trek that people, usually women, must take to obtain the water itself, in areas with relatively local water (by stream or well) the SODIS process is an added insurance against the losses of health, livelihood and life that developing countries suffer for their present lack of clean water supplies, a resource that so many of us take for granted every day.


M. Garcia said...

Author's Note: this post was a features selection for Ana Montana's Geo-Earth Daily on 24 March 2011.

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