Empowering women worldwide to reach their highest peak
By Laura Binks
We see it almost daily on the evening news, online, in newspapers and magazines—the ever-present struggles of the less fortunate throughout the world. However, it is difficult to comprehend something like not having access to an education, clean water, or healthcare facilities without witnessing it firsthand. Chloe Chick and Laura Hartstone have been there, many times. They also understand the far-reaching effects this sort of environment has on families, communities, and, in particular, women. That is why they are on a mission to empower women worldwide one peak at a time through their organization, the Peaks Foundation.
Chick and Hartstone met at a running club while working for different organizations in East Africa and realized they had the desire to start something to help people. “We came together and thought there are so many great organizations, let’s support people on the ground,” says Hartstone. They decided to bring together a group of friends and climb three of Africa’s peaks in three weeks. Their goal was to raise awareness and funds for three issues facing Africa: conservation, education, and healthcare. The team was complete in January 2005, and by January 2007 they had raised more than $385,000 for the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, School of St. Jude, and Support for International Change. They also became the first all-female team to summit Mount Kenya, Meru, and Kilimanjaro, three of Africa’s highest peaks.
Since that original climb, the foundation’s mission has grown. They want you to do the fundraising and climbing to support conservation, education, and organizations that have a positive impact on women and girls in communities where the climbs take place.
As an example, if you take part in the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Himalayas Challenge, you will be raising funds for The Small World based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Small World provides education, health, and economic development for Nepalese people, which in turn helps educate women in the community and provide clean water and sanitation.
The School of St. Jude in Arusha, Tanzania, is another organization that receives funding from the Peaks Foundation. By taking part in the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Africa Challenge, climbers will help provide an education for Tanzanian children and ensure that local girls receive an education. Since 2007, Peaks Foundation has raised $270,000 for the School of St. Jude. The funds were used to help build a new classroom and dining hall, as well as fund staff salaries.
In the beginning, Chick and Hartstone did only one trip a year. As word spread about the Peaks Foundation, the applications started pouring in. “We would get 80 to 100 applications and could only take 12 every year,” says Hartstone. Now, they have at least 10 trips planned each year.
The women who have participated in the challenges range in age from 20 to 63 and come from all over the world. “We encourage average women to join our climbs. We have climbs of various difficulties that all provide an opportunity for our climbers to push themselves further and higher than they have before,” says Hartstone. “We believe that women become stronger individuals after they have taken on such a challenge.”
Just in case anyone is worried about her physical ability to climb mountains, the Peaks Foundation has an online fitness program for all climbers. It comes complete with a personal trainer and an on-going training program to help participants prepare physically for the climbs.
To facilitate fundraising, the Peaks Foundation has its own fundraising platform called Peaks Fundraising (peaksfundraising.org), which allows climbers to set up their own personal page and track their donations. “We encourage climbers to hold movie nights, pub crawls, trivia nights, and gala dinners to increase awareness about their challenge, and it’s a great way to raise funds,” says Hartstone. As an example, the 1 Peak 1 Week trips require a minimum fundraising of $2,000 from each climber, while the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks trips require a minimum fundraising of $5,000. On average, the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks challenges raise $90,000, and every single climber has at least met the minimum requirement.
For 2012, the Peaks Foundation has 10 expeditions planned. The 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenges include Africa, the Himalayas, and South America. Adventure seekers can also participate in the 1 Peak 1 Week Challenge in places like Ethiopia, Bolivia, Morocco, and Kenya.
On their website (peaksfoundation.org), the Peaks Foundation offers a thorough itinerary for each challenge, plus an information pack that contains details, such as necessary vaccinations and a gear list.
According to Hartstone, “All of the challenges have at least one day in which climbers visit the site of beneficiaries. They become part of our due diligence process and experience an educational day of cultural immersion and awareness.” This provides climbers with a unique opportunity to see firsthand what sort of impact they are making and meet some of the people who are benefiting from the funds raised.
For those wishing to remain involved in the organization and stay connected with other participants, the Peaks Foundation has the Peaks Foundation Alumni Society. According to Hartstone, “You could walk up the mountain with women from four different countries and, by the end, you have friends from four different countries who you can go visit.” Alumni also have a chance to serve as trip leaders for upcoming challenges.
In the end, the Peaks Foundation gives partici-pants a platform to accomplish an exceptional set of tasks, climb mountains, and provide funding where it is crucially needed. To date, the organi-zation has raised more than $700,000, proving that you don’t need to move mountains in order to have a positive impact, you just need to climb them.