As the single largest cause of sickness on earth, lack of safe water and sanitation is a daunting problem with no easy solution. Today, over 780 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, and more than 2.5 billion people are without basic sanitation.  As dismal as this sounds there is hope!

Founded in 1987 by visionary Michael Lubbock, WaterCan is a leading Canadian water charity dedicated to helping the world’s poorest people gain access to clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene education. With these most basic needs met, a profound ripple effect is set into motion facilitating long-term, multifaceted development that dramatically improve the lives of individuals and entire communities. Over the years, WaterCan’s supporters have worked tirelessly to raise awareness in the minds of the Canadian public, and through their efforts have changed the lives of 1.2 million men, women and children in Eastern Africa.

The Mission to Africa’s Highest Peak

In celebration of WaterCan’s 25th anniversary the organization embarked on an extraordinary mission to fundraise and bring awareness to the global water and sanitation crisis.  This past October, WaterCan partnered with celebrated tour group, Thomson Safaris for the Kilimanjaro Climb for Life.   Gathering a cross-section of 23 climbers from all across Canada, the team ventured to the pastoral regions of Tanzania to journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Leading the climb was Canada’s own Ben Mulroney, anchor of CTV’s ETALK and WaterCan’s National Ambassador. Passionate about international development and eager to raise awareness and funds for this worthy cause, Ben surpassed his personal fundraising goal of $50,000. In addition, this incredible team collectively were able to raise a staggering $273,454 in benefit of WaterCan’s three programs: Clean Water for All, Clean Water for Schools, and Clean Water for Health.

 

Climbers Quotes

“My goal is for this campaign to inspire Canadians to support WaterCan’s mission of bringing sustainable water solutions to those in need.” Ben Mulroney, anchor of CTV’s ETALK

“This team—comprising industry leaders, including Kerry Free, editor-in-chief of Water Canada Magazine and Paul Smith, Chairman of VIA Rail—will serve as an inspiring example of Canada’s global reputation as a dynamic and forward-thinking nation.” George Yap, Executive Director of WaterCan

 

Pre-Climb Project Visit

Prior to the arduous journey up Mount Kilimanjaro, Ben and the rest of the climbers visited the communities and clean water project sites in Kiteto, Tanzania. Deep in the vast rural district, home to many of Tanzania’s Masai people, the team witnessed the daily realities of the water and sanitation crisis in Africa.  “We went to the Engabolo Masai village and gained a greater appreciation of the limitations and complexities of water and sanitation programming. It really gave us a realistic sense of goals and targets.  We met people who continue to struggle due to a lack of access to clean, safe drinking water, as well as people benefiting from WaterCan’s work. I think it touched a lot of us in a way we will always remember,” commented Ben.

“Later in the day we saw a great success story at Engusero primary school, which was threatening to close because they didn’t have access to proper sanitation or water. And then, due to the help of WaterCan and the support of the local community, two huge 30,000 litre cisterns for collecting rain water were constructed and we were met by 900 flourishing kids,” said Ben.

 

The Climb

Challenging the physical limits of these novice mountaineers, the team set out to conquer the Uhuru Peak via the Shira Route in the west.  Beginning at 11,800 feet above sea level, even the most experienced climbers find this route grueling due to the high elevation. After six days of trekking, including an 800 foot vertical scramble up the infamous Barranco Wall, “Team WaterCan” started their ascent to the Summit just before midnight.  They battled through frigid temperatures and great gusts of wind, all the while struggling to adapt to the altitude.

Not long after commencing Ben started to suffer the physical effects of altitude sickness and began to doubt if he would be able to complete the climb. “Summit day was hands down the most challenging day of my life; physically, emotionally, psychologically,” exclaimed Ben.

Fortunately, with the moral support of his team members and tour guide Ben was able to conquer these obstacles.  “When I saw the congratulations sign that we made it to Stella Point, which is just before the summit, I broke down. I couldn’t believe, after having this debate in my mind, this self doubt for so long, that I was able to make it,” said Ben.  Surrounded by awe-inspiring vistas, the team celebrated their success by taking in the unbelievable views of the giant glaciers in the distance, and watching one of the most spectacular sunrises of their lives.

 

Reflection

After the trip of a lifetime Ben shares his thoughts on how this experience has affected him.

“Coming to Africa with WaterCan I expected to see many poverty-related challenges.  I didn’t come here looking to be a changed person, I came to become a more informed person, and that is exactly what happened.  I think I can go home and not speak as an expert, but as a more informed advocate for the work being done by WaterCan.”