Scaling the mighty Kilimanjaro for clean water

Posted: | By Sunrise Medical
Scaling the mighty Kilimanjaro for clean water

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My name is Spencer West. I have been fortunate to grace over 60 WE.org Day stages in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States as a featured speaker. In all my travels, I have spoken to and interacted with world prominent personalities such as Prince Harry; Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau; former U.S. Vice-President, Al Gore; Martin Luther King III; Mia Farrow; Jennifer Hudson and Natalie Portman; among many others.

On my personal journey, I have learned important life lessons which I strive to share with audiences all over the world. My words I believe have reached and touched millions globally. I love to infuse my talks with humility and a little bit of humour, offering take-home tips, tidbits and life lessons on how find the silver lining in the cloud, finding opportunity in every challenge. I strive to instil hope and empower leaders to inspire, motivate and champion for positive change.

 

If today I told you that I have climbed Africa’s highest mountain on my hands and wheelchair, and actually got to the top, chances are, you would not believe me. I wouldn’t blame you though. Even I did not think I could do it. At least not with my condition, I have no legs from the pelvis down due to a genetic ailment.

But I have! Four years ago, alongside my best mates, David and Alex, I actually climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to the very top. In so doing, we raised close to four hundred thousand pounds for provision of clean water for the locals. You may wonder how this was made possible. Well, I will tell you how.

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Finding my place

It has been thought that the biggest challenge in my life was losing my legs, or scaling the mighty Kilimanjaro, but that is not true. I have to say, my greatest challenge thus far was landing a job. A job with a good pay of course, a job that makes the world a better place.

I was working in corporate America when a friend asked me to join him on a volunteer trip to Kenya, East Africa with an organisation known as WE.org. WE.org is an organisation that strives to empower people to change the world for the better. I took on the trip and it was a life-changing one. I instantly fell in love with Kenya and discovered my love for development work and motivational speaking. I went back home and quit my job after the trip and moved to Toronto, Canada to work for WE.org as an ambassador and motivational speaker.

I felt like my story is one worth being told, therefore I used it to empower others. I however felt guilty. Here I was, telling people how they need to make differences on things they care about yet I wasn’t doing so myself. Nothing like preaching water and not drinking it.

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Beating the odds

Together with my two best mates, and WE.org, we started a campaign- “Redefining Possible”. Our goal: Scale Mt. Kilimanjaro and raise more than four hundred thousand pounds for clean water for East Africa which was facing a severe drought at the time, the worst in close to 60 years. Armed with a specially designed wheelchair thanks to Sunrise Medical and Quickie, I was ready to take on Kilimanjaro.

My plan: half on wheels, half on my hands. This however wasn’t at all to be due to the rough and unfavourable terrain. I would have to do most of it on my hands. Utmost gratitude to my two best mates, Alex and Dave who cheered me on, encouraging me to soldier on. At some points, they had to carry me and push me in my wheelchair.

On the day we were to get to the summit, it was my turn to give back. Alex and Dave developed altitude sickness at around 18,000 feet. I was among the very lucky few who weren’t affected. For the very first time in my life, I wished I had legs so that I could carry my friends, but oh well, I don’t. I had to do what I do best, inspire! My parents had always taught me to focus on the things I could do, and what I could achieve. I recalled how to Alex and Dave, me walking was a huge inspiration to them, so I thought that if it was all I could do, so be it. I would do it to my level best.

A foot higher, air getting thinner, on we went. Every step more difficult than the last. We would stop frequently so that my mates could catch a breath. But after all the pain, our perseverance finally paid off. We got to the top! We couldn’t hide our joy. Tears filled our eyes. We were elated because not only had we managed to scale the mighty Kilimanjaro, but we had been able to surpass our fundraising target. With our initiative, we were able to provide over 12,500 people in Kenya with clean water.

Although many find my story an inspiring one, that has never been my goal. What is my goal then, you might ask? I strive to be an example to others. Show them that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, we all have the ability and it is our duty and responsibility to help the less fortunate.

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