Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Climbing to make a difference in Mexićo

Rory Smith and myself take a sketchy late night walk to the top of the neighbourhood, Independencia.
I’ve often wondered whether climbing could have a positive and effective impact on world issues. I’m not sure how effective it could be on large scale topics, such as creating a lasting world peace, bringing an end to world poverty or ensuring that everyone is given their basic human rights as these are vast problems that require the collective unity of nations to make a stand. But what I do know, is that climbing can make a difference to people on a global scale.

One of my good friends and personal heroes, John Ellison, proves this with every ounce of his existence and his work with Climbers Against Cancer (CAC) which he formed in 2011 to raise money and awareness for cancer research. CAC in its short existence has raised more than $350,000 and united the climbing community by demonstrating that we can make a difference together, but that we need someone to lead the way.

With John’s inspiration branded firmly into our minds, in March 2014, Tiffany Hensley and myself, Gareth Leah headed down to Monterrey Mexico after hearing about huge potential for new rock climbing and a program called Escalando Fronteras (Climbing Borders) who use climbing as a medium to bring an end to the recruitment of child soldiers into the drug cartels of Monterrey. 

Such a project struck a chord with myself. Born and raised in the small industrial town of Ellesmere Port in the UK, I had a misspent youth that lacked both ambition and direction. When I discovered climbing in my early 20’s, it changed my whole perspective of the world. I had found something which filled the void in my life, bringing with it the direction I so desperately needed. I wondered that if climbing could do this for me, could it possibly do the same for these youth?


With so much poverty, many of the youth look to drugs as an entertainment.
Speaking with the program organiser Rory Smith, a smart and worldly guy in his late 20’s who’s passion for his project emanates through every conversation, he welcomed our idea to help and we quickly set about creating Project Wall-E with two distinct goals.

First, our goal is to help Escalando Fronteras by volunteering our time to the program and teaching the kids new skills, develop new routes in the nearby neighbourhood (enabling them to climb locally in their free time), and provide climbing gear through sponsor donations. 

Secondly, we will develop climbing in Monterrey on a larger scale and collaborate on a guidebook to help bring eco tourism to the recovering city with the desired effect that the climbing area will, in time, bring money to the impoverished areas and offer the kids an alternative way to earn money outside of Mexico’s dangerous drug trade.

The intimidating entrance to the neighbourhood of Independencia
Especially motivating is that the whole concept would not be possible without the help of like-minded and conscientious companies who also believe in making a difference by sharing something we love.

We left for Mexico early November. If you would like to know more about Project Wall-E, Escalando Fronteras or Climbing in Mexico by following the hyperlinks.

Make your next year count, make it meaningful, make a difference!