My last fond memory of living in Poland before I migrated with my family here to Canada was a summer trip to Zakopane when I was only 10 years old. One of my most favourite places in the world, Zakopane lies in the southern part of Poland at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. It is a region mostly known for its unspoiled nature and majestic landscapes. There are two things that resonate to this day about that adventure.
To this day, we still don’t know who left the water taps on in our cottage in the morning before we went out of town. Needless to say, we came back later that day to see the owner of the cottage trying to dry everything out outdoors. She wasn’t too happy with us. Although the blame tended to shift to me, as I was the youngest at the time, I liked to pass it on to my favourite aunt Aga. This didn’t stop her, however, from later accompanying me to climb Giewont. Giewont, a mountain peak of 1895 meters, is a symbolic mountain and has a special place in Polish national spirit and identity. It is known to be a fairly simple hike; however, as you get closer to the peak, the slope becomes more difficult to climb. Although there were handy chains bolted to the rock to assist the climbers, within 10 minutes or so to the uppermost part of the mountain, I quit and never made it to the top.
Giewont Mountain, Poland
From that day, the feeling of being unable to accomplish it has passed. However, my fascination with mountains continues to dwell somewhere within my brain. Living in Vail, Colorado for over a year and being hugged by the Colorado Rockies helped reiterate my thoughts that someday, I would climb a mountain of great significance. It was in 2007, after my wife returned from Tanzania, where she took part in the AIDS Walk Africa, that my interest in climbing again had resurfaced. As we were flipping through her pictures, I was intrigued by the beauty of Mount Kilimanjaro. Over the next few years, I had spent my “free” time discovering that the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world has people of all ages trekking to its peak of 5895 meters. That is just a tad larger than Giewont!
This leads me to inform you that in January of 2015, I will be taking this journey. And not only will this journey take me to the roof of Africa, but it also will impact the lives and communities around it. In addition to climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, I have partnered with the global movement, Plan Canada, and the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) in Tanzania, in hopes of fundraising for a very important cause. With the money raised, I will be able to provide access to clean water and improve sanitation practices in several communities through education programs provided to youth, as well as those that lead communities. This will allow Plan Canada to create sustainable programs so that the communities may be more self-sufficient moving forward. After the water has become more accessible, the next step is to ensure that communities observe the proper health practices when using and maintaining these water sources. This will reduce the instance of disease, and the overall well-being of the people living in these communities will be improved. After my climb, I will be rewarded with the opportunity to visit these communities in Tanzania and to meet with the very people that will benefit from my project.
In the months preceding my climb, I will be blogging about the preparation for the climb, information about the cause, the mountain, fundraising events, and of course, my journey throughout it all. I can be visited here at my website, as well as through my twitter account @tom_gancarz. If you are interested in donating, I have placed a link on the side of my blog should you wish to contribute to the cause. Otherwise, feel free to attend any upcoming fundraising events where donations will be greatly appreciated.
It has been many years since my last climb in Poland, and several since I have seen the beauty of the Colorado Rockies, however, it seems that each of my experiences has greatly impacted me and led me toward the wonderful opportunity to help change a community in need. Surely now, I can understand the simple impact leaving the water taps on can make. In turn, I have never been more intrigued and eager in my life than to take on the journey of Mount Kilimanjaro and to fight for an important cause while I do it. It is with great pleasure and joy that I can not only share this journey with you, but with the children and families of Tanzania as well. So, I am extending this invitation to you to take part with me on this journey, whether by my side, or by a simple donation for the cause. Every little bit counts.
In the meantime, feel free to stay posted through my blog and twitter account, and I will be sure to inform you about my progression through this life-changing journey. Thank you very much for your time and appreciation. As for me, well, my journey has just begun…