Four Chilliwackians are flying to Africa later this month on the trip of a lifetime.
Kirsti and Brad Dueck and Ryan and Trish Huston have been invited by Run for Water to join a team of 18 Canadian runners traveling to Ethiopia.
Over 10 days they’ll cover more than 100 kilometres of trails, including the highest road in Africa (14,000 feet above sea level).
Eventually, they’ll end up in the remote village of Kudo, in the Tigray region.
They’ll spend two nights in this place, home to 2,550 Ethiopians who lack access to clean water and schooling.
This is the purpose of the trip and the part Kirsti most looks forward to.
“We take for granted the fact we can just turn a tap on,” Kirsti said. “We have tons of water, and it’s always clean. We don’t have waterborne diseases or anything like that. Our children go to school and learn to read and write and we take that for granted too. We have the opportunity to make such a huge difference in the lives of so many people.”
To make this journey, each Canadian is charged with raising $7,000.
Through their combined efforts, Kudo will get a clean-water system and a new primary school building for children up to Grade 8 (complete with a latrine and playground).
Kudo’s youngsters will also get school supplies.
“Run for Water partners with Imagine 1 Day, an organization in Ethiopia whose goal is providing primary education available to everyone in the country by 2025 or thereabouts,” Kirsti said. “The children in Kudo don’t have that. They were born into their circumstances and didn’t have a choice. So for those kids, this gives them hope for their future.”
Kirsti and Brad have long had a passion for Africa.
Coming out of med-school 20 or so years ago, Brad was required to work a rural practicum. For most doctors in British Columbia, that means doing a stint in places like Terrace or Fort St. James, Nelson or Nakusp. A family connection provided Brad the option to head overseas. He and Kirsti ended up in Zimbabwe where he did his six-month residency and she worked as a nurse.
“It was just, again, what they didn’t have,” Kirsti recalled. “We saw gloves being re-used, hanging out to dry in the regular air when they were supposed to be sterile. They were dealing with diseases that we figured out how to deal with decades before. There was a 25 per cent HIV rate, which was astonishing to us.”
“It was eye-opening how behind the times they were, but it was so good for us to step out of our culture and realize how much we have and how privileged we are.”
The trick Kirsti and company face now is getting other people to reach the same conclusion and open their wallets when they’ve never been face to face with such things.
The fate of a village thousands of miles away doesn’t resonate with everyone when problems exist just around the corner.
“One person on our team talked to a woman and she just decided to give $10,000 on the spot,” Kirsti grinned. “We’re so lucky here, yet there’s this village over there, where, if we just provide a little bit of help, we can give a child clean water for life.”
If fundraising is the major challenge, the physical demands of this trip run a very close second.
They’ll start at a high-altitude training camp for elite athletes called Yaya village.
“It’s trail running, so you’re going up and down mountains,” Kirsti said. “All of our runs will be in completely different climates — desert like, then high altitude — hopefully we’ll be able to survive that.”
“Anything above 8,000 feet, you can have some problems, and we’ll be at 10,000 to 14,000 feet. Usually you’d acclimatize for a couple days as you go, but we’re going to be there for a shorter period of time. I don’t think we’ll have problems because it’s still on the lower end of things and not super super high.”
“If anyone does have mountain sickness I guess we’ll just go back down.”
Along the way, Kirsti will visit many villages, see 2000-plus year old cave churches and hang with world-class marathoner Haile Gebrselassie.
“I love rock climbing, and these caves are on a trail that just keeps going higher and higher,” Kirsti said. “I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
Still, the last stop, Kudo, is the key and Kirsti expects to feel quite emotional.
“They have these ceremonies they put on, and it’s a party,” Kirsti laughed. “The one thing I remember so much from Zimbabwe is the kids and how intrigued they are by you. I love kids to begin with, and for some of them it’s literally going to be their first time seeing a white person. I’m told they come up to you, pet you and sometimes pinch you.”
“Being with those children and the people we’re raising money for, that will make it so much more real to me.
Contribute to the cause online at chimp.net/groups/run-ethiopia-2015.
Get Run for Water info at abbotsford.runforwater.ca