It’s been a few years now since I was doing my finals at Durham, attempting to avoid both writing my dissertation and organising my next DUCK expedition by reading an email that had landed in my inbox from ‘Dig Deep’ – a small water charity looking for volunteers to fundraise for and manage projects in Kenya. I liked the charity’s approach to Development – using appropriate technologies and training programmes to help local people transform their own lives – so I sent them a quick email asking for some more information. As it turned out, this five minutes of procrastination has had a significant impact on my life.
Eighteen months later – after having persuaded a close friend to take on the challenge with me and juggling countless hours of fundraising with finals and full time work – I found myself living in the Kenyan bush with Dig Deep’s Maasai partners, helping to fund and manage two large-scale water projects. It was unforgettable seeing first-hand the complex social and political challenges of operating in the field, as well as experiencing the serious practical obstacles to development in communities with no paved roads, no utilities of any sort and a serious – and at times surreal – wildlife presence (you never really get used to missing a meeting due to a pride of lions blocking the track).
Since then Dig Deep has continued to work with local community groups, charities and government to help thousands more people access water and sanitation, enabling them to break the cycle of poverty and transform their own lives.
Much of this has been made possible by our dedicated student fundraisers taking on the challenge of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. For those who don’t know, Kili is the largest freestanding mountain in the world and the trek encompasses terrains from jungle to glacier. Having taken on the challenge with some of our student groups, I know that reaching the summit and watching the sun rise over the vast African plains truly is the experience of a lifetime.
We are now entering our sixth year of challenges. In 2016, current Durham University student and Dig Deep group leader, Eleanor Payne, will be taking a team to the top of Kilimanjaro. Each year at Dig Deep we see around 300 student fundraisers reach the highest point in Africa, raising thousands of pounds that make our vital water and sanitation projects possible. The money that students fundraise has an astounding effect on communities.
One of the things we’re really proud of at Dig Deep is that we run our challenges in the same way we run our projects, working with local charities to ensure the best conditions for the porters and staff who work so hard to make it one of the best experiences of your life.
By using our local knowledge and organizing our challenge ourselves we are able to cut out the middleman, ensuring that no profit is made in the UK by private companies. This means that our student volunteers are able to raise more money for our projects and that the porters and staff who make their adventure so memorable benefit fairly from the challenge they undertake.
A message from Eleanor Payne, the group leader at Durham:
“Dig Deep is an organisation that stands to transform thousands of lives by providing one of the basic necessities of life – clean water – to communities in Kenya. It was this impressive yet basic goal that provided the main attraction towards volunteering for and with Dig Deep.
The more I learnt about the charity and the more involved I became the deeper the respect for Dig Deep’s ethos and achievements I had. It became quickly apparent that Dig Deep stood for sustainability above all else, from the way that they ensured fair wages for the porters on their Mount Kilimanjaro expedition to the ‘people first’ approach that they use in providing clean water to communities in Kenya.
The year ahead is going to be a busy yet exciting one; as a team we will be working to reach our fundraising target for Dig Deep’s projects. We will be having some team events in order to raise the money needed including a supermarket bagging service collection and a sponsored sports event. As group leader I will also be spending my time providing support and advice for our team in the year ahead.”
There is still time to register to take on Kilimanjaro in the summer of 2016.
If you think you’ve got what it takes, check out our challenge website – www.climbforcleanwater.org – or contact 07775037839.
Ben graduated from Durham with BA Combined Social Sciences – he is Director of Dig Deep.