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Climbing to the top

The climbing crew on their way to base camp.

The climbing crew on their way to base camp.

Towering above the Andes Mountains, Mount Aconcagua sits nearly 23,000 ft. tall - the highest peak outside of the Himalayas. To us, it’s a geographic landmark. To Al Hansen, it was a challenge.

Earlier this year, Al began his journey to climb Mt. Aconcagua with a 50 pound pack filled with food, fuel, climbing gear and a tent. For 15 days, Al endured one of the most physically and mentally exhausting trips he had ever experienced, acclimatizing to the high altitude and harsh conditions.

Reaching the summit

“It wasn’t easy. It was a lot of work,” explains Al. “As we were getting close to the top; I had to breathe twice for every step just to keep moving.”

But he and his fellow team members experienced a “windless summit day” when they reached the top – something most climbers can only dream of on Mt. Aconcagua. They spent 30 spectacular minutes at summit before beginning their descent.

Al and his crew at the top of Mt. Aconcagua.

The sun shines for Al and his crew at the top of Mt. Aconcagua.

Climbing for a cause

To say you’ve climbed a mountain is one thing, but to say you’ve done it to save lives is something else, and as Al explains, “I thought this was a big enough adventure that I could do more with it.”

And that he did. He used this opportunity to fundraise for Plan Canada’s water project in Bolivia – a country where nearly half of all rural homes lack access to clean water.

“Getting water on a climb like this is a challenge,” he explains. “You can’t rely on the water, you have to treat it with iodine, and you have to carry lots of fuel for melting snow at higher altitudes. I would not want to have to do this every day.”

Families living in rural Bolivia are forced to collect water every day, and too often, children are tasked with the chore, causing them to miss out on school.

“It’s something we completely take for granted, yet it’s so essential for everyone’s well-being,” says Al.

Helping 50 communities in Bolivia
Children living in rural Bolivia wash their hands with clean water.

Children living in rural Bolivia wash their hands with clean water.

Al’s generous donations will go towards a larger project that will help build new water systems in 50 communities across Bolivia. Access to clean water will impact everyone in the community. The benefits of clean, safe drinking water will:

  • Keep children healthy – clean water will diminish the risk of health problems associated with contaminated water, like malaria, diarrhoea and other water-borne illnesses.
  • Keep children in school – access to clean water ensures children attend class instead of spending their days collecting water for the family.
  • Boosts local economies – clean water keeps families healthy so parents can work and invest in their careers or small businesses.

So far, 87 water management committees have been formed that include over 700 people who have received training in water systems management, maintenance and training in community sanitation, hygiene and water use and protection.

“I wanted to donate to something where I could make a significant contribution that would last for a long time,” explains Al. “The Bolivia project allowed me to do this and now I’m making a lasting difference.”

Water projects going global

Because of the success in Bolivia, Plan has expanded our water projects into more countries, including Pakistan, Liberia and the Philippines. New water systems in each of these countries will benefit entire communities.

You can help communities gain access to clean, safe drinking water.