Moving Mountains for Sport and Development1 March 2010
Geneva/Nairobi - During a milestone year for sport events, 35 climbers from around the world are about to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro - the Roof of Africa - to highlight the key role of sport in fostering peace and development.
The fifth annual climb organized by Nairobi-based organization the Kilimanjaro Initiative (KI) started today and will take place until Friday 5 March, bringing together climbers from countries including Antigua & Barbuda, Brazil, Burundi, Eritrea, France, Grenada, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Tanzania, the UK, and the US.
In a powerful symbol of the unifying and stimulating role of sport in community and individual development, the group will be made up of 10 urban youth from disadvantaged communities throughout Africa and Brazil, as well as representatives from the private sector, the United Nations and NGOs including Fight for Peace , the Monaco-based international organization Peace and Sport , and US-based Play Soccer .
The climb comes in a key year for sport: from the FIFA World Cup, which is coming to the African continent for the first time this June in South Africa, to the Vancouver Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Commonwealth Games in India and the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, mass sport events around the world are increasingly being used as vehicles for sustainability, solidarity and development.
Since 2006, the Kilimanjaro Initiative has brought more than 100 youth, athletes, musicians and representatives of the private and public sector to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The annual ascent to the highest peak in Africa is organized each year around a different theme. In 2007, the objective was to stress the need for youth empowerment and employment; in 2008, to foster peace in Kenya, which was wracked by the post-election violence; and in 2009, the goal was to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change in relation to urban safety.
This goal of the 2010 climb is to highlight the key role of sport as a tool for development
Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, said: "The annual ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro organized by the Kilimanjaro Initiative provides a unique opportunity for interaction by underprivileged youth with international representatives, providing life-time contacts and an unforgettable experience, giving them a head start for their future."
The Initiative was founded in 2005 by Tim Challen, a Geneva-based staff member of the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU), after he was shot during an armed robbery at his apartment in Nairobi. Following extensive surgery and a long period of recovery, Challen returned to East Africa with a desire to help create a safer and better environment for urban youth and to provide them with opportunities to bring about constructive change in their communities.
By reaching out to urban youth from around the world, the Kilimanjaro Initiative's objective is to empower them by offering them training, experience and contacts within the 'development' world, skills they can later apply to the benefit of the youth groups they represent. Moreover, Kilimanjaro Initiative has upgraded a sports field in Kibera slum and helped turn a former hot spot for crime into a 'safe' focal point for the community. "We approached those who were committing crimes on the field and employed them for some of the renovation work. They have now formed their own brotherhood and set up a small enterprise selling vegetables. It proves mentalities can change and that we must do what we can to provide opportunities to disenfranchised youth." said Challen.
"Sport can contribute to the development of communities, build bridges, and tap the full potential of young women and men. This kind of action and spirit exemplifies the type of discussions that will take place at the 5th World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro on 22 to 26 March," states Dr. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director UN-HABITAT .
Over the last three years, with continued support and interest from individuals and partners, the Kilimanjaro Initiative has demonstrated a commitment towards providing safer and better communities for all. The NGO is driven by a spirit of understanding and assistance towards those in need of support. KI has hired youth from previous climbs to work at the NGO, giving them a platform to bring about solutions and part of the decision-making processes that affect their lives and communities. For all of them it was their first official paycheck.
Michael J. Connery Jr., President/CEO of UNFCU, who will be climbing the mountain for the second time said, "We are very proud of Tim's efforts and we fully support Kilimanjaro Initiative. Sport has the power to do so much good and that is what we want to achieve by reaching the summit of Africa."
Notes to Editors:
The Kilimanjaro Initiative, as its name indicates, is inspired by Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world.
Every year, KI organizes an ascent of the giant sleeping volcano, bringing together youths and community stakeholders from around the world. The climbs are a way of raising awareness of some of the problems confronted by young women and men and to collect funds for community-based projects aimed at youth empowerment.
The main objective of the Kilimanjaro Initiative is to encourage young persons to have self-belief and to take on a constructive role in their communities. KI also raises funds for urban projects - among other initiatives, the NGO upgraded a sport field in the Nairobi slum of Kibera, turning a hotspot of criminal activities into safe urban space where youth can play sports.
Along with 10 youth from disadvantaged communities throughout Africa and Brazil, the 2010 climb will bring together 25 representatives from the public and private sector and the UN system. Climbers will include staff of the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU), UN-HABITAT, and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as well as NGOs including Peace & Sport, Play Soccer and Fight For Peace.
The Kilimanjaro Initiative has so far garnered support from: UN-HABITAT, UNEP, the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace; Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities; UNFCU; and other public/private organizations at the local and national level. The Kilimanjaro Initiative will continue to build on this support and looks forward to creating new partnerships.
For more information on the Kilimanjaro Initiative, please visit the website: www.kilimanjaroinitiative.org or
For further information, please contact: Elisabeth Philippe, Business Development and Public Relations Manager, UNFCU, Tel: +1 347 686 6776 Fax: +1 347 686 6466, E-mail: email@example.com, Website: www.unfcu.com; or, Timothy Challen, Founder, Kilimanjaro Initiative, Tel: +254 73 613 5517 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org