On June 16-18, UAE resident Nizar Fakhoury from Lebanon will camp overnight at Ski Dubai with a group of UAE-based explorers to prepare them for the challenge of climbing Mount Elbris in Russia. The trek, organised by local fundraising group Climb For Cancer, aims to raise money to help children who are suffering from the disease.
Nizar founded Climb for Cancer in 2009 to enable him to combine his passion for trekking, nature and the outdoors with philanthropy. ‘I’ve travelled to many destinations around the world in pursuit of nature, from the rainforests of Puerto Rico to the secluded islands of the Philippines, but now my goal is to aim for countries with challenging mountain peaks, all to support children who are suffering from cancer,’ he says. The group has already climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in September 2010, and raised Dhs473,800 during the challenge. ‘People also ask me if I’ve lost someone close from a battle with cancer, and my answer is simply “no”. I don’t believe it’s necessary for someone to face a traumatic experience in life or lose a loved one in order to do something good and to help others in need.’
The challenges Nizar and the other volunteers take on are hugely fun and make a tremendous difference to local cancer patients. While most charitable activities raise money for a cancer organisation, where funds are used for multiple purposes, Climb for Cancer gives to individuals and specific children suffering from cancer. ‘Funds go directly to the King Hussein Cancer Centre in Jordan and are used entirely for cancer treatments for the children we are supporting. Not a single penny is used elsewhere,’ says Nizar. The King Hussein Cancer Centre is the leading cancer treatment centre in the Middle East: last year it treated patients from more than 36 countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Sudan, the UAE, the US and the UK. ‘This year, we celebrated our 1,000th paediatric bone marrow transplant survivor,’ says Rawan Khoury from the King Hussein Cancer Centre. ‘This is a huge success story that speaks volumes. It proves the most critical underlying message: that cancer is beatable.’
With such a worthy cause to support, Climb For Cancer’s volunteers are psyched for next week’s event. ‘I’m counting the days until the Ski Dubai challenge,’ says avid explorer Nour Rustom, from Syria. The climbers will spend two nights in the giant fridge in temperatures as low as -8°C. The group aims to complete 48 hours inside the facility to give them uninterrupted exposure to a climate similar to that of Mount Elbris. ‘It’s to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally,’ explains Nizar. ‘Doing this will go a long way to ensuring the overall safety of the team and success of the challenge.’
Nour believes there is a lot to gain from the experience of getting involved in this project, including the community factor. ‘I’ve met the most amazing people through Climb for Cancer – I would never have met them in any other context of my life. The projects are so fun.’
Nizar agrees. ‘Knowing that you’ve played a direct part in saving the life of a child is by far the most rewarding feeling in the world. And to top it off, reaching the summit of a mountain after several days, enduring eight-hour climbs at sub-zero temperatures and symptoms of altitude sickness, makes the overall reward euphoric.’
To get involved with the Ski Dubai challenge and the expedition to Mount Elbris in September, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donate online at www.climbforcancer.org (050 664 9911)
Climbing Mount Elbrus
Situated in the Russian Caucasus mountain range near Georgia, the inactive volcano stands 5,642m tall. Climbing this peak is like climbing the Burj Khalifa seven times – in the snow and ice – while contending with potentially fatal altitude conditions. Such a climb involves a couple of months of training, but once conquered, the Climb For Cancer team will have scaled the highest mountain in Europe.