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Fort St. James teacher to scale Mt. Everest equivalent to fundraise for Gaza children

Teacher Patrick McDowall plans to undertake a non-stop hike, ascending and descending Mount Pope over ten times
David Hoy Elementary teacher Patrick McDowall and his grade 5 students are fundraising for children of Gaza affected by the ongoing conflict. (Submitted photo)

Fort St. James teacher Patrick McDowall, along with his Grade 5 students from David Hoy Elementary School, are taking on an ambitious challenge to raise funds for the children of Gaza affected by the ongoing conflict. 
McDowall's endeavour involves scaling their local peak, Mount Pope (Nak’al Dzulh), mirroring the elevation of Earth’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest.
The fundraiser, in support of Save the Children, aims to collect $10,000. As of June 6, donations have reached $6,900.
McDowall and his students are determined to make a difference.

McDowall's plan involves symbolically replicating the height of Mount Everest, which stands at a staggering elevation of 8,849 meters in the Himalayan mountain range in Asia. Mount Pope stands at a significantly lower elevation of 850 meters. McDowall plans to undertake a non-stop hike, ascending and descending Mount Pope over ten times, covering a total distance of over 130 km, starting from June 21. McDowall said he will start the hike around 3 p.m and continue throughout the night by headlamp and into the following day. He expects to complete challenge in 36 hours.

"I would also like to acknowledge that the mountain I will be hiking is located on the traditional and unceded lands of the Nak'azdli Whuten First Nations and I am thankful to be able to use this land to help children who are in desperate need," he said.

A former archeologist and journalist, McDowall moved to Fort St. James during the COVID-19  pandemic. While he has never climbed Mt. Everest, he has scaled tough heights like Mt. Kilimanjaro (5,895 metres) in Tanzania and other peaks in B.C.

McDowall's decision to undertake the project stemmed from a comprehensive exploration of human rights issues within the Grade 5 provincial curriculum. They examined Canada's past discriminatory policies, like the Chinese Head Tax and residential schools, and discussed how the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child relates to the students in the classroom.

"We then took this one step further and considered whether the children of Gaza are offered these same rights," he said.

Witnessing the dire conditions faced by children in the Gaza Strip through the news broadcasts they watched in class evoked a strong emotional response among the students. 

"Many of the students were deeply moved by the images of destruction and of displaced families being forced to designated safe areas in Rafah and beyond. We then decided to try and make an actual positive impact on the lives of the innocent children of Gaza."

His students went on to create their own presentations about the situation facing the children of Gaza and shared them with the other classes in the school. The students are also engaged in their own fundraiser, participating in a school-wide challenge to see which class can raise the most money for Save the Children charity.

On the day of the challenge, his students will be helping set up the ‘base camp’ and will cheer him off as he begins the hike.

"Several of the students have also expressed interest in hiking one ascent with me during the Saturday portion of the challenge," he said.

McDowall said they do not wish to politicize their fundraising and instead want to focus on the fact that children everywhere are the same.

"They do not vote for their government. They do not fight as soldiers in their armies. They are children and deserve to be protected from violence, educated in functioning schools, and fed a healthy diet."

Unfortunately this is not the case for the children of Gaza, he says.

"So we are trying to help them in the only way we can: by donating and sharing our message."

Donations can be made on Save the Children fundraiser page




About the Author: Binny Paul

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