A few days ago I received an email. It was inspiring and reminded me how fortunate I am.
Fortunate to have been exposed to nature and open spaces from an early age. Fortunate to know the difference between a sheep and a cow. Fortunate to have been taught how to tie my shoe laces. Fortunate to have grown up in a home that had a washing machine.
I am not thinking about children in poor parts of the world here. I am thinking about kids here in Britain who have never climbed a hill, never had an adventure.
This is a new idea, still developing and germinating. But have a read of the email below. And if you know of schools or youth groups that might benefit, or if you know of companies or individuals who might be able to help. And -of course- if you think the whole thing is a good idea, then please get in touch. I can think of few simpler, cheaper and more rewarding ways to make a massive positive impact on the life of a child than helping them to climb their first mountain.
Last week I had the humbling privilege of being one of 5 mountain leaders working together to assist 61 kids from a school in Toxteth climb a “mountain” in Wales.
They had been chosen to participate as they had behaved well during the year. They were the cream of their year.
The actual mountain was a symbolic end to a year in which they had “climbed” their own personal mountains.
The school deputy head presented them all with a t-shirt on the summit.
Some of them hadn’t had breakfast because they had got up extra early to catch the bus to Wales.
Most of them had never climbed a hill before.
Many of them had never walked downhill on a grassy slope.
Many of them had never seen a cow for real. Several of them couldn’t differentiate a cow from a sheep.
They just hadn’t had the life experiences many of us take for granted.
During the tenure of the deputy head at that school, several of the pupils had been murdered.
Several of the kids had profound Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from witnessing tragedy in their own homes.
The head teacher was one of the most inspirational humans I have ever met. He simultaneously ruled the kids with an iron fist and loved them with a wide-open heart.
We shared Haribo.We dealt with vertigo on wide footpaths.We helped kids across footbridges, who were utterly terrified of the water running underneath.We told them you could eat daisies.We showed them frogs, buzzards and Liverpool in the far, far distance.We showed them how to tie shoe laces.We tied their laces for them.We carried their bags, we picked up their litter, we held their hands.
We told them that their Nike, and their trackie bottoms would all come clean in the washing machine. They’d look cool again tomorrow.Except, they explained, the foster parent they were with this month didnt have a washing machine.
Walking back through a riverside country park at the end of the walk, other walkers said hello and chatted about the weather. A young lad said to me “why are these people so friendly?” He continued, “nobody has ever said hello to me for no reason”. We chatted about hello. About just saying hello and smiling. He said he didn’t usually smile, “there was no reason”.
His cheeks were sunburnt red, his feet were blistered. He remembered smiling when he got to the top of the hill and got his t shirt.
The five mountain leaders sat round a table after the kids had got back on their coaches.
We didn’t speak for a while.
I came home and bought a web address: Mountainsofhope.co.uk
A seat of my pants plan. A spur of the moment idea. A natural reaction to the smile of that kid.
With sponsors to help us, MofH will get Mountain Leaders taking underprivileged kids walking in wide open spaces and up hills.
We will engage with ten schools or youth organisations per academic year. We will visit, inspire and help them in their schools. The kids will be challenged to do their best in school, at home, and in their communities.
Towards the end of the academic year, MofH will, along with the school staff, take the 30 to 60 kids from each school that have done their best to climb their own personal mountains, up a “real” mountain. Getting chosen to be part of that adventure will be a big challenge. Climbing both mountains will be a huge achievement.
We will jump in puddles with them. Hold their hands. Eat some tasty nature. Tell some jokes.
At the summit they will receive unique Mountain of Hope Achiever t-shirts.
Together we will help them smile.
We are seeking charitable status, seeking sponsors, seeking Mountain Leaders and, most of all, seeking schools and youth organisations to work with. Crazy times. Please get in touch.