Prof to climb mountain

Rising to 5,895 meters above sea level, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is an accomplishment in itself. One Wilfrid Laurier University professor, however, has found a way to make it an even more meaningful experience.

After completing recent research on lone mothers, Lea Caragata, a professor from the faculty of social work, was inspired to give back.

“I was stunned to find that almost 70 per cent of the women that we were interviewing had experienced either childhood sexual abuse or domestic partner assault,” said Caragata.

Caragata is embarking on a 12-day expedition in January, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the national Outward Bound’s Women of Courage program.

“The Women of Courage Program is an eight-day wilderness expedition with other women who have been abused, and it’s truly transformative. Women develop a sense of self confidence and personal competence that comes from being able to cope in the wilderness,” Caragata continued. “And to do that jointly in a collaborative way with other women, it’s quite transformative.”

Caragata aims to raise between five and ten thousand dollars, which will, “Go directly to subsidize women who participate in the Women of Courage Program.”

Caragata’s research consisted of a national study of about 150 women, interviewing them every 8-12 months over the course of five years.

“And for many of the women who we were interviewing, the abuse, even if it had been many years prior, continues to shape their lives in a very significant way,’” Caragata explained. “And they tend to be people that don’t have access to therapists etc. because those things usually aren’t free.”

“So I was inspired to kind of give back. You know my academic career has benefited from women being willing to tell me their stories, and this just seems like a terrific way to say ‘I’m going to give back to those same women who have given so much to me, through my research, and climb Kilimanjaro,” she said.

Caragata found the empowering nature of the Women of Courage Program a great response to the lack of public policy addressing the issue of abused women.

In response to the physical demands of the expedition, Caragata said, “I’m in good shape, I don’t know if I was in quite that good a shape before, but I am now, and I just thought that would be a cool thing to do to give back. It’s the first time I’ve done anything this big [for charity].”

Caragata and a team of 13 other fundraisers will depart for the climb on January 8th.

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