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Ian Taylor climbs the heights to help build a school in Africa

Ian Taylor is the youngest Irishman to climb Mt. Everest, the world's tallest peak. But he has made his treks doubly meaningful by helping to fund the Mt. Everest school in Kitandwe, Uganda.

By David KarasCorrespondent / December 12, 2013

'When Graham Kinch and I decided to climb [Mt.] Everest, we decided to we wanted to do it for something greater than ourselves,' says Ian Taylor, a professional mountaineer who funds a primary school in Uganda through his trekking business.

Courtesy of Ian Taylor Trekking

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On May 23, 2008, Ian Taylor became the youngest Irishman ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak at more than 29,000 feet.

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But the height of his accomplishment can be measured in more than just elevation.

The Mt. Everest climb he participated in helped to raise $100,000, enough to build the Mt. Everest Primary School in Kitandwe, Uganda.

Mr. Taylor, now the owner of a Colorado-based trekking company that makes arrangements for others to conquer some of the world's most famous peaks, has made it part of his business model to continue his support of the school.

“When Graham Kinch and I decided to climb Everest, we decided to we wanted to do it for something greater than ourselves,” Taylor says. “We talked about a few organizations, and we decided to support Fields of Life.”

Several members of his family had been involved since the founding of Fields of Life, a nonprofit which works in East Africa to provide education, clean water, health services, and other community-based projects. The charity seemed to be an ideal beneficiary for a group climb of Everest in 2008.

Before embarking upon his journey to the summit of Everest, Taylor and his friend decided to climb four other mountains on four continents between June 2007 and June 2008. The pair agreed to integrate fundraising for the school in Uganda into those climbs.

The charity drive was a success, and the pair was able to help raise $100,000 to support building of the school.

Through his company, Ian Taylor Trekking – a firm that offers everything from physical training support to guides to help people complete such treks on their own – Taylor continues to support the work of Fields of Life, including through his role as an ambassador for the charity.

“We want to give $100 per person from our trekking business to the Mt. Everest school in Uganda,” he says.

Since he made that commitment in 2012, Taylor’s company has contributed more than $5,000 and a great deal of volunteer service to the cause. And he hopes to triple its donations in the next five years.

For Taylor, pairing the trekking company with his passion to give back was a natural decision.

“It has taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get this point, and I still have a lot to do and learn. I am extremely proud that I climbed to the top of the world. I am proud to be in a unique club of people to climb Mt. Everest in their 20s,” he says.

The mission and philosophy of Fields of Life captured his attention, he says.

“I have always been skeptical about charities and where the money goes,” he says. “I have seen the work of Fields of Life and fully believe they are developing quality sustainable projects on the ground in East Africa, and [I am] proud to support their work and be an ambassador for the charity.”

It was a visit to the shack that was serving as a school in Kitandwe, Uganda, in September 2007 that helped build Taylor’s desire to be part of a solution for the children there, he says.

“I was moved to react and wanted to continue support their development into the future, and helping through our trekking company seemed the best way,” he says. “The school has a vision that today’s action brings tomorrow’s success, and I want to support their vision.”

The conditions for students there progressed from a “desperate situation and urgent need” in 2007 to the opening of the new school in March 2009, which brought fresh water, the best school building in the district, and even athletic opportunities to the youngsters.

“The Mt. Everest school is now almost five years old – they are growing, the community is growing,” Taylor says. “I have been to the school four times, and this shows me the work Fields of Life [is] doing on the ground in Africa works.”

There still remains much to be done – including finding support, to the tune of roughly $30 per month, for each of some 48 area children so that they can attend the school.

Taylor’s support for the project is not restricted to the school and its students. Part of the Fields of Life mission is to incorporate local residents into the building process, helping them develop new skills that can result in job opportunities for them.

“I personally believe empowering the locals to learn new skills helps in developing a sustainable future,” he says. “They needed to build the school and develop their futures....”

• For more information about Taylor Trekking, visit www.iantaylortrekking.com. For more on Fields of Life, go to www.fieldsoflife.org.

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