Two years ago, during the Summit for Sinai fundraising climb up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the fundraisingteam encountered an unexpected life-saving task. While making their way up Africa’s tallest mountain, the group, which included Mount Sinai Hospital ED physicians Bjug Borgundvaag and Howard Ovens, came across a six-year old boy who was lost and barely able to stand. After administering first aid and returning him to safety, they returned to Toronto and continued to wonder about the child’s fate. Though this adventure on Mount Kilimanjaro ended more than a year ago, the physicians are now asking for the community’s help to ensure a better future for the child they found lost and cold at 14,000 feet.
The Summit for Sinai climb up Mount Kilimanjaro was led by adventurer and passionate Mount Sinai supporter, David Cynamon. Thirteen climbers, including Drs. Bjug Borgundvaag and Howard Ovens, climbed one of the world’s highest mountains, raising an incredible $1.37 million for Mount Sinai Hospital in the process.
During their quest, the group came across a six-year-old boy named Robert* who had become lost and disoriented after being sent from his village to cut grass to feed his family’s livestock. He had been wandering without food or water for several days wearing only a sweatshirt, torn pants and sandals in cold and difficult conditions. Drs. Borgundvaag and Ovens immediately administered first aid and medical assistance to Robert and once he was well enough, sent him back down the mountain with their guides to get him home safely. While the group went on and successfully completed the climb and celebrated their significant achievements, for the physicians, Robert never left their thoughts. They felt the boy had shown unusual courage and resilience, but despite the attention the story received, they knew little about him and had no way of contacting him or his family.
With the help of Kapange Kaen, one of the guides from their trip, the physicians were determined to locate Robert. After several long months of searching in nearby villages and bringing the boy’s photo to local churches, Kapange was able to locate Robert in a small village close to the base of Kilimanjaro, where he lives with his twin sister in poor and challenging conditions. Their mother abandoned the family and their father lives nearby but leaves most of the parenting to a kind older neighbour.
Upon hearing about Robert’s circumstances, the doctors spent the next year trying to find a way to directly provide support to Robert and his family. They finally connected with Childreach Tanzania, a locally-registered charity. Touched by the story, the executives at Childreach Tanzania agreed to work with the doctors to help Robert and his family. As a result, Drs. Borgundvaag and Ovens have personally committed to supporting Robert and his family until he is grown up. This includes covering costs such as food, clothing, school fees and supplies for the family.
In addition to their ongoing personal commitment to Robert and his family, Drs. Borgundvaag and Ovens have also agreed to help fundraise for the village. These funds will help the children of this poor village have a chance at a better life.
Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation has arranged to accept donations for the doctors’ fundraising initiative – Summit for Sinai Gives Back – and direct all funds to Childreach Tanzania, earmarked for Robert and his family. If you want to help support Robert and his family visit https://www.mshfoundation.ca and search Summit for Sinai Gives Back for more details.
*Name has been changed