Mountains for Moms at Cornell!

by Ilya on October 29, 2011

Mountains for Moms is coming home! After a year hiatus and an expansion to Dartmouth College the former Fistula Free Climb, now re-branded Mountains for Moms to represent holistic maternal healthcare,  is returning to Cornell University.  Led by Saummya Kaushal, the climb will again be from January 2nd to 22nd and will build on the first two trip’s missions of raising as much money and awareness for OperationOF and women suffering from obstetric fistula as possible.

For more information on how you can get involved head over to their website at or contact Saummya Kaushal at

Keep Climbing!


Mountains for Moms

by Ilya on January 24, 2011

April 2011

After seeing the success of the Fistula Free Climb, which inspired 11 young people to challenge themselves to the summit of Mt. Kiliamjaro and raised over $8,000 for OperationOF and helping 32 women overcome obstetric fistula and reintergrate into their societies, another group of young leaders has decided to continue the climb toward eleminating this horrible condition.

Led by Mbumbi Katjivena of Dartmouth College, and renamed Mountains for Moms, the second (and much updated) version of the Fistula Free Climb aims to raise $34,000 in order pay for the surgeries for 170 women.

Please continue to their website,, and keep supporting the Fistula Free cause.


Uhuru Peak!

by Ilya on January 26, 2010

Fistula Free Climbers at Uhuru

Fistula Free Climbers at Uhuru

I am extremely proud to say that 9 of the 11 Fistula Free Climbers made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro on January 15th, 2010 after what can only be described as the hardest week of our lives.  We’ve got a lot to share with the world and will be doing so over the next week through blogging, pictures and videos that we took on the trip. Thanks again for everyone’s amazing support and please help spread the word.

If you are interested in joining next year’s climb, please email


Hardest Week of Our Lives

by Ilya on January 19, 2010

Nine out of 11 made it up. Last night was hell. Walk from Stella Point to Uhuru was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Had to take two or three steps then stop to take a five min break. Lips were black and blue at top. Way back down was almost as hard. Group is super tired and sore. Are going to Ngrongoro Crater for a safari then a much need rest in Zanzibar.

Overall, I still can’t believe we did it and its finally finished. Now onto the next challenge, the next summit.

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Hospital Visit

by Ilya on January 7, 2010

We visited our first hospital today. It was really tough and a couple girls cried. We met two ladies with obstetric fistulas. The staff were really nice and gave us a long tour. Am emotionally, mentally and physically drained already and its only been three days. The combinaton of the heat, the poverty, the jet lag and leading the group is taking its toll and I’m starting to get a cold. Have been taking tons of vitamins and will be ok soon. We’ve moved our climb up to Sunday instead of Tuesday so we can do some more hospital visits and maybe even give blood after the climb as the hospitals blood bank is completely empty. Going to take a nap now before dinner.


Day 2

by Ilya on January 6, 2010

Just visited Arusha Lutheran hospital to have an orientation before we start working tomorrow. It was surprisingly modern having been built two years ago. Now we’re going for the market and then to lunch. The group is excited to be volunteering tomorrow and still can’t believe we are in Africa. Everyone is so nice here.


Arrived to Dubai Safe and Sound!

by Seth on January 4, 2010

Arrived in Dubai Safe and Sound

Happy and excited to be flying to Dar es Salaam now! Cannot wait to be in Africa and thank you to our donors who have helped us get to $7,720! so far!


Here We Go

by Ilya on January 2, 2010

It finally hit me as I lay in bed last night.

I woke up from that half dream mode you’re in right before sleep and sat up in the dark. This was the last night I’ll be sleeping in my bed. The next two nights I will spend on an airplane and then, after two plus days of traveling, we will be in Africa.

It’s taken five months to get to this point and now standing in my way between here and Kilimanjaro is the longest travel itineray I’ve ever had.

Two and a half straight days of traveling, 12 time zones, three flights and one 8 hour bus ride are all it takes to get to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Spending the last five months talking about the climb, raising over $5,300 to date, sending countless emails, holding dozens of meetings, selling 100’s of brownies and even auctioning off myself and others to raise money has brought us to this point.

Now we finally start the journey and I can’t wait.

I can’t wait for the sunset and the sunrise, the sounds, the smells, the sights, the surprises and the summit.

I will try my best to post pictures and thoughts from our following three weeks in Tanzania, one of which will be spent volunteering, another is devoted to the climb and we will be going on a safari and volunteering some more.

Before I left I wanted to thank all of the people who’ve made it possible. Instead of embarrassing myself and forgetting someone, I will just say, that if you’ve done anything to help – a word of encouragement, a donation a retweet, a ride to NYC, anything- you’ve helped us more than you know.

As I sit here in my parents living room looking out into the next three weeks, the next semester, the next year, the next decade, one thought keeps going through my head:

This is only the beginning. Wish us luck.


Countdown to Kilimanjaro

by Ilya on December 28, 2009

So here we are, less than one week from our flight to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania next Sunday. I’ve spent the last couple days shopping for sleeping bags, moleskin bandages, balaclavas, gloves, headlamps, and all kinds of drugs, soaps and creams to make sure my climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point and it’s going to take a whole lot more to reach our goal of $100,000 and the Uhuru Peak, but I’m confident that our team has what it takes to get there.

Even if we don’t make it to the top of the mountain we’ve already raised over $3,500 for women living with obstetric fistula thanks to the generous support of our donors. As I sit here in my living room at my parents house in Vancouver, I literally can’t believe that I will be on the other side of the world sitting and writing on the same computer about how things are going in Africa.

It all started with one thought that has turned into an idea, which is now about to become reality. I couldn’t be more proud of our team and more thankful to those who have already expressed their support for the Fistula Free Climb.

Robin Davisson, Dan Dmochowski ,Patricia Fox, Yuna Ha, Hussein Daudali, Kareem Baro Newton Paul, Cindy van Es, Deb Lucchesi, Mary Faber, Patrick Waters, Argelis Alcantara, Melissa McKinstry, Susie Kang, SuBin Yum, Robert Reffkin, Gina Hong, Corean Catholic Community, Sujin Chang, Roman Jacquez, Illika Sahu, Kelly Vasquez, Michelle Felsky, Michelle Ching, Naoko K Suzuki, Matthew Kochman, John Fitzgerald, Suk Kim, Odaly Neophytou, Jason Jagdeo, Vishnu Bezwada, Carolyn Beyes, Steven Rosenthal, Sung Ho Paik, Je Chan Lee, Agnes Kang, Michelle Huang, Edgewater Group, Sacred Heart Divine Mercy, Juan Moreno Rebecca & Gary Yale, Helene Marquis, Kim Polman

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by Ilya on December 18, 2009

Sunset over False Creak

Sunset over False Creek

This morning I went for a run along the False Creek Sea Wall. As I huffed and puffed along the way, one thought kept coming across my mind.

When will it ever be good enough?

I’ve been back home from school for a week now and that seems to be the question of the day. Not having a secure job for next year yet, or at least not having decided what I want to do yet, I get this question at least three times a day it seems.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about not having an “amazing” job or the fact that I’m about to graduate from one of the world’s top universities. In fact, I still wake up every morning and can’t believe how lucky I am; it’s like winning the lottery each time I get out of bed.

That being said, this feeling of not being good enough has been following me for a while now.

When I first moved to Canada at age five, I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have the brand name clothing and know all big words like my classmates did. And so I worked harder on my English.

As I grew older and began swimming competitively, I was not good enough because I didn’t have the provincial time standards that some of my peers already had in multiple events. And so I worked harder in practice.

In high school, I was not good enough because I didn’t have the straight A’s, or mostly A’s, that many of my friends did. So I worked harder in class.

And then, when by some miraculous event, I got into Cornell and started swimming there, I was again not good enough because I didn’t have the Wall Street internship or the prep school background that many of my peers did. And so again, I worked harder and am now about to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for women with obstetric fistula.

And finally, here I am with one semester left, and again, I am not good enough. My mom and grandma think I’ll be good enough when I get that New York City job with a big firm and start cleaning my room on an hourly basis. Strangely, I don’t see either of those things happening anytime soon.

And that’s what it is. That’s what drives me to work harder, to push the limits of what I used to think was possible. The constant struggle to balance satisfaction and unfinished business. The balance between having the confidence to go out there and work your butt of versus the fear of failing over and over again. It’s the climb up that next mountain once we’ve reached the summit we never thought was possible in the first place.

I’m not saying that I’m any different than anyone else. In fact, I’m saying that this is what pushes most of us to strive to new heights, be it in school, sports or business. Not being good enough coupled with the knowledge that we can do something about it is the cold, hard, uncomfortable medicine we human’s need to get us out of bed in the morning and get things done.

The Fistula Free Climbers are eleven people who are about to do just that in order to make sure that women around the world can achieve that balance and no longer live in a world where they are not good enough.

Help support these women today.



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