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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
September 25, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Lea Caragata is giving back on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Faculty of Social Work Professor Lea Caragata is giving back to the population that has made her academic research possible.

For the past 10 years Lea has been conducting research with single mothers on social assistance. Among a number of research initiatives funded through her SSHRC CURA grant was a longitudinal panel that interviewed about 120 women over a five-year period. While Lea was looking at how these women were caught between work-for-welfare programs and a precarious labour market, another trend began to emerge: Abuse is a major factor in the lives of these women, with about 70% disclosing physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. These are important new findings that help to explain single momsí reliance on welfare.

Recently, Leaís attention was caught by some information about Outward Boundís Women of Courage program. Women of Courage is an eight-day wilderness program designed to help women who have been abused with the healing process. "The program", said Lea, "is extraordinary in helping women regain their autonomy and self-confidence." The program provides subsidies for women to participate and the demand for the program far outstrips Outward Bounds funding for it.

This January, Lea and 11 other participants will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise over $60,000 for the Women of Courage program. In seven days, Leaís 55 km trek up the mountain will take her on a climb of more than 18,000 feet. "I'm putting my commitment to these women on the line so that five or 10 of them can have an Outward Bound experience", said Lea. "My academic career has benefitted from these women who have been willing to tell me their stories. This is my small way of giving back."

Lea is looking forward to the challenge ahead of her. She's preparing physically and while she'll be in the best shape of her life, she's concerned that it may not be enough. The climb itself will be demanding and it's impossible to predict who will be affected by the oxygen loss at such a high altitude.

Each climber is required to raise $5,000; Lea is determined to raise $10,000. All money donated goes directly to fund womenís participation in the Women of Courage program. If you'd like to help Lea in her fundraising efforts, visit the Canada Helps website. Under Fund/Designation select Kilimanjaro fundraiser for Women of Courage from the dropdown menu. In the Message/Instructions box indicate that your donation is in support of Lea Caragata. All donations are tax deductible. You can also email Lea at for more information.

Watch for an update on Lea's journey in the next edition of Connections!