On the Cover:
Gareth Jason Leah:
Escalando Fronteras -
Climbers Making A Difference
Cover Date: July 3rd, 2015
Writer, Marketing Consultant, Producer
An amazing non-profit was brought to our attention by Alex Honnold during a recent interview with him. We connected with this really worthwhile and noble cause had the chance to ask climber and Program Developer, Gareth Jason Leah, (an accomplished climber himself) about Escalando Fronteras – Climbing Borders, a nonprofit in Mexico that is working to help at-risk youth find a safer, empowering future through the art of climbing. In Spanish, Escalando Fronteras means climbing borders.
Editor: Thanks for speaking with us, Gareth. We appreciate your valuable time.
Gareth Jason Leah: No, thank you. It’s fantastic to know that there are people out there who see the value in our work at EF.
Editor: That's kind of you to say. How and when did you get involved with Escalando Fronteras?
Gareth Jason Leah: I became involved with EF in November, 2014. I had been living in NY for four years and during that time, my life had gone through a number of dramatic changes. I had moved house twice, I had spent most of my savings on vet bills when my dog came down with kidney failure, my grandma had passed away and to top it all off, I was getting divorced.
Feeling empty and fearing that I was working for little more than a pay check, I began searching for an opportunity to bring some meaningful significance into to my life.
A friend told me about EF and I immediately felt a connection with this project. After a brief Skype call with Rory Smith (Co-Founder), my mind was made up, I began putting together “Project Wall-E” and planning my work resignation.
Editor: Sounds like an incredible journey.
Can you describe for us as to what is it like being in that area (La Huasteca Park)?
Gareth Jason Leah: Huasteca is a magical place and not just for its climbing. The Huichol people believe its the centre of the universe and the canyon itself is ginormous, lined back to back with virgin big walls.
As soon as you enter the park, you are greeted by the mind boggling view of Pico Independencia, a stunning 350m limestone cliff with a distinct cave at its base named “Cueva De Virgin” or “Cave of the Virgin”. Venturing further back into the park delivers yet more incredible views as the canyon widens and the Sierra Madre mountain range rises in front of you.
Being that the canyon’s located directly on the outskirts of the city, you’d think it would be well known but no one really gives it much attention, not even the locals.
Editor: Sounds fantastic! What is it like seeing the faces of the young kids as they experience climbing? It must be so moving and thrilling!
Is this the first time some of them have ever climbed?
Gareth Jason Leah: Climbing is always a new experience for the kids, I don’t think any of them ever imagined they’d be rock climbing. I’m not even sure they truly know what rock climbing is until they come for their first day out.
I personally get a huge amount of fulfillment from my time with Escalando Fronteras. We’re like an ever growing family and when one of us achieves a goal, we all experience the accomplishment.
Editor: Brilliant. These brave, young climbers are trying to survive in a notoriously dangerous area: Lomas Modelo is a gang-infested neighborhood. Indeed, life must be extremely dangerous for them, and the terrible violence in their neighborhood must affect them emotionally (after all, their families live there, too).
This is the only non-profit I know of that is helping to erase the negativity there via climbing. Your thoughts?
Gareth Jason Leah: The neighborhoods can be pretty unpleasant places, especially at night. With no disposable income, the kids often turn to affordable drink and drugs for entertainment and the violence comes hand-in-hand. To tackle this, our major goal for 2015/2016 is to build a small climbing gym near their neighborhood that will act as a recreation centre, giving the kids a positive environment in which to grow and learn.
To my knowledge we’re the only NGO in Monterrey utilizing climbing as a way to tackle the effects of poverty, but there are others charities out there that are doing great work with climbing as the medium.
(Readers: Check out these amazing images of mountains in Mexico...they’re truly beautiful.) http://www.parquelahuasteca.com/
Editor: What drives you, personally, to be a part of Escalando Fronteras?
What does your work with these young warriors give you emotionally?
Gareth Jason Leah: My connection with Escalando Fronteras is a personal one that requires a little back story.
I grew up in a small industrial town called Ellesmere Port in the UK, I had a misspent youth that lacked both ambition and direction.
Raised by a single mum and living in poverty, I would be constantly caught up in petty crime and mixing with the wrong crowds. Violence was an regular occurrence whether it was being attacked in the street by random thugs or watching my mum being beaten by my crazed step dad. I had a dark view of the world and resented what it could offer me.
When I first discovered rock climbing in my early twenties, I was a lost soul floating through life without direction.
Climbing changed everything for me.
For the first time I had found something that I loved and looked forward to. It allowed me to view the world through a different lens, one in which I gained a fresh perspective of what this life could hold and the unbound opportunities out there if only I could realize my own potential.
When I heard about Escalando Fronteras, I could relate to the struggles these kids are experiencing felt compelled to be involved somehow and share this same lens I was lucky enough to stumble upon, with others that could benefit.
Editor: That is truly inspiration, Gareth. Thanks for sharing your story, as it will resonate with many readers.
What is your advice/message to the brave, young climbers in Monterrey, Mexico?
And what can the good people reading this interview right now, do to help them?
Gareth Jason Leah: As cliche as it may sound, I would encourage the kids to dream big and to realize that they are capable of doing anything they apply themselves to. Whether that's becoming a lawyer, going to college or climbing out of poverty, people are limited only by their perception of what possible is.
How to help… There are so many ways to help us!
Other than the obvious financial help which is hugely beneficial to achieving our dreams (Kindly donate here), we run purely on volunteers and we would LOVE to have others join us. You might be surprised to know you needn’t come to Mexico to do it either (although that is an option and I recommend seeing this awesome place!).
If you possess skills which could help us continue to grow and further reach out to these kids, we want to hear from you! Whether your a graphic designer, tax accountant or circus performer. There is always a way to positively contribute towards our cause.
Editor: Thank you for your insights, Gareth. It was an honor to learn about such a noble cause.
Gareth Jason Leah: Thank you, it’s been my pleasure to share it with you.
Support the courageous young climbers of Escalando Fronteras.
Anthem: “We are Escalando Fronteras/Climbing Borders. We use climbing to empower and build the skills of at-risk youth in underdeveloped areas around the world.”
Learn what the young climbers' are facing and how you can help:
Escalando Fronteras' official website
Gareth Jason Leah: I’ll be running a festival called “Adventure For Good” at the Boulder Adventure Lodge on October 17th, 2015 to raise funds for EF. The money will go towards building the new gym / community centre.
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Administrator of the Facebook Page 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
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