2nd July 2011

Challenging themselves for the benefit of others

brian wilkie


Dubai: Just over 11 years ago, Brian Wilkie and Paul Oliver spent a year organising a fundraising climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to buy an ambulance for a poor community in Namibia.

Two groups of 49 people attempted the climb in July 2001, with 44 from the mixed-ability groups reaching the summit.

The group raised so much money they were able to buy four ambulances: they sent one to Malawi, one to Tanzania and two to Namibia. "As it had gone so successfully, we decided to keep the whole thing going permanently and that's how Gulf 4 Good was born," Brian Wilkie, founder and chairman, told Gulf News.

Wilkie had already run a marathon at that time, but described reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro as "probably the toughest thing I'd done…it was as much mental as physical."

The Dubai-based charity has now organised 33 challenges in 19 countries, with more than 720 volunteers. "We never dreamed it would be as successful as this," Wilkie said.

Gulf 4 Good (G4G) aims to take on four challenges a year, but in 2012 five challenges have been arranged.

They range from cycling across the seven emirates to trekking to the Everest base camp or walking through the wilds of Borneo. Money raised goes to charities in the same location as the challenge.

A decade on, more than Dh6 million has been raised for children who lack access to education, sanitation and basic facilities.

"The great thing is that out of those 700-plus volunteers, a lot of people said it has changed their lives — doing something that they never thought they could do," Wilkie said.

Three of the charity's governors, he said, are ex-challengers. One challenger has even completed eight challenges and has vowed to complete one a year.