Brad Diggens, a passionate Operation Eyesight donor, and his daughter Jennifer, who just happens to be one of our talented Philanthropy Officers, were looking for a creative way to raise funds to drill wells in Africa.
What did they come up with? A backpacking trek through the mystical country of Iceland.
It will be a true test of endurance and perseverance. Trekking in the shadows of active volcanoes, with packs that weigh approximately 50 pounds (just under 23 kilograms), with no guide, no cabins, zero comfort, unpredictable weather, gale force winds and legends of man-eating trolls, they are surely in for the adventure of a lifetime!
We sat down with them a couple of weeks ago to learn more about the trip.
OE: So, why Iceland?
Jennifer: Our heritage was calling us! My grandma’s family was from there. We’re so excited!
Brad: That, and we wanted a hike that was difficult and challenging. Most importantly, we wanted something that not many have done, so that we could get people excited about what we’re doing. We were looking at Kilimanjaro or Machu Picchu, but so many others have done those. Plus, we don’t want porters to carry our stuff, which they do on both those treks. If people are going to donate to this cause, we want to be the ones doing the work!
OE: Tell us about your route. How far are you hiking and where?
Jennifer: Well, we’ll start at Landmannalaugar, which is about 180 kilometres east of Reykjavik. From there, we’ll hike to Thórsmörk and finish at Skógar, which is not too far off Iceland’s southern coast. There’s a beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail and we’ll also hike between two volcanoes . One of them is Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in 2010 and disrupted air travel so badly in Europe!
Brad: The whole route is about 76 kilometres long and will take us about seven days – depending on the weather, of course! If we hit rough weather, it’ll be eight or nine days. At night, we have to stay in designated rest areas… you can’t camp anywhere else on the trail. You just have to go until you get to the next one.
OE: What kind of weather are you anticipating?
Jennifer: It’s temperate. The average high is 13°C, which is pretty good for hiking. It can be pretty windy, so we’re hoping that our tent can hold up! It’s a lightweight, three-season backpacking tent and our sleeping bags are good to – 8°C, so we should be comfortable.
OE: What are you doing to prepare?
Brad: My youngest daughter Samantha and I hiked the West Coast Trail in British Columbia last year. Jennifer and I did an overnight hike to test out our gear on the May long weekend, and we’re planning a three-day hike in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in BC at the end of June. We have to make sure that we’ll still love each other after three days!
OE: And last, but not least, why Operation Eyesight?
Brad: Well, in the more than two decades my company MJS Mechanical has been in business, we’ve seen the value of water. And when Jennifer started working at Operation Eyesight, we really learned the difference clean water can make. Clean water not only helps get rid of the terribly painful disease of trachoma, but it saves countless lives and provide thousands of people with hope for a brighter future. What more can I say?!
To support Brad and Jennifer’s Hike for Life, visit their fundraising page at http://operationeyesight.akaraisin.com/youchoose/hikeforlife. And stay tuned for an update after their three-day hike in June!