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Together, they’ll move mountains

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The metaphor of life as a mountain is as old as time, but for Ange-Gabriel student, Scott Pardoel-Gibson, it will soon be a reality when he joins five other Ottawa-area teens ( both Anglo-phone and Francophone), on the Garnier Finding Life Expedition to Africa, a challenging three-week relief project to Kenya, that will pair the Canadian teens with their Kenyan counterparts for a working visit to the village of Solio, and later to climb Mount Kenya, the second-highest peak on the continent, all of this will be recorded for broadcast by the charity and as a television documentary.
In order to qualify for the expedition, students were asked to write a 1,000-word essay about why they wanted to go on the trip and a 100-word essay about the Finding Life program. Students were also asked to upload a video promoting Finding Life on Facebook and to prove their fitness and comfort levels for the 17,057 ft climb.
"When I heard about the project, I immediately wanted to be a part of it, but I never expected to be doing anything like this, especially at this age,” said Pardoel-Gibson, who recently turned 18 but applied for the trip as an eligible 17-year-old.
"Seeing some of the pictures of the kids in Solio who don’t have anything, who live in tents, is really intense and it just made me want to do something and make a difference in any way that I could.”
According to Finding Life Founder, Ottawa film-maker, Elia Saikaly, who will also lead the expedition, it is that passion, among other qualities, that prompted him and the Finding Life  team to choose Gibson out of the 54 area applicants, including three from Ange-Gabriel.
“One of main reasons that we chose Scott, first of all, he’s a gymnast, so he’s very  fit,” began Saikaly.
“He’s also a very dedicated and committed kid. When you watch him work you can almost look ahead and see how he’s going to perform in a high altitude environment like Mount Kenya. In stressful situations like that we either snap or we shine, and you can just look at the commitment in his eyes and know that Scott will shine.”
Perhaps, suggested Ange-Gabriel instructor Natasha Boudreau, who is also the school's contact with the Finding Life organization, the same could be said about Saikaly himself.
“It is amazing what Elia has done, and how he is making a difference in the world, and for our students, it’s not only what he’s doing, but how he started doing it that sends an important message about what ‘finding life’, is really about and that’s where Elia’s story comes into play.”
Boudreau continued that Saikaly founded the organization after being introduced to a man who would eventually become his mentor, 63 year-old Dr. Sean Eagan, a professor of human kinetics at the University of Ottawa, and self-proclaimed ‘fitness and wellness nut’, requested  Saikaly to document his attempt to become the oldest Canadian to summit the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
As a former, actor/model and MuchMusic reporter, Saikaly, who had since become a film-maker,  had never climbed a mountain and admittedly, ‘didn’t even know where Mount Everest was’,   but was struck by Egan’s ‘As-Astra or Aim High’ spirit, and ‘jumped at the chance’ to work on the project, which turned out to be a life-altering experience for Saikaly.
Egan had been suffering with an infection and attempted to make his way to lower altitudes, to recover, but unfortunately succumbed to illness and passed away before reaching the summit.
For Saikaly, that day, April 29th, 2005, forged an unbreakable bond between man, mentor and mountain, one that gave birth to uncommon dreams and direction to a ‘struggling spirit’.
Moved by Egan’s untimely death, Saikaly found himself reviewing his past and questioning his own life, he then sold his possessions and trained for months before embarking on his own journey to 29, 035 feet above sea level. Saikaly documented this journey in a stunning and heart-breaking documentary entitled, ‘Finding Life’.
Touched by the poverty and struggles faced by those residing in the surrounding communities, Saikaly founded FindingLife, a not-for-profit organization that combines adventure, education, technology, film and charitable initiatives to inspire others to ‘find meaningful life’ and spark positive world change.
It is those principles, Boudreau said, that match the values espoused at the Catholic school, and has committed it to the project for the future.
Boudreau continued, adding that Ange-Gabriel is currently in the midst of an ongoing effort to raise $5,000, to be donated to Moving Mountains Trust, a not-for-profit that aims to foster growth and reduce poverty, primarily by providing aid for the relief of hardship and inequality for children and adults through education and vocational training, medical treatment, sport and employment.
“What we’re really proud of is that everything we raise will go towards the project we’re supporting through Moving Mountains, which is the construction of a classroom in a school in Solio, Normally the kids would have to fundraise to go on the trip but this time, they don’t have to, they go for free.”
Those interested in following Pardoel's journey can do so by visiting The entire trip will be available for public viewing at an event, which will be held at Ange-Gabriel this fall.
In the meantime, Ange-Gabriel will continue to fundraise, and are currently selling Expedition T-shirts of all sizes are also available for $15 apiece and may be ordered at (613)-345-5914.


+1 # Natasha 2021-03-17 19:19
Check out for more information on the expedition!
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