17 summits. 17 honorees. 36 hours. Join me as I Climb for Justice with 29zero29.
raised by 59 people
Three Things I Learned Because of #29029
Thing one. With a “why” anything is possible.
I accepted the 29029 challenge to honor 17 fierce advocates around the world working for justice. I chronicled each of their stories here. They are the reason I founded Accountability Counsel 9 years ago and continue to be inspired everyday. I taped their names to my arms as I climbed each summit and shared their stories with many of you as we climbed together. When it was whipping wind, and then freezing, and our feet plunged into water, I told the stories of people who have:
endured brutal physical attacks by paramilitaries and still choose to vocally defend rights of local indigenous communities facing abuse from foreign corporations (Alfred);
a farmer who lost everything he and his family had to a land grab when his farmland was taken for a sweatshop, and despite his own new and dire poverty, organized into a collective with other former-farmers to demand their rights (Castin); and
a woman who endures slave-like conditions as she picks tea leaves without protection from pesticides, while suffering from malnutrition, and who has seen relatives die in childbirth without medical care, but who is demanding justice despite retaliation (Mary).
These are people who, despite waking up every day in the most challenging of circumstances, are standing up for justice for themselves and for those around them in the face of abuses financed from abroad. We all have to be fierce in our dedication to match theirs as we at Accountability Counsel work hand-in-hand with these people as the lawyers, policy advocates, and researchers advancing their struggles.
And with that inspiration to push me up Stratton mountain, we ascended again and again. It didn't matter that we were cold or the mountain was muddy and steep. We did it together.
Thing two. Personal transformation can happen when you least expect it.
When my cousin Lisa Fields told me about 29029 after doing it last year, we immediately thought it could be a great way to honor our work at Accountability Counsel that she too supports. But what she already knew, and I had to learn for myself, was that the challenge would also deeply transform me personally.
I’m a lot of things: a mother of three small kids, wife to my hero of a husband, a lawyer, a social entrepreneur, an executive director, an advocate for justice, a sometimes-singer with my vocal trio of 25 years, but until this weekend, I would never have mentioned athlete. The mother and social entrepreneur parts had, perhaps necessarily, buried the athlete years ago. I surfaced that side of me in the months before this event, but it wasn’t until sobbing at the top of that 17th ascent, after grinning and practically running the whole way up, that I realized it had happened. I’m back to a physical self that was buried by 3 months of bed-rest with my twins in 2014 and recovery from a traumatic birth, then back to an insanely busy work and travel schedule. I put in some WORK running the hills and stairs of San Francisco to get ready for 29029, and I loved every minute of it. It feels empowering, invigorating, and FUN to be back. It wouldn’t have happened without Lisa’s belief and ideas, Jesse Itzler and the incredible team that put 29029 together, and my family and staff that supported my training these many months.
Thing three. I found a new community.
From that first lap with our beautiful, almost magical line of headlamps in the dark, I started to meet this incredible group. I had great climbs with Lisa, Jim, and Lin (travel companions who started me off), Matt and Chris from Portland (when you lose a glove in the porta potty, use a sock!); Lindsay, Pat, and Meg from Pennsylvania (sources of amazing energy and joy!); Roger and Gibby from Massachusetts (I learned so much from them both); Diane from Atlanta (a determined woman); Brendan, Blair, and Kat from Ohio (fastest lap for sure and I learned a lot about grape growing equipment!); Saint from Boston (who has a dear friend in common); Scott and DJ from California (repeat lap buddies); Matt “Bro” Davis from Atlanta (final ascent buddy); Francois (gondola friend); Eddie (who also has 4 year old twins); Colin and Joe (of world fame!); and so many more. Those experiences of mutual support, inspiration, and euphoria (dancing at the final aid station!) will stick with me.
As we’ve raised the profile of these honorees – all 17 of them – we are raising money to keep doing this challenging work in the future. As of today, we have $89,300 left to raise to meet our goal. We can get there! I deeply appreciate any donation you could make through a contribution here to support Accountability Counsel’s mission and team. Our community is changing the world, and you all doing it with us make us stronger together.
I have accepted 29029’s challenge to climb 29,029 vertical feet, the equivalent of Mt. Everest, in 36 hours by summiting a mountain in Vermont 17 times from October 11-14. Motivated by the challenge’s 17 laps, I am dedicating my climb to 17 audacious people who inspire Accountability Counsel’s work. With each step, I will elevate the voices of communities around the world to defend their human rights and environment in places like the Mongolian South Gobi, the mountains of Nepal, and rural Haiti. Please join us to raise $10,000 to support Accountability Counsel’s audacious work!
My Cause: Accountability Counsel
I founded Accountability Counsel in 2009 out of the conviction that all people deserve dignity. We are a 14-person legal organization that supports communities around the world defending their human rights and environment. Our methods ensure that women, children, and other marginalized people are included as full participants in community strategies seeking accountability. We’ve worked with indigenous communities fighting for clean water in rural Mexico, nomadic herders in the South Gobi, Mongolia defending their livelihoods for future generations, and fisherfolk in Lamu, Kenya standing up to protect their environment. These communities – and the 40 others we’ve worked with in all world regions – are my inspiration as I complete this challenge.
We are grateful for your solidarity that supports Accountability Counsel. Your tax-deductible gift to the Climbing for Justice campaign will be used to support Accountability Counsel's entire mission. All contributions will be processed immediately and are not contingent upon Natalie's completion of the 29zero29 challenge.
1. Milostène Castin, Haitian farmer leading collective for justice
2. Gloria Molina, Colombian advocate defending her community
3. Alfred Brownell, Liberian leader of Green Advocates, human rights defender
4. Vladlena Martsynkevych, advocate challenging corporate abuse in Ukraine
5. Battsengel Lkhamdoorov, Mongolian nomadic herder defending his culture
6. Shankar Limbu, coordinator of Lawyers Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous People (LAHURNIP)
7. Mary Tanti*, a young tea plantation worker challenging abuse she suffers in India (*pseudonym to protect identity)
8. Gabino Vicente, defending rights of his Indigenous community in Mexico
9. Abubakar Mohamed Ali, Chairman of Save Lamu, a Kenyan organization defending local rights
10. Lily La Torre, Peruvian Indigenous rights activist and lawyer
11. Sarah Monopoloh, Liberian challenging gender-based violence
12. Dmitry Lisitsyn, Russian environmental activist challenging abuse from oil companies
13. Eddie Tanago Paine, Activist from Papua New Guinea, defending community rights
14. Stephanie Amoako, AC’s Policy Advocate, shifting global systems toward justice
15. Samer Araabi, AC’s Research Director, exposing patterns through data
16. Siddharth Akali, AC’s South Asia Consultant, working as a community partner
17. Caitlin Daniel, AC’s Attorney accompanying communities from Mongolia to Nepal
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