Inspirational Toronto man takes social media activism to new heights

A man who had his legs amputated below the pelvis at the age of 5 is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and sharing every step he takes via social media.

The steps that Spencer West takes a little bit different from most mountain climbers, because he walks on his hands. West, who was born in Wyoming, but has been living in Toronto for several years, is working with charity Free the Children to bring attention to a devastating drought in Kenya – the worst in East Africa in the last 60 years – that has led to famine suffered by more than 13 million people in the region. His goal, aside from reaching the summit of African’s tallest peak, is to raise $750,000 to bring clean water to drought-stricken communities.

Spencer West on day two of his hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.

An impressive social media communications effort has followed West up the mountain. Currently on day three of planned seven-day climb, the journey is being captured via blog posts, updates to a Facebook page, and Twitter messages.

“Listening to @NellyFurtado ‘Try’ as we drive to the gate where our journey to #RedefinePossible begins,” West writes in a June 12 post.

Getting as close to real-time updates from a remote location isn’t without challenge. A porter travels down the mountain daily to pass on multimedia materials to a team waiting at the bottom of the mountain. Research in Motion donated PlayBook tablets and BlackBerry smartphones to the effort, which are being used to shoot video and connect to the Internet while climbing up the mountain.

Originally told by doctors he’d never be able to even sit up, West is now an inspirational speaker and author of a book published by Me to We, titled Standing Tall: My Journey.

Free the Children is calling for $10 donations to sponsor a step that West takes up the mountain.

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