News Canada Inc.
Member, TEC 220
To say that Ruth Douglas is an accomplished woman would be an understatement.
A longtime TEC member, Douglas has achieved great success in her role of Publisher at News Canada. She has made the list of Profit Magazine’s Top 100 businesses run by women in Canada for seven years now (she is ranked # 56 this year). As well, she sits on the Board of the Renascent Foundation and is the very proud mother of two.
Now at the age of 57, Douglas has found another mountain to climb in life. Literally.
In January 2011, Douglas and 20 other Canadian women, a team she personally assembled, are raising money to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.
“Mostly when women get into their fifties and they’ve raised their children and built their business, they want to do something else. They’re looking to give back,” says Douglas of her charitable expedition.
The goal: the women will be climbing “Kili”, as Douglas refers to it as, in hopes of raising $200,000 towards the building of a women’s leadership centre in Karen – a small village on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.
“This is a centre where African women leaders can come together, much like we do at TEC, where they support one another,” she explains, describing that similar to business leaders in Canada, African women, when in a leadership role, can feel isolated and alone.
More importantly, she notes that the development of strong female leaders in Africa is essential in conquering major social and political issues that have plagued the continent for so many years.
“There’s a lot of corruption at the leadership level and that’s why Africa is the way it is. The women who are becoming leaders – and there are many who are becoming leaders – are really making the changes and turning things around because they have a fresh and different approach to leadership, much like we do here in Canada.
“What I wanted to do is to uplift women leaders because they are the change agents of Africa. They have the passion. They hear their babies crying. They want a better life for their children. They have the burning desire to make change. And they realize that leadership is what is going to make that change.”
That’s where the centre comes in. Quite simply, it will be a place for women to gain support as they develop their leadership abilities, built similarly on the fundamental principles of TEC.
“We’re going to be providing them lots of tools and training them with everything from communication to presentation skills – all kinds of things that are going to build their confidence.”
The Women’s Leadership Centre, true to its title, will be everything women, even down to its architect who is a local Kenyan lady. She will be on hand, along with other community members, as well as Douglas and crew for the centre’s groundbreaking ceremony. It promises to be an affair filled with traditional Kenyan song and dance.
“It’s something they love to do,” she explains, understandably excited about the ceremony that will take place a mere two days before her ascent up the mammoth Kilimanjaro.
Training for the climb since August, Douglas has been rigorously hiking four to five hours a week, getting into tiptop shape.
“The philosophy that we have as a group is that this is a once in a lifetime experience and we want to enjoy it so we’re going to do whatever we can,” she says, admitting that physical preparation is paramount to a successful climb.
So, she notes, is their gear.
“We’ve been doing the shopping and breaking in our hiking boots. We’re going through five ecosystems. When we start out its going to be tropical and we’ll have our shorts on and by the seventh day we’ll have our down jackets and goggles on.”
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will mark the third trip to Africa for Douglas since 2007. Every two years, with the help of her sister who works as a missionary there, she brings 20 women to help with aid work. In the past she has spent time volunteering in the slums of Nairobi.
To sum up her African experiences thus far, Douglas’ passion for making a difference is plainly obvious, rationalizing her work in one simple quote:
“You have not lived a perfect day…unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
If you are interested in supporting Ruth Douglas’ climb up Mount Kilimanjaro and the Women’s Leadership Centre in Karen, Kenya, visit:
Charitable Tax Receipts will be given for all donations.