This article was published in the Redding Record Searchlight on November 6, 2005
Laurie Bagley MOUNT SHASTA — Preachers in pulpits can get this kind of action/reaction, but it’s not really the same. Athletes and humanitarian efforts — Roberto Clemente gave his life for a planeload of medical supplies — open pockets and upend purses.
Laurie Bagley hopes so. The 44-year-old, recently retired adventure racer will leave March 31 for a two-month quest to summit Mt. Everest.
At 29,035 feet in elevation, Everest is the tallest point on earth, the top of the world. It’s a place so lethal that above 25,000 feet is called the “Death Zone” (because at that elevation, the air holds only a third as much oxygen as at sea level).
Then again, there are places in the world just as deadly, and at much lower elevations. Civil war, civil unrest, genocide, starvation, poverty and natural destruction. Enough misery to go around.
The Mount Shasta resident will enter the Death Zone next spring to bring awareness to the plight of the children of Bodhgaya, Bihar State, India. She’ll raise money to clothe, feed and educate India’s untouchables through Privilege Sharing, a 9-year-old nonprofit that has a simple philosophy: “To share one’s privilege is to heal some of the world’s evils, such as poverty, and in sharing privileges one possesses with those in desperate need, comes the greatest reward — happiness.”
“This is bigger than me, bigger than climbing Everest,” Bagley said. “This is about giving children a chance; if we don’t work for these children, no on else will.”
Bagley is a wife, mother, small-business owner and part-time teacher and mountain guide. She leads a comfortable life in an idyllic community, which is why it will be her privilege to share what she can — and to climb for a cause.
“I’ve had the dream to climb Everest since I was 16,” said Bagley, who stokes her tanned arms that are a tangle of sinewy muscle. “I don’t have the climbing background to get invited on one of the big expeditions. But when I retired from adventure racing this year (she’s competed in the Eco-Challenge), I just felt compelled to do it.
“And if I was going to do it, I would do it for something bigger than me.”
Enter Diane Kirwin.
A Mount Shasta resident and retired therapist, Kirwin is a compulsive world traveler. She was in India in 2001 and learned of Privilege Sharing while accompanying a young Frenchman who was helping to feed India’s untouchables (Privilege Sharing prefers “Beloved Poorest”).
“I fell immediately in love with the people — and the work,” Kirwin said with a hint of British accent of her native Bermuda. “There is hope for change. You go and see the faces — they have so much to share, you get the feeling that they’ve helped you more than you’ve helped them.”
Privilege Sharing began its mission in Bodhgaya with one small school on a rooftop; by 2002, there were three makeshift schools and a plot of land was purchased to build a permanent schoolhouse. Fruit trees were planted, and a feeding program was created to distribute food to seven villages.
This year, the goals were simple: give every child at school a nutritious meal; buy blackboards, desks, tables and chairs so the children didn’t have to sit on the floor; hire four teachers; sponsor two children who needed heart surgery and seven children who needed cleft palate surgery.
“It feels really good to educate a child, or to give them a surgery that may save their life,” Kirwin said. “But I can only suggest that people do something, I never just ask.
“I call it awareness-raising.”
Be aware of what Privilege Sharing means in Bodhgaya: $1 can provide a nutritious meal for five children; a pot of rice that feeds 200 people is $4; $15 could give three children a table and bench from which to learn; $50 will pay a teacher’s salary for a month; $350 will sponsor one of those seven children for cleft palate surgery; and $700 will give one of those children their heart procedure, their life.
“In Bermuda, $700 can buy you an expensive handbag,” Kirwin said. “In India, it can buy a child their life.”
“And that’s my purpose here,” Bagley said. “Throwing food at them is just a Band-Aid. Privilege Sharing gives people a reason to help themselves. If the acutely poor can get educated, then they stand a chance. Without education, nothing changes.
“And that’s my goal, to get (Diane) that next piece of land for the next school.”
Bagley, who owns the women’s speed ascent of Mt. Shasta (7,000 vertical feet in 133 minutes), trained for months to climb Alaska’s Denali in July. At 20,320 feet in elevation, it is considered a more technical climb than Everest; a good yardstick for those who want to conquer the top of the world.
“I got what I needed on Denali,” she said. “But Everest is just so different. It’s dangerous. If all the stars line up and I summit, so much the better.
“But the focus here is Diane’s cause.”
For more information on Privilege Sharing, visit Kirwin’s Web page at www.snowcrest.net/ecoshasta/privshar; for more information on Bagley’s Everest climb — or to donate — visit www.climbforthechildren.com.
“It’s a small thing we do when we help,” Kirwin said. “It makes a tiny ripple that turns into a bigger ripple. When others join in — and certainly when Laurie decided to climb — it all feeds into that rippling.
“Think of the privilege we have — then think of the personal fulfillment that comes from sharing it. Powerful, very powerful.”
Copyright 2005, Record Searchlight, Redding. All Rights Reserved.