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‘Ecuador Challenge for Shelter’ raises $1.7 million for women’s shelters and domestic violence prevention

Last year, 115 Royal LePage professionals across the country signed up for the company’s biannual Challenge for Shelter trekking fundraiser. Ecuador Challenge for Shelter took place this past November to support local women’s shelters and national domestic violence prevention programs.

The challenge involved camping in tents at high altitudes (with no cell service) for four chilly nights. The group hiked for five days in the Andes Mountains, to the base of Mt. Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes.

 

$1.7 million raised for women’s shelters and domestic violence prevention programs

 

Each participant covered their personal trek and travel costs and raised at least $6,000 for the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation. In the end, the fundraisers collected $1.7 million for the cause — a new record for the most money raised by a single Shelter Foundation event.

To date, $4.7 million has been raised through the Challenge for Shelter campaigns. 

The funds will be split between each trekker’s local women’s shelter and community programs across Canada that teach youth how to build healthy relationships and avoid violence. As well, the team donated to the women’s shelter in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, to show both appreciation for the trek’s host country and solidarity that women everywhere deserve to be safe. 

“We are in awe of the flood of donations received in support of the Ecuador Challenge for Shelter, having never imagined that this year’s group of trekkers would achieve such incredible fundraising success,” Carly Neill, fundraising and communications manager with the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, says, “At the same time, it’s sobering because we know that these donations come in response to the overwhelming need of our local women’s shelters which continue to see troubling rates of intimate partner violence.”

“On average, a woman in Canada is killed by her current or former partner every six days,” adds Lisa Gibbs, executive director of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation. “Since June 2023, over 60 Canadian municipalities have declared intimate partner violence an epidemic. While the issue is complex, as Royal LePagers we understand instinctively that home should be a safe place for everyone and our resolve to be part of the solution has never been stronger.” 

 

Learning about the issues and bravely sharing stories

 

Each day, trekkers paused on the trail to read aloud an account of intimate partner violence. The accounts were written by fellow trekkers sharing their stories.

“It was heart-wrenching to hear the pain and suffering that these women have had to endure,” recalls trekker Jennifer Robb with Royal LePage State Realty in Hamilton, Ontario. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the group during the reading of the letters and, for many, this may have been the most challenging element of the trek. But, through the sadness, we all drew strength from the resilience of women who have faced domestic abuse and the families of those who have been lost to this senseless violence.”

 

“Unplugged, walking and talking hour after hour, people would bare their souls to each other”

 

During steep climbs and treacherous passes, facing their most physically and emotionally demanding moments, trekkers relied on one another and their guides.

Photo credit: Nicole Hacault

 

“Sharing extreme physical and mental stress has a way of creating life-long friendships,” Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, points out. “I watched the bonds grow between complete strangers as they struggled up the steep mountain trails side-by-side, before collapsing, exhausted into crowded tents at night. It is rare in our busy lives that we spend so many days in the wilderness. Unplugged, walking and talking hour after hour, people would bare their souls to each other.”

Steve Nabuurs of Royal LePage Prince Edward Realty recalls, “As a group, we laughed, we cried, we froze, we sweat, we were soaked and pelted by rain and hail. We were sunburnt, scratched, bumped, bruised and more. But through it all, we persevered. This experience has had a profound effect on me physically and emotionally and provided a sense of clarity that I’ve never experienced.”

 

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