By: Rachel Cain – Staff Writer
This August, senior mechanical engineering major Eric Oberwise will travel to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the non-profit organization May We Help.
The organization, as described on its website, “connects individuals with specific needs to skilled volunteers who can invent, modify or adapt devices that can free that individual to pursue their passions and improve their quality of life.”
Oberwise said his decision to go on this trip in support of May We Help was influenced by a life-threatening illness he experienced during his junior year of college. He said the experience forced him to recognize “time is short.” He was lying in the hospital when he decided to leave the M.B.A. program he was in and instead to study medicine and engineering.
When he returned to school, he said he started the Biomedical Engineering Society on campus to help promote interest in medicine and engineering. Last semester he started collaborating with May We Help and involved the Biomedical Engineering Society with their projects.
May We Help is a Cincinnati-based non-profit that tackles projects for custom-made devices for “those living with disability who cannot find the right tool or device they may need to perform a task or engage in an activity,” said Chris Kubic, May We Help program director. About 115 volunteers, including Oberwise and the members of the Biomedical Engineering Society, help design, prototype, and build devices that help people with disabilities engage in activities they would not be able to otherwise.
Kubic will accompany Oberwise on the climb.
Kubic hopes the expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro can become a regular event with May We Help. He said it would “be incredible to take someone with a physical difference” who could climb with the help of gear created by May We Help. He said that “would be a perfect picture of the organization.”
Oberwise’s climb, called “Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to Engineer a Better Tomorrow,” should last about five to eight days total. He finalized his plans for the trip during fall 2013. He said he wanted to climb a mountain, something he’s never done before, and said he wanted to do it for charity. Oberwise and Kubic hope their ascent will inspire others to donate to May We Help. Their goal is to raise $20,000, representative of Mount Kilimanjaro’s 20,000 foot tall stature.
“There is no way I’d be climbing a mountain unless I had almost died,” Oberwise said.
Although he has no background in mountain climbing, he said “I gotta live life a little more fully.”
He said he is preparing for the climb by constantly exercising with a Stairmaster and performing other leg exercises, but conquering Mount Kilimanjaro will be a “matter of sheer willpower.”
Oberwise said he hopes others can relate to the cause.
“It’s nice to be able to go there, to do something for people I have no relation to,” he said.
Prior to Oberwise’s climb, he will spend 10 weeks in Malawi, Africa, with the University of Dayton’s ETHOS program.
You can donate to “Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to Engineer a Better Tomorrow” at the link: bit.ly/1cRa5H2.