Urban Uprising - A Charity Profile

© Urban Uprising

Climbing as a discipline offers plentiful metaphors for tackling life's obstacles - bravery, courage, climbing to success and overcoming adversity are just some of the words and phrases seized by corporations and thrown around by the media, often bearing a superficial, patronising or clichéd undertone.

However, one charity which recognises the benefits which climbing can bring to people's lives in the long-term is the newly-founded, Edinburgh-based charity Urban Uprising. Without promising to resolve the world's poverty issues or to stop crime for good, Urban Uprising's Director Stuart Green speaks of a desire to provide opportunities to underpriviledged young people - to give them the equipment to independently climb their way out of their situation, without relying on an exterior financial framework. In other words, to equip young people with the life skills which could improve their future opportunities and circumstances in a self-sustaining manner. We asked Stuart some questions to find out more about Urban Uprising.

1. In your own words, what is Urban Uprising?
Put simply, we are a brand new UK based charity that supports and runs projects that get children from disadvantaged backgrounds outdoors climbing. These children wouldn’t otherwise have this opportunity.

2. What inspired you to start the charity?
I’m lucky enough to travel regularly to Rio with my work and get out climbing. I met Andrew Lenz, a local guide, whilst climbing the iconic Sugarloaf mountain and he had founded a climbing school called Centro De Escaladas Urbanas ( Central Urban Climbing School, CEU ). They take children from Rocinha Favela ( shanty town ) out climbing, hiking and run structured courses. It was clear to me that by setting up a UK fundraising wing for the school, that I could make a big difference in supporting them. As it happens the charity has become much bigger than we at first envisaged with projects now planned in the UK.
A young boy involved in Urban Uprising's work in Rio  © UKC Articles
A young boy involved in Urban Uprising's work in Rio

3. Why climbing?

Climbing is the hook that helps us to provide education and leadership to empower these street-smart, enthusiastic young people to reach past the boundaries of the favelas and carve their own paths. Along the way they will improve their self-esteem, social skills, employability, environmental awareness and be able to take amazing stories back to their friends.

4. Outside of the work in Rio are there any similar projects in the UK that Urban Uprising is funding?
There has been a lot of interest in us since we launched and it’s become clear that there is lots of potential for similar projects UK wide. Inner city areas with a lack of opportunity are sadly commonplace. 
A lot of work has already been done by The Glasgow Climbing Academy to get involved with the community in a positive way in Dumbarton. We’re building on that work with the TCA and involving the Mountain Club of Scotland to open up a project in Dumbarton next year. We’ve just managed to secure funding for this. Like the project in Rio, this has an emphasis on getting children out onto real rock as much as the weather permits and indoors when it rains. Less of a problem in Rio than in Glasgow! It's important to note that we are not imposing an outside solution on another culture - we are supporting what's already there in a sustainable manner.
5. Have you already seen any positive impact from involvement with the scheme?
Firstly, we’ve been really encouraged by the positivity from within the climbing community here in the UK. I think probably helped a great deal by the success of CAC ( Climbers Against Cancer ), climbers now feel more socially engaged and that they can make a real impact and they’re right. 
Apart from generating a significant amount of funding for the day to day running of the project, we’ve delivered a significant amount of climbing equipment to the project in Rio; ropes, helmets, harnesses, shoes, belay devices, chalk bags and so on. We give the children their own equipment, shoes, harness and chalk bag. As well as ownership and being trusted with this, it gives them a real sense of pride. 
A young climber high above Rio de Janeiro
© Stuart Green

6. What would you say is the easiest way for people who want to help, but don't want to commit to a monthly payment?
There are several ways. People organising events for us can make a really big difference. We’ve had many people getting quite creative with sponsored runs, cycles, head shavings (!) and there is even a climbers club night planned! 
You can also buy one of our T-Shirts which are specially designed for us by CRIMP clothing. All proceeds from these go towards funding our projects and we are entirely run by volunteers, so you’re not paying for any staff or hidden costs. 

7. Every t-shirt sold sponsors a trip outside for one child to climb, what sort of activities will they do?
For the younger children this means getting out top roping and getting a feel for the outdoors, the sport and the sense of adventure and fun that we as climbers take for granted. The older children once they’re hooked, also benefit from more structured courses. These involve classroom work as well as outdoor exercises and take them from basic top roping skills through to more advanced skills such as leading, self rescue and multi pitch. 

8. Have you seen any changes in the local community in Rio since you've started the work with your charity?
Football and surfing are popular and obvious choices for the children but climbing is less well understood despite Brazil having a long and proud climbing history. We’re helping to change that as we think that climbing has a unique blend of ingredients to help children. It’s an innovative approach which is good for their confidence, focus, self esteem, general mental and physical well being as well as trust. CEU have been running this program now in Rocinha favela for a few years and Andrew Lenz, the founder has worked really very hard at getting the school to be part of the community. It has given the children another option. 
In terms of change, it’s a subtle thing but the feedback we receive from the children is very positive. The scheme certainly makes sense and will have a lasting effect on the children who experience it.
The community itself has changed significantly. A few years ago, it was too dangerous to climb on the famous Dois Irmaos ( Two Brothers ) mountain which overlooks Rocinha as the Amigos dos Amigos, ( friends of friends ) ADA drug gang were likely to meet you there. Things are improving now though and the latest climb to be put up is called ADA, Amigos dos Alpinistas!
CEU team instructors and Daila Ojeda with some of the young people from the Favela  © Urban Uprising
CEU team instructors and Daila Ojeda with some of the young people from the Favela
© Urban Uprising
9. What are the biggest challenges these kids face, and how do you feel climbing benefits the children in deprived areas?

Popular media is very keen to focus on crime and the drug gangs in these favelas. Whilst they are certainly a factor, the full story is much more subtle. All the children that are at the school there are 'at risk' as they are being raised in excluded and impoverished conditions. They experience poor sanitation, social stigmatisation because of where they live, poor diet and so forth. This exposes them to lots of disadvantages that other children outside of the favelas don’t have to face. We are helping their self-esteem, health and environmental awareness, teaching them about responsibility, accountability and creating a safe, fun and positive atmosphere for them. 

At the end of a session they are almost glowing with pride and it certainly gives them a ‘can do’ attitude, a much needed kick in their step. When they get to the top of a climb and they have never seen their own city from that angle before, that is something special. Whilst many may not end up climbing in the long run, we're hoping they can take this increased focus and confidence into other aspects of their lives.

10. How can people find out more about Urban Uprising, and are there any events you're planning you can tell us about?
We’re active on social media and our web address is 
We’re sponsoring two competitions in the near future. One at the Glasgow TCA and another at Alien Rock. Details are on their sites as well as on our Facebook page.
We’re also planning an URBANtalks event for early next year and are currently launching an Urban Uprising Ambassador Program. Watch this space!
Watch a video featuring Urban Uprising's work and objectives below: 

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24 Oct, 2014
Great article Natalie. Thanks! The link to Urban Uprising's Facebook is : and they can be found on Twitter @urbanuprisinguk Cheers, Stuart
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