Kenna Zemedkun, known professionally as Kenna, is an Ethiopian-American musician, philanthropist and technology creative. Kenna is also the founder and producer of the Summit on the Summit clean water initiative. 

When Kenna learned about how the global water crisis was affecting his family’s home village in Ethiopia, he decided to create the SUMMIT ON THE SUMMIT project, which had him and a group of friends climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on January 7, 2010 to bring attention to the water crisis. Kenna’s climb took him to 18,200 feet before he fell ill from taking a sulfur-based altitude medicine, to which he had an unknown allergy. 

A song called “Turn” was made available as a free download and proceeds from the sales of the track were donated to his SUMMIT ON THE SUMMIT project.  

Speaking about his reason for the climb and visiting his birth country for the first time following the climb, in an interview with Mutineer Magazine he is quoted as saying “The main reason I even came to doing it for the cause was because my dad had come to me and said he was going to dig a well in Ethiopia. I didn’t understand why he was going to do that and I had no real idea about the global water crisis. He continued to explain that he had contracted a waterborne disease when he was a child and had lived ten years with that kind of illness; ten-fifteen years with the illnesses that came along with that. He had lost his best friend as a child and even worse he had lost a brother to it, my uncle. I started studying water just trying to figure out what that was because I felt like I was a bad son, a bad kid, not knowing what my dad had endured for me to actually be in America, living my dreams, making music, you know…pursuing the world and having the life that I have. All those things were given to me basically on a silver platter in comparison to what my dad had to endure you know. I was blessed enough to be able to go to Ethiopia with my dad right after the climb. He flew into Ethiopia and he took me to where he was born and I had never seen it. 

He showed me the watering hole that he drank from which was brown and muddy and had animals drinking from it. He told me how he would just cup his hands and drink from it. 

This countryside was gorgeous, the trees were magnificent, the sun was bursting through the clouds like God was there with these people. There were kids running around herding the cows and running along with their donkeys and their burros. They were living well and they were people drinking from this water… It was devastating to see people not know that what they were drinking could possible kill them, children especially. I got to tell my dad about the Kiliminjaro climb and how amazing it was, but it literally was a come-to-reality moment to see that this still exists today. 

My dad is just super-humble, a beautiful guy, and he was just so overwhelmed that something this huge (the climb) could have been born out of the beautiful spirit that he had to just go dig a well where he was born and help the people there educate themselves on what waterborne diseases were so that they wouldn’t die. It was to him something that can’t be expressed, and it is to me something that can’t be expressed, and I’m a little dumbfounded that we pulled it off. I just think that it had to be done, and it had to be done by me because it was given to me to do. I am basically challenging anyone and everyone, whether it be for water or for anything else, that when that conviction comes, to follow it because it will be the single most life-changing thing that will happen to you outside of having a child or finding your soulmate. 

To be able to help others in a way that you know your convictions lead you there is something that will give you the power to be pragmatic about everything else in your life. I’m just super thankful.”

Source: Wikipedia and