Jessica Biel and Emile Hirsch Begin Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb

Jessica Biel and Emile Hirsch Begin Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb
Emile Hirsch and Jessica Biel
Amanda Schwab/Startraks

01/07/2010 AT 02:50 PM EST

A star-studded group of actors, musicians and activists, including Jessica Biel and Into the Wild star Emile Hirsch, have kicked off 2010 with a lofty mission: summiting the formidable 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak, to raise awareness and funds for the global water crisis.

To give climbers, who began their trek uphill Thursday, a firsthand look at the crisis – one billion people worldwide have no access to clean water – the group spent several days before their climb visiting a village near Arusha, Tanzania.

"Meeting the people and community in Tanzania … has been an invaluable and eye-opening experience for me," Biel says after landing there Tuesday. "My hope is that others will be inspired to find ways that they can help; starting simply in their homes and continuing to other parts of the world. We are all in this together."

Another goal of the expedition is to provide funds for clean water programs and solutions. Joining the actors on the climb are: Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of iconic ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau; Elizabeth Gore, an executive with the United Nations Foundation; rapper Lupe Fiasco; Kick Kennedy, an environmentalist and granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and Grammy-nominated musician Kenna, the Ethiopian-born founder of the initiative, who is leading the climb.

Fans and supporters can follow every step the climbers make at the cause's Web site. The group is posting clips, photos and Tweets. Currently, more than 2.8 million liters of water have been donated through the site.

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