Since its founding in 2014, Ascend’s mission has been to empower girls through high-quality, high-impact sports-based leadership training.
Ascend was founded in 2014 by Marina LeGree who, while living and working in Afghanistan, saw a unique opportunity to unlock the leadership skills of young women using the mountains surrounding their homes as a classroom. The program launched in 2015 and trained twenty Afghan girls. The pilot was a success and things took off fast, with over 200 girls participating in the program from 2015-2020.
Ascend participants became leaders in their communities, instructors to the next program participants and, in one case, set a world record as the first Afghan woman to summit Mt. Noshaq, Afghanistan’s tallest mountain.
In 2021, Ascend built the first Women’s Sports Center in Kabul with the country’s first rock climbing wall. The new center accommodated triple the number of girls. Unfortunately, the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021 and forced an abrupt halt to the program.
In August 2021, Ascend made the difficult but morally right decision to focus all efforts help Afghan staff members, key at-risk participants and in some cases, where possible, their families. The next 14 months was non-stop activity, from securing seats on flights out of Afghanistan to arranging visas and homes to live in to providing ongoing support, language courses, and skills development. Our team worked around the clock and we could not have accomplished what we did without the help of our staff, board members, and volunteers as well as countless kind individuals that stepped up either to advocate for visas, donate and form support groups in the countries where the girls have ended up. It has truly been heartwarming to see people come together and help strangers in time of need.
Ascend’s evacuation efforts resulted in the resettlement of 134 Afghans who are living in Chile, the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Kazakhstan(see map below). You can read the full story of the evacuation and resettlement efforts here.
Today, Ascend is launching a new program in Pakistan, rebuilding in Afghanistan, and serving our Afghan Alumnae through the newly created Ascend Alumnae Association.
Marina LeGree founds Ascend and launches its first project, in Afghanistan
WHERE ARE THEY?
Now that the Afghan evacuees have started their new lives in new locations it is time for Ascend to look forward and empower new girls again.