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December 2023: Ascend News


Invest in Her

“I wanted to be a leader but I didn’t know how. Then I found Ascend” 

“I want to support other girls and women. Ascend gives us hope.”

“I thought I’d lost everything but when I joined Ascend I learned there are other ways to learn and grow.”

Joining Ascend isn’t just a choice, it’s a journey tailored to HER aspirations. Girls consistently share stories of discovering courage, determination, and unlocking hidden talents. They become integral parts of a supportive team, finding self-esteem and a renewed passion to share their wealth of knowledge and skills with others. 

It is YOUR investment and your belief that girls should have access to leadership, wellness and outdoor opportunities that makes these outcomes possible. In challenging circumstances, YOU create the space for girls to thrive. Ascend is grateful for your past support that impacted over 250 girls in seven years. Today, we invite you to invest in Ascend's future, providing 150 girls EACH YEAR the chance to chase and reach their dreams. Today, we are asking for your investment in Ascend’s future that will give 150 girls EACH YEAR a chance to chase and reach her dreams. Invest In Her and become a catalyst for change.

As one Afghan Instructor recently shared, “We are living in a moment where nearly everything is banned for women, but Ascend is actually doing things that work and they are practical and they can bring changes.” 

Help us continue to spark change and Invest in Her today.


Exploring Leadership in our Garden Classroom

by Patty Altherr 

It’s been just 2 weeks since I’m back from my trip to Skardu and Islamabad, Pakistan. As I write this note it happens to be Thanksgiving Day. I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to all the people I have met on my visit to Ascend Pakistan, for the warm welcome, the dedication of time and for all the interesting conversations.

I’d like here to focus on one of the pillars that make up our program, Leadership. 

I had the pleasure to lead a few sessions on this vast topic with our Instructor Trainees in the garden of our center.  My plan was not to teach specific content but rather explore and inquire as we do when looking for a new climbing path. We set out to survey and share our visions, thoughts, and beliefs asking each other: What is a true leader? Does he/she really exist? Is it possible to be a perfect leader? Once a leader, always a leader? Is the same type of leadership always required? What are the benefits and dangers of each type of leadership? Are the “rules” to leadership always the same? What qualities does a leader need to have? Are there fields in our lives where no leadership is required? Are we allowed to question leaders and if yes/no which ones? 

These are just a few directions our inquiry took on this discovery. The questions came up as the conversation unfolded and I was amazed by the openness and curiosity but also the critical mind our trainees demonstrated. Discovering that there is not one truth, but many shades between black and white. Understanding that it was important, in order to move forward, to see and generate possibilities, according to environment, culture, various sensitivities and level of understanding. Realizing that when sharing openly we become more respectful of each other and more creative. We had a great moment when looking into the paradigm of “think out of the box”, discovering that each one’s box looked different.

Taking our discussions “on the road” as we camped for three days, being released from the pressures of time, gave us the opportunity to dig deeper into our ideas and perspectives. It was a very “soft” powerful way to bring to light that leadership is also about listening to each other, to our shared experience, to our passions, to our vulnerabilities, hopes and love; just as we experience when out in the mountains. A precious time with them, well invested in HER !

Board Chair Patty Altherr, volunteered to spend two weeks on the ground in Pakistan supporting the program there. She shared her reflections on her visit and the qualities of leadership she witnessed from the Ascend girls. While in Pakistan, Patty also introduced the trainees to the sport of sand sledding on cafeteria trays. Teaching yet another important tenant of leadership - having fun!


Welcome to Ascend's New Treasurer

Every business starts and ends with the finances, and as a small nonprofit organization, our Treasurer is a real VIP. We want to extend our deepest gratitude to our outgoing Treasurer, Grace Tamayo, who volunteered countless hours over more than 2 years of service, and especially as we navigated the highly unusual events of 2021.  Grace, you are leaving us stronger, healthier, and smarter than you found us! 

And Emilie Cortes, we’re thrilled to have you join us! 

Emilie has been an Ascend supporter since 2015, when she called Marina out of the blue after hearing a story about Ascend on NPR. Ascend was just a few months old at the time, and Emilie jumped right in to help secure financial support, and soon traveled to Afghanistan as a volunteer on one of our first backcountry expeditions. 

Emilie’s talents include finance and accounting, rock climbing and trekking, impact investing, and remaining laser focused on elevating women. 


Ascend's New Wishlist

Ever slept in a leaky tent, wore gloves that didn’t keep your fingers warm, or wished your hiking boots didn’t leave blisters? We all know the right gear can have a big impact on the safety and enjoyability of outdoor experiences. If you’re interested in outfitting our girls and their outdoor activities properly, check out our gear Wishlist. The wishlist allows you to donate a specific item, or donate money towards the items for Ascend to purchase. Be sure to share with others who want to donate in a similar way. 


Helly Hansen Donates Winter Gear

A huge thank you to Helly Hansen for the generous donation of winter clothing that will help keep our girls comfortable while they experience winter camping, hiking and ice climbing! The items were delivered in person by Ascend’s Board Chair, Patty Altherr, during her two week trip to Pakistan.


Women Igniting Change Podcast Hosts Ascend’s Founder and Executive Director

Flying home on a Delta Airlines red-eye, Robbin Jorgensen, Founder and CEO of Women Igniting Change, found herself captivated by Ascend’s story as told by the Patagonia produced film Ascend! She knew then she needed to invite Ascend Director, Marina LeGree on to her podcast and did just that when she landed. Robbin believes that unleashing the contribution of women is one of the key drivers to moving business and humanity forward. She uses her podcast, Women Igniting Women to highlight the stories and accomplishments of other women and organizations. You can hear the entire podcast with Marina here.


Feature Supporter: Petzl

Nothing we do at Ascend happens without teamwork, collaboration and support from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations. We’d like to use this space each month to highlight our supporters. To kick off the initiative, we begin with the Petzl Foundation. 

Petzl Foundation, based in France, is the philanthropic arm of Petzl, a well-established and well-respected company making quality climbing gear, caving gear, and work-at-height equipment. For the first time in 2023, Ascend applied for and was awarded a grant through the Petzl Foundation to support the training-of-trainers in Pakistan. Petzl has been a very receptive and engaging foundation to work with and Ascend is grateful for their support and feedback of our programs. We hope to maintain this partnership well into the future. 

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