Ascend Athletics Launches in Pakistan
In early December, Executive Director Marina LeGree traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan to help officially launch Ascend Athletics Pakistan. The public launch drew key stakeholders to the room to make clear Ascend’s intentions and our desire to collaborate.
Chief guests and speakers included the First Lady of Pakistan, the retired chief of staff of Pakistan's Air Force, the minister of tourism for Gilgit-Baltistan, and the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. Naila Kiani, Pakistan’s first female climber to summit three 8,000m peaks, hosted. LeGree moderated a panel with Kiani and legendary mountaineers, Nazir Sabir and Colonel Bhatti.
Around 130 guests attended the launch at the Marriott’s Crystal Ballroom and since the event Ascend has had an outpouring of positive feedback, enthusiasm, and support. The highlight of the day was when we asked female climbers/trekkers/mountaineers in the room to stand up. Girls and women poured forward, including a 14 year-old girl who has already climbed a 6,000m peak and is planning for her first 8,000er in 2023; a 61 year-old woman who has led all-female treks for years when she's not busy as a professor; and several 20-somethings who said Naila Kiani is their role model.
With the launch and necessary registrations completed, Ascend is taking the next steps to establish a facility in Skardu, Pakistan. There has already been a large amount of interest by women in the area who are keen to become the first Instructor Trainers for Ascend Pakistan. If all goes as planned, the training of trainers will begin this spring. What makes launching Ascend in Pakistan even more exciting is the amount of talent (on many levels) that exists among Pakistan’s women. This means Ascend Pakistan can be a program that is for Pakistani women, run by Pakistani women.
Meet Naila Kiani, Ascend Ambassador
When you first meet Nalia you are struck by her warm but humble demeanor. If you didn’t already know her to be the first Pakistani woman to climb three 8000m peaks, you might not guess it. But after spending a little time with her, you’ll quickly realize her wit, humor, strength and values are on par with the best.
Kiani did not grow up training to become a mountaineer. Rather her education took her down a path to become a banker and an aeronautical engineer. It was only in the last few years she chose to test herself through climbing and with much success. Today, she is a role model for many women and girls who wish to challenge themselves and discover their courage and inner strength. This is exactly the impact Kiani hopes to make on women; she wants to use her successes to help others reach their goals and dreams.
It is for all these reasons (and more) that we asked Kiani to be Ascend’s Ambassador in Pakistan. Respected by the climbing community, and business people alike, Kiani has the influence and values to help Ascend establish credibility and draw young women to the program who are chasing a new and different dream.
Ascend invites you to follow Naila Kiani on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nailakianik2) or Instagram (@naila._.kiani).
Ascend is devastated by the recent news coming out of Afghanistan, particularly the closure of secondary education facilities for women followed by the edict that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) not be allowed to employ women, disrupting NGOs’ ability to provide essential services to millions of Afghans.
Despite these setbacks, Ascend continues to work with local organizations to find a way to provide much needed physical and psychological training, as well as service, leadership and outdoor education opportunities to women and girls in Afghanistan. We know that peace and growth are not possible without women at the table. We continue to review all options so that Afghan girls in Afghanistan are not abandoned. We will share updates and news as we have it.
Thank You for Your Support
As we look back on 2022, we are humbled and grateful for all that Ascend accomplished this past year. Together, we held tight to our commitment to not only evacuate our girls from Afghanistan, but to support them as they relocated to new countries and began to navigate their new homes. Not only did your generous financial contributions make this possible, but so did the people in each country who sprang up to make our girls feel welcomed, provided them with food and shelter, helped them find jobs and enroll in school, and navigate new languages and government systems to help them resettle. It has been an amazing and heartwarming experience to see people take care of each other. Thank you for all you have given.
This past year has also seen Ascend take steps to launch our mountaineering-based leadership program in Pakistan. With your support and belief in our mission, we are taking the lessons learned from Afghanistan, making necessary improvements, and starting to train our first cohort of Instructor Trainers this Spring. Women all around the world need their seat at the table and we’re happy to empower them to take it, using the mountains as a teacher.
Your financial support, commitments of time and expertise, and words of encouragement let us know we are on the right track. We’re excited to have you come along with us on this journey. Here’s to new adventures in 2023!
Some of the Ascend Alumnae in Canada braved the cold to learn skiing and snowshoeing. We love the adventurous spirit alumnae continue to show, be it trying a new sport, learning a new language, or getting to know their new cities and countries.
Appalachian Trail Hike & Fundraiser
We want you to join us on the Appalachian Trail (AT) on April 29, 2023. Hike a part of the AT just outside of Washington, DC with Ascend and then join us at a private home for dinner, drinks and camaraderie to support Ascend’s mission. Sponsorship and fundraising opportunities are available (details to come or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Tickets on sale soon.