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June 2023: Ascend News

Hike For Her Helps Move Ascend Forward

On the weekend of June 3 and 4, over 100 supporters of Ascend came together in Paris, Virginia for Ascend’s first Hike for Her fundraiser. Many many thanks to the sponsors and volunteers who made the work of planning and executing the event a success; and of course thank you to the folks who participated and donated to the cause of women’s empowerment.

While supporters were hiking through Sky Meadows State Park, our Instructor Trainees in Pakistan, and Ascend Alumnae in Ireland, were hiking alongside Ascend in a beautiful show of solidarity.

Over $35,000 was raised to give the women in both Pakistan and Afghanistan leadership opportunities through climbing and mountaineering throughout the year. When we come together as a team, it is amazing what we can accomplish to support one another.

Plans are already being made for next year so stay tuned for a save-the-date notice and details on how you can continue to be a force for good in the lives of women.

Programs Are Running in Afghanistan and Pakistan


Spring in Pakistan has been full of action and excitement for Ascend as the program officially gets underway. After meeting with many young women interested in the program and inviting them out for hikes and group activities, the Instructor Trainee cohort has been narrowed to six enthusiastic and dedicated women who are currently in training to become Ascend’s first official Instructor Trainers in Pakistan. They will step up to lead activities for the participants as soon as they are ready.

The first month of training has focused on learning the basics of rock climbing and bouldering, planning and leading many hikes around the area, and beginning discussions on leadership and community service. In addition, the trainees have been practicing some of their developing skills with our informal group of participants and more activities are planned to engage the community at large, including talks at one of the local universities and organizing a hike with local youth.

In addition to the great outdoors as a training ground, Ascend now has a home in Gilgit-Baltistan; a beautiful house in a quiet neighborhood where the young women can practice yoga and exercise, store and manage gear, and spend time focused on leadership, communication, and health.


We’re still pinching ourselves with the reality that the program is once again operating in Afghanistan. While modified somewhat for safety reasons (mountaineering has been switched out for environmental stewardship) we are still providing life-skills, health and wellness, leadership training and community service experience to young women who would otherwise have no outlet for learning or self development.

Beginning in late April, eleven women began the 3-month train-the-trainer program. They gather face-to-face 5 days a week to learn about mental health and wellness, practice leadership and communication and learn how to facilitate the five pillars of the Ascend program. Following graduation in August, these women will become Ascend Trainers, leading the program for future participants.

We are excited to take a new approach to program delivery in both Pakistan & Afghanistan. We’re using the skills and talents of the trainees (who are all local), providing additional training where needed, and allowing these women to deliver the future program and show up as role models for participants.

The local staff and Master Trainer have done a phenomenal job getting systems up and running in both locations. We are asking for your financial support to keep things moving forward. Your investment in the lives of these women means they will have opportunities to practice leadership, uncover their strengths, learn how to serve the world around them, and climb mountains physically and mentally. We thank you for all you have given and we hope you’ll consider a gift today, an investment in women’s empowerment.

Alumnae Updates


Many Alumnae in Ireland participated in the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon held in Dublin. This annual event brings together women of all ages and abilities to run, walk, or jog a 10k route. The event promotes women’s health and fitness and allows participants to raise awareness about important issues in societies around the world. The Ascend Alumnae used the opportunity to raise awareness about women’s circumstances in Afghanistan and even raised funds to be sent to a charity in Afghanistan. We’re so proud of their community service and generosity!

United States

Five of the Ascend Alumne on the east coast (plus one brother) participated in Ascend’s first annual Hike for Her event in Virginia on June 3 & 4. The alumnae hiked to raise funds for Ascend’s programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ascend Ambassador Naila Kiani Makes Climbing History

This Spring Ascend’s Ambassador and Pakistani mountaineer, Naila Kiani successfully summited Annapurna I, Lhotse, and Everest and is making an attempt at her seventh 8000 meter peak as this newsletter is being written. Naila will meet our Pakistani trainers and participants once she’s down from the mountains, and we look forward to her visit. Congratulations Naila!

Donations in all Shapes & Sizes

Many thanks to some of our recent donors who are keeping Ascend's mission moving forward, including a recent donation of climbing gear from Black Diamond that is already being put to use in Pakistan; and the anonymous donation of laptops and other tech equipment which are eagerly being used by the trainees in Afghanistan.

If you have an in-kind donation or have an idea for a specific need you would like to help fund, reach out to or make a donation on-line here.

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