Updated: Mar 16
Two women who seldom receive acknowledgement for all of their efforts during resettlement but who are true inspirations to Ascend deserve the spotlight today. Their work has created a ripple effect that empowers and inspires others; and they have done it in style.
If you want to get something changed, you have to be a force and these two women are a force for good. Their tireless efforts to fight for the rights of others have changed countless lives already. We can't wait to see what they do next and we invite you to support the organizations they run too.
Andrea Martin represented the "Dublin side" of the resettlement efforts for Ascend's alumnae in Ireland. Andrea is a lawyer who was already an Ascend supporter when the Afghan evacuation began in 2021. She reached out to see what might be done to assist our girls, which launched a series of events that has never stopped. She cultivated a community of volunteers to provide the wraparound support that was essential for the wellbeing of the newly arrived girls - alone, worried about their families, trying to learn English and figure out what steps to take. In the chaotic last months of 2021, she steered the effort to ensure visas were sorted, girls were met at the airport with the warmest of welcomes and, crucially, housing was secured for all. The friendship and guidance of this group of Irish volunteers has made all the difference in our girls' paths.
Those days required round-the-clock efforts to seize fleeting opportunities and take decisions quickly that would have long-lasting effects. Andrea was always there. To do all of this required setting aside other commitments; work, family, and personal well-being had to take a backseat. During all this, Andrea fought a personal battle with cancer, a fact that was hardly even mentioned.
These extraordinary efforts resulted in deep, lasting change for the girls who were lucky enough to land in Ireland. We salute you, Andrea.
Today, Andrea and some of her volunteers have established an organization to continue supporting the girls (and a wider group of Afghan refugees) to thrive in Ireland. To donate to Friends of Ascend Community Support Group Ireland, please visit https://www.idonate.ie/cause/FriendsofAscend.
Malgorzata Olasinska-Chart is a force of nature who got three of our Ascend alumnae established in Poland, the unlikeliest of scenarios as the evacuation crisis unfolded. Poland isn't known for welcoming Afghan refugees, and it was dealing with an escalating immigration crisis on the Belarus border. But our Polish mountaineering friends, led by the indefatigable Lukas Kocewiak, committed to securing visas for our girls, and they teamed up with Malgo to sort out what would happen once they reached Poland. Fortunately she decided to say yes to this "mission impossible" because, as she puts it, she likes to make the impossible, possible.
The steps to obtain visas for the three Afghan girls were complex and risky and took all of Ascend's energy, to the point that we had very little planned for when the girls actually reached Poland in early December 2021. A trusted friend housed them over the Christmas holidays, and then Malgo took over. Apartment, insurance, registration for Polish language immersion, jobs, university applications, introductions to friends who climb and ski, etc etc. Each time a barrier appeared, she found a way around it, or blasted it out of the way.
As with Andrea Martin in Dublin, Malgo did all this voluntarily, adding to her many responsibilities with running her own organization and family. She knew that swift action in the short term would enable long term impact for the girls.
She was right. One of the girls has moved on to Germany to reunite with family members. The other two are thriving as full time university students, working part time and putting down roots in their community. They know how fortunate they are.
Malgo, for your fearlessness and your endless energy to help others succeed, we salute you.
Malgo runs a stellar organization called Polish Medical Mission, which helps people in emergencies in numerous countries and has focused on Ukraine since last year. To support their work, visit https://pmm.org.pl/en.