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May 2023: Ascend News



Hike for Her Fundraiser: June 3 & 4

Get ready to join the fun on June 3 & 4 at Ascend’s Hike for Her Fundraiser near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. It’s not too late to sign up or to sponsor the event. On June 3, you’re invited to party with Ascend in Paris, Virginia at the home of an Ascend supporter from 5 - 9 pm. There will be live music, food and drink, and camaraderie. Huge bonus: several of our Ascend Alumnae from Afghanistan joining in the fun. Sunday morning, we hike at beautiful Sky Meadows State Park beginning at 9 am. How far you wish to hike is up to you; under 3 miles, 5k, 10k or more. Registration includes T-shirt, swag bag, and boxed lunch (Register Here). Come for some or all of this two-day event and have a great time while supporting women’s leadership programming in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


A huge shout out to our many event sponsors. Their participation and donations have gone a long way to make this event fun and successful. Thank you to: Devil’s Due Distillery, Trail Dames, Syllabi Communications, The Retrones, Hellbender Beer, REI, Patagonia, and Before N After Cafe.


If you find yourself unable to join the party but you still want to help, please consider making a donation (follow the registration link above) by becoming a sponsor, donating to support one of our many teams of hikers, or making a general donation.



Progress in Pakistan: Phase One

Ascend’s goal has always been to empower girls worldwide. In 2022 we made the choice to expand operations to Pakistan due to the country's remarkable progress in promoting gender equality and strong commitment to human development, and incredible mountain environment. The warm welcome we received from the community made us even more excited to get started. Many of you have followed our progress and have financially invested in launching the program in Pakistan. We're excited to share the progress we’ve made so far and our plans for the rest of the year.

A new country presented new opportunities, including the chance to equip Pakistani women to deliver the Ascend program from the start. We recognized that if Ascend wanted to hire local female trainers, we needed to first provide training and skill instruction. While an active climbing community exists in Pakistan, it is heavily male dominated. Local women have an interest in climbing and mountaineering but little opportunity for training and, unless from a family of climbers, no obvious way to enter the sport. We’re using our training-of-the-trainer model to help change that.


The first objective was to identify and recruit women to become Ascend Trainers. Over the last several months we have received great interest in the training program from women across Pakistan. Staff have spent time sifting through applications, conducting interviews, and inviting groups of candidates to accompany the Master Trainers on informal hikes to get to know their character and introduce the program. We anticipate the candidates for instructor training will be selected by mid-May with official training beginning soon after. This first phase of training will run for 6-months.

The instructor trainees, and the program in general, need a homebase. Our vision has been for a centrally located building that offers privacy and security. The space will be large enough for a classroom and fitness area, office space, gear storage, and a yard with space enough to accommodate training and (eventually) our own bouldering wall. We toured many properties in Skardu and we feel close to securing a location that will tick nearly all the boxes. This next step will help to solidify our commitment to the local community and will provide a crucial piece of the puzzle in building Ascend.


As for gear and equipment, we are grateful to report that a sizable amount of Ascend gear from Afghanistan has made its way to Pakistan. The gear had been sitting in storage following the events of August 2021 and we unfortunately didn’t think we’d be able to use the gear in Afghanistan before it expired. Our ambitious Afghanistan Country Manager was able to ship most of this valuable equipment from Kabul to Islamabad, and from there reloaded and sent to Skardu. Since the arrival of gear in Skardu, Master Trainers have been carefully unpacking and assessing each and every item. Helping to fulfill our gear wishlist, Black Diamond recently donated some necessary items which will arrive in May. The transfer of gear and generous donations are essential to Ascend being able to stay on budget while providing safe, quality equipment for participants.

Ascend is 100% committed to Pakistan but we’re counting on your help to make leadership through climbing and mountaineering a reality for women. As you can imagine, this is a massive financial undertaking and your donations will help ensure personal growth and development of young women. We believe that together we can help all our participants achieve their full potential.



Patagonia Film Could Have Far Reach

Since the launch of the Patagonia film Ascend and article Afarin! Good Job! we've heard lots of positive feedback about the film and Ascend’s work. We couldn’t be happier with the film, the article, and the interest shown by so many.


Patagonia has extended their goodwill beyond the initial launch of the film and are partnering with Ascend to raise awareness for the work of empowering women and reaching a wider audience. Patagonia in Old Town, Washington DC (whose building was a former theater) invited Ascend to a tabling event, a day for Ascend to provide information to people coming into the store, and is working on an August film screening and fundraiser date.


If you would be interested in hosting an event (large or small) to screen the film, please contact kelly.pokharel@ascendathletics.org. Already several Ascend supporters have volunteered to host “friends and family” screenings in their homes. Others offered to help plan larger events in their community. We provide the materials and film, you provide the space and refreshments, making this a painless and FUN opportunity to share your passion for empowering women.



Congrats to Naila Kiani, Ascend Ambassador

This spring, female Pakistani climber and official Ascend Ambassador, Naila Kiani summited Annapurna I in Nepal making her the first Pakistani woman to summit three 8,000 meter peaks. She's currently on Everest planning a summit attempt before she makes her way back home.


Kiani plans to join the Ascend team in Pakistan later this year, spending time with the Instructor Trainees and imparting wisdom and sharing her experiences in the mountains. Kiani is all about using her experiences to lift up other women and we look forward to her participation in Pakistan.





Alumnae Updates

Canada

Suhaila Adeel participated in an event organized by the Afghan Women's Organization of Toronto. Adeel gave a speech about volunteering and shared her story of resettlement. She and her sister, Shakila, shared some of their artwork at the event.




Zahra completed her fourth week of training in the Retail Ready program delivered by Women in Need Society (WINS). The program teaches employment skills in customer service, running a register, organizing inventory, handling transactions, etc.


United States

Alum Rabia, with partner-in-crime and Ascend Executive Director Marina LeGree, crushed their first Adventure Race over the weekend, taking home the win in their category. Team

Ascend navigated 7 miles of paddling, 12 miles of trekking, and 18 miles of mountain biking in muddy conditions for 10 hours! We heard that a positive attitude and smiling through it got them to the finish line. Rabia shared her theme going into the race, a valuable lesson for all -- If you want to be a force for good in this world, you must be strong. So you take every opportunity to strengthen yourself and grow; this race was a new challenge to get stronger.



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