• isabelazawistowska

Shakila Joins Ascend.

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

Meet our newest member to the team: Shakila.

On a cold and clear February morning in Bamyan, our team set up the day’s ice climbing on a wide frozen waterfall next to Band-e Amir Lake. We invited people from the village just across the way to join us, and they trundled out in their rubber boots and heavy winter coats. One of them, named Shakila, wanted to climb. For a couple of days, Shakila had been observing from a distance, while our girls learned how to ice climb...She eventually tagged along, when a group of us went for a hike in the new snow. This brave, young girl helped guide us over the frozen lake and find the safe path avoiding the thin ice near the edge. It was no surprise that she was eager to ice climb herself. She was a natural, climbing quickly to the top of the cliff. Her parents were standing back watching with smiles on their faces. We went over to speak to them. “We’re so proud!” Shakila’s dad said, “that’s our girl!” I asked whether they thought it was a bit strange that we were all doing an extreme sport. They both laughed but her dad got serious when he said no; he is proud of his daughter and he would be happy for her to be just like our team members.

Our girls took Shakila under their wing right away, inviting her to join us for dinner and loaning her warmer gloves. It didn’t take long before Shogufa, our program assistant, requested that we bring her with us to Kabul. Shogufa had learned that Shakila was 17 and not attending school. Shakila had to leave school at the age of 13 as her family migrated between Iran, Kabul, and Bamyan. Unfortunately, the nearest school is too far away from her village to attend...

Shakila wanted to go to school and join our team as a member. So we asked her to invite her parents for a discussion. Shakila’s parents were quick to give their blessing. They wouldn’t have sent her to Kabul to attend school alone, they said, but if she could be part of the Ascend team, they’d know that she was in good hands and they’d support it. Her mom planned to come to Kabul straightaway to arrange things with relatives in Kabul. Shogufa kindly offered to bring Shakila to live in her own home with her and her family.

So it happened that we brought Shakila back to Kabul with us, with her few belongings, and waved goodbye to her parents at the edge of the village as we drove off. She has currently settled in with Shogufa and her family, and will be studying at the same school Shogufa attended, close to the Ascend office. She’s stuck like the rest of us due to COVID-19, but is doing exercises at home with Shogufa to stay focused. We can’t wait to see her join all of our team activities, and complete her education in Kabul.

While our hearts belong to climbing, our ultimate passion is to create a better future for girls in Afghanistan. As a result, we have created a team culture that values education. Nearly all of our program graduates go on to higher education. Many of them, like Shakila, are born to illiterate parents who have struggled just to survive during years of chaos and violence in Afghanistan and never had the chance to go to school. We are thrilled to support any girl who showcases the same level of commitment, like Shakila did, and who wants to better herself through education and the outdoors.

Please stay tuned for more stories about the girls who make up Team Ascend.


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