Outdoor Organisations in Afghanistan - How You Can Help

© Afghan Ascend

As the crisis in Afghanistan continues and people attempt to flee, a number of charitable groups are working to assist safe passage from the country. Among them are two outdoor organisations with a focus on empowering young women and girls through adventure sports and a climber-founded animal welfare charity. With all activities ground to a halt and people in hiding, group leaders are currently scrambling to guarantee the safety of staff and participants while lobbying for international support.

Women climbing in Afghanistan.  © Afghan Ascend
Women climbing in Afghanistan.
© Afghan Ascend

Not-for-profit organisation Afghan Ascend offers a two-year mountaineering-based leadership training programme for young women aged 15-24, fostering skills through physical training, team-building, mentorship and volunteering opportunities. 

Free to Run is a non-profit organisation working to help women and girls safely participate in running and other outdoor activities to develop female leaders in regions of conflict such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nowzad is an animal welfare and adoption charity in Afghanistan founded by former Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing, a climber with an outdoor/adventure instruction business.

Afghan Ascend wrote on their fundraising page:

'The Taliban have taken control of Kabul and Afghanistan. For now, our girls are safe in their own homes. When we set up this fundraiser it was to raise funds for our new sports centre and program in Kabul. A place where the girls could connect, learn and become future leaders, work out and eventually climb. The doors to the sports centre are now locked (but hopefully not forever) and the girls are hiding in their homes.'

On Instagram, they wrote:

'At present, all of our girls are accounted for. However, it is a constantly evolving situation. We have been liaising with a number of different parties to push for their evacuation as a priority, given their extremely vulnerable status. Whilst there has been some progress, it is too slow and time is of the essence. We continue to provide support for all those at Ascend, working 24/7 to evacuate them and their families.'

Here are three ways to help Ascend:

  • Awareness and lobbying: 'Spreading awareness about what is happening and lobbying our representatives is probably the best way to get some of the girls out. We need to evacuate women who are at risk but don't yet have their visas. We need public outcry and political will. Message your representatives, MPs, senators and whoever else can help and ask them for help relocating the girls, if you are in US text CRISIS to 52886.'
  • Donate to Ascend. The team are are using donations to help Ascend-affiliated girls and their families leave the country: 'This involves paying for visas, plane tickets, and travel expenses, plus providing cash for wherever they land.'
  • A sponsored 25K/50k walk in the Chiltern Hills is being organised by Ascend on 25th September: 'We welcome all to walk with Team Ascend and help support our girls, or to set up their own event.' Sign up to the Ascend event here.
  • The organisation also calls for people to post, share and speak up about the situation.

Stephanie Case, President and founder of Free to Run, wrote on their website:

'For the moment and in the immediate future, we are primarily focused on supporting the safety and security of our team in Afghanistan. We have been pursuing relocation options for some of our staff members over the last month and are aiming to support our participants through our network where we can. We acted early, taking precautionary security measures concerning our offices, equipment and documentation and will continue to take a conservative and cautious approach to safety. At the same time, I want to assure you that we are not losing our fighting spirit, nor the boldness of our approach in supporting the women and girls of Afghanistan. 

'We don't have all of the answers right now, but we are tirelessly working to find them, with Afghans in the lead. A Taliban spokesperson has indicated that the group will respect the rights of women, and NGOs will be able to operate, but we will need to see how the situation unfolds in the coming days and weeks. The current upheaval is cause for concern, but we are not losing hope. We will need to shift, to adapt, and to change, but we will not give up. There will be a way and we will find it with a bit of patience, creativity, and sensitivity.

'We may not be running marathons in Afghanistan right now, but we are continuing to pay staff salaries and support our team remotely, and we need to be ready to go when it's time to shift back to programs. We are thinking creatively around how to support those who are displaced or attempting to relocate, and we will keep you updated on how you may specifically be able to assist.'

Nowzad's team have been working to secure the safety and evacuation of their veterinary staff and the animals under their care. Founder and former Royal Marine Sergeant turned outdoor instructor Pen Farthing posts regular Facebook Live videos with updates on their situation. 

  • Donate to Nowzad to help fund rescue flights for the team
  • The group is also asking for support in lobbying key ministers:

'We need to target the following ministers immediately to help the Nowzad team. Please tweet or share as much as you can. Ask all your friends and family to get on board. We need to ask the following:

Watch the film Ascending Afghanistan, documenting a group of Afghan women aiming to make history as the first women in their country to summit Mir Samir, led and supported by Afghan Ascend.

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23 Aug, 2021

Thanks for pulling this together

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