Celebrating the Ten-Year Anniversary of Girls Education International!

Ten years ago, in November 2006, professional climber and The North Face athlete Heidi Wirtz and I officially started Girls Education International. After an epic expedition to the Karakoram Range in Pakistan, where an accident, illness and bad weather shut down our attempt to ascend the Ogre’s Thumb, we ended up spending ten days in the village Khane. The women and children adopted us as one of their own, painting our hands with henna, leading us around town on various adventures, sharing delicious meals in their kitchens and telling us stories of their lives (through our trekking guide translator). Heidi and I were smitten.

One bright day, the children proudly led us through the winding pathways of the village, past the gardens in front of every house, and then to the boys’ school. There, a tidy, whitewashed building with three classrooms lay before us. It was filled with desks, chalkboards and books, and was surrounded by a garden of flowers and a high wall topped with glass shards (to keep out vandals).

Naturally, Heidi and I asked to see the girls’ school as well. We found a one-room, dilapidated building with no heat – just a few desks and apparently no teacher.  Though unsurprising, the sight was still shocking/unsettling. There were piles of human excrement in the backyard and a broken down wall. The girls’ school, as often happens in third world countries, had been severely neglected for years. It was there, in that school building, that “Girls Ed” was born.

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