Mountain 2 Mountain

 

An interview with executive director Shannon Galpin

In her travels through Afghanistan the locals call Shannon Galpin the blond, blue-eyed infidel. At 36 this mountain bike racer from Breckenridge, Colorado makes her way through active war zones waging peace. As the executive director of her own non-governmental organization called Mountain 2 Mountain Shannon works on behalf of vulnerable women and children caught in the crossfire.

“Our focus is to look at women in Afghanistan as beyond the victims but as the solutions and as the agents of change, “ Shannon said “and that these women that we are trying to work with through education and training are truly the solutions for the country.”

Afghanistan has been a place of violent conflict for more than 40 years and with U.S. Troops on the ground now for almost a decade ordinary people, with no special training like Shannon are getting involved trying to find a peaceful solution.

“I started traveling over there two or three years ago. I have spent time living in the middle east,” Shannon said. “I lived in Lebanon and traveled throughout the Middle East for a couple of years and I have always connected with the regions that have the worst human rights, that have the worst gender equity rights.”

A single mother with a daughter at home Shannon is like many American women frustrated with the plight of people here at home and half a world away who suffer largely because of their gender.

“What I realized was that I was ranting a lot and I was upset about it, and it was old adage of be the change that you want to see in the world,” Shannon said, and instead of complaining I should just get off my ass and do it.”

So Shannon took action. No kidding. She sold her house and started a non-profit that goes directly to serve women and children in Afghanistan. Mountain 2 Mountain provides education and pre-natal opportunities that empower women to take control of their lives. And with stable households where children, boys and girls, are encouraged to go to school how much more likely are the prospects of peace in the future?

“I want to see ripple effects in Afghanistan that effect the ability of women to have control over their destiny,” Shannon said.

You can’t help but be inspired by Shannon’s story. Hers is the kind of narrative that makes this program so much fun and really an honor to produce. But while I was piecing together the sound clips for today’s episode I came across a piece of information that we didn’t discuss in our interview. So I had to get Shannon on the phone and have her take me back to something that happened almost 20 years ago.

“When I was 17 I had moved to Minneapolis right after high school graduation,” Shannon said. “And I decided that I was going to pursue a career as a dancer and was basically working and living in downtown Minneapolis.”

She had left her home in North Dakota to begin a life dramatically different than the one she leads today. But something happened in Minneapolis that changed the course of her destiny.

“I was working late one night and instead of taking the bus that I should have taken I took an earlier bus, which dropped me off on the far side of a park,” she said. “And through a series of, looking back now bad choices or bad decisions I walked through the park and I was attacked.”

To put it bluntly Shannon was raped. A stranger wearing a ski mask caring a knife brutally assaulted her and left her for dead. Though she survived and reassembled the shattered piece of her, Shannon would come to realize that even though she put that chapter of her life in the past her journey through it was far from over.

Music this week by new contributing artist Cheryl B. Englehardt

The Joy Trip Project is made possible through the generous support of our sponsor Patagonia. Check out their latest new media projects and conservation initiatives at their blog the cleanest line.com.

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Author:James Mills

I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

3 Responses to “Mountain 2 Mountain”

  1. December 29, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Shannon is such a great person, and her honorable mission is causing ripple effects everywhere I turn! Have met 3 more women who are now working in Afghanistan as well! This is what happens when a brave and selfless woman decides to make change happen for the betterment of others. We need more western women who will follow Shannon’s lead and venture into Afghanistan to help their fellow sisters and daughters toward peace and security.

    Thank you Shannon for being a role-model to others, and for all your work to help others.

  2. December 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    James,
    While some wage war in Afghanistan, others are waging peace and we need to hear those stories loud and clear.
    Thank you for telling Shannon’s story.

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