I first met Shannon Galpin in 2007, about a year after she created her non-profit Mountain 2 Mountain. Hoping to find a common bond between the alpine culture of her home community in Breckenridge Colorado and rugged the high altitude provinces of Afghanistan she works to create empowerment opportunities for women and girls to help them lead better lives through education, family planning and economic development. Shannon’s efforts throughout this often volatile conflict zone have done much to demonstrate the impact that one person can make to improve the lives of others.
On her most recent trips overseas Shannon has taken her personal passion as a competitive road cyclist and mountain biker to offer the women of Afghanistan the chance to express themselves as athletes and vital members of their society by providing them with means to put together the first national bicycle team. In a book and film project called Afghan Cycles she aims to tell the story of how a small group of young female riders is leading the way toward equality and better social mobility.
This week Shannon is heading back to Afghanistan to check on the progress of the team that was outfitted with new bikes and equipment earlier this year. She’ll also scout a new location where they can safely train, a place where they are least likely to be physically attacked by religious extremists who object to the idea of a woman riding a bicycle. Shannon will visit Bamyan Province, a progressive region whose governor Habiba Sarabi is the only female provincial leader in Afghanistan. Hopefully by establishing some degree of acceptance within this community the notion of women and girls on bikes will spread and encourage others across this country in transition to take up the cause.
In the coming year as U.S. troops withdraw and presidential elections get underway Afghanistan is will be in the midst of a great deal of social change. With any luck the Afghan Cycles project will help to raise awareness for the progress women can make to play an active role in the emergence of a free democratic nation.
The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to the generous support of MAKO Surgical Corp. If you experience chronic hip or knee pain it might be time for a replacement. Ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for MAKOPlasty. I’m glad I did.
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