Estes Park, Colorado, February 20, 2007. Girls Education International Organization: New international nonprofit to educate young women, founded by North Face athlete Heidi Wirtz and Journalist Lizzy Scully, holds raffle to raise funds for initial project.
In November of 2006, after a decade of climbing together throughout the world, North Face climber Heidi Wirtz and writer/climber Lizzy Scully decided to found Girls Education International, a nonprofit that supports the education of young women. In order to raise funds for their first project, the renovation of the girls’ school in the Village Khane, Northern Areas, Pakistan, they are promoting a raffle on their website, www.girlsed.org. The first 200 people to donate any sum of money will be entered into a raffle to win a Montbell Down Hugger #2 sleeping bag.
“It’s super generous of Montbell to donate this bag,” says Scully. “I’m hoping raffling off such a high-priced item generates some excitement and inspires people to visit our website. Right now we’re all about getting people involved and interested in what we’re doing.”
The mission of the nonprofit, according to www.girlsed.org, is to initiate and fund “educational programs for girls and women where financial restrictions are the only barrier to positive change.”
“Heidi and I were tired of pursuing purely selfish goals,” says Scully. “We’d been talking about giving back to the communities where we climbed for years. We finally decided to take action on our most recent trip to Pakistan, this past summer.”
Wirtz and Scully made two attempts on the Ogre’s Thumb, off the Biafo Glacier before being turned back by rock fall, bad weather, and injuries. They ended up in the Khane Valley at the end of their trip, where they spent about ten days with villagers. They were shocked at the condition of the girls’ school in the village.
“There were piles of poop in the backyard,” recalls Wirtz. “The school supplies were in terrible condition, and some of the mothers in the village told us that the girls’ teacher was just a glorified baby sitter. The boys’ school, on the other hand, was just beautiful—big garden, freshly white washed. It was just such a glaring difference, I couldn’t believe it.”
Wirtz and Scully decided to take action. Upon their return to the United States, they approached a variety of organizations in an attempt to promote the project. Unfortunately, none of the already-existing nonprofits had the time or resources to work with the two, so they decided to found their own nonprofit.
“It’s definitely daunting,” says Scully. “There’s so much work to do building something totally new like this. However, we’ve just partnered with The Mountain Fund, which is a fabulous organization that works with small climber-run nonprofits that operate in the mountainous regions of the world. The folks there are walking us through the entire process and also doing some fundraising for us.” Other Mountain Fund partnes include the American Alpine Club and The Rowell Fund for Tibet.
“We’re really excited about this project,” says Wirtz. “I don’t care as much about going on climbing trip after climbing trip anymore. I’m much more interested in actually working with people and making a difference in the world.”
Wirtz may be returning to Pakistan this summer with partner Fabrizio Zangrelli to implement the first phases of the Khane Village Project. To date GEI has raised about $1,300. The goal is to raise $15,000 in the next year. The money will be used to buy school supplies, renovate the interior and exterior of the school, and to pay for a teacher for five years until the Khane Villagers are able to get a government-sponsored teacher.
To read more about Girls Education International, to donate to the cause, and/or to get more information on the raffle for the Montbell sleeping bag, please visit www.girlsed.org or check out the blog www.girlseducationinternational.blogspot.com. To read more about The Mountain Fund, please visit their website: www.themountainfund.org.