Shannon Galpin risked everything when she founded Mountain2Mountain; she ended her marriage, sold her house and car, closed her business, and sacrificed time with her young daughter. You could even say she has risked her life. Her mission? To make a difference. To make the world a better place. Specifically, to create a voice for women and youth in conflict zones.
Since founding the nonprofit, Galpin has spent weeks at a time away from her home in Breckenridge to help women in Afghanistan. She chose to focus her efforts primarily in Afghanistan “because it was so consistently ranked as the worst place in the world to be a woman.”
During this time, Mountain2Mountain has successfully implemented literacy and mid-wifery projects in rural Afghanistan, established kindergarten programs in women’s prisons (because, as Galpin explained, young children are often sent to prison with their mothers), provided computer labs for girls’ schools and constructed two girls’ schools in Pakistan. In addition, the nonprofit is in the midst of its biggest project to date: building a K-12 co-ed school for the deaf that would also house the headquarters for the Afghanistan National Association for the Deaf – “a group that, literally, has no voice.”
This year, Mountain2Mountain launches its first domestic program, here, in Colorado. The program, Strength in Numbers, features week-long empowerment retreats for female veterans, survivors of rape, domestic violence and sex trafficking, and young, at-risk women. The first retreat will be held in Aspen and Breckenridge this summer, with a camp in Moab and another in Central America scheduled for later this year. The nonprofit plans to expand the program across the nation, hitting cities like Chicago and Harlem in years to come.
“We have our own conflict zone (in the United States),” Galpin said. “We have our own women’s rights issues. Here, we could – literally – cultivate an army of women that could use their voices and stand up for what they believe in to improve their communities, much more than what’s possible overseas right now.”
Galpin, an avid mountain biker, was featured in Outside Magazine when she attempted to traverse Afghanistan’s mountainous Panjshir Valley by bike in 2010. She was also the first woman to bicycle in Afghanistan. She is featured in MoveShake, a documentary film series released this year on “movers and shakers” in the humanitarian and environmental world.
Still, seven years into this work, Galpin often struggles to pay her bills and has wondered if she is, indeed, making a difference. So when National Geographic called her to announce that they’d selected her as one of their Adventurers of the Year for 2013 – for her humanitarian work – she was at once shocked, humbled and gratified. There is no financial reward with this recognition, but, clearly, Galpin is doing something right in her mission to make a difference.