Raksha Ascent


by Jesse Breffle, class of 2019

The cold air poured in under my blanket as I shifted to turn off my alarm. The cold Himalayan air started washing over me, causing me to wake up quite quickly. Down in the stove room of the teahouse, I see 15 sets of puffy early morning eyes, filled with sleep but also excitement. Today we summit Poon Hill. As we climb, unexpectedly the sky is starting to open up, the clouds tearing apart like cotton candy. This gives way to the sun as it begins to pour golden honey over the Himalayan peaks. The fog is also removed and we see the Himalayan majesties towering over us. We did it. It was just a dinner table conversation, a cool idea that evolved into a structured program. I later pitched the idea at the Thunderbird Pitch Competition 2019. After all the dreaming, two years of hard work, fundraising, and planning we brought these 15 girls to the 10,531 ft. the summit of Poon Hill. They were at the top of the world.

This photo was taken at the top of Poon Hill.

We had organized a leadership trek for the oldest girls from the Nepali nonprofit Raksha Nepal (Protect Nepal). Raksha rescues and cares for girls and women who have suffered or are at risk of sexual exploitation and violence.

The trek was designed with a three-fold purpose:
1) Facilitate healing through time in nature.
2) Personal development through a challenging trek, and nightly leadership discussions.
3) Fun through an adventure in the Himalayas!

These girls are getting ready to take their next step in life, to university and starting their careers. These experiences and discussions served to increase their self-confidence and give them thought frameworks with which they can employ as they build personal success, growth, forging healthy relationships, and leading others.

They crushed the challenge! Even though various obstacles, lots of soreness, weather, tons of jokes, and even some head colds, they made it all the way up and all the way down. Some saw snow for the first time! Naturally, many snowball fights were had along with snowmen built. All saw the Himalayas up close for the first time, having the opportunity to meditate on the sheer vastness of the world, and how they will decide to make their contribution to it. We had many new discoveries in the world around us but most importantly within ourselves. I am excited to confidently say this will be an annual program!

After the trek, we asked the girls what they learned and felt about the experience. One answer stuck with me. It was so simple, but it was the sincerity and the power behind it. She looked at us, taking a big breath and smiling said, “I feel free.”

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