Mountain climbing was once something Sara Safari never dreamed of doing, let alone making it halfway to the summit of Mount Everest.

But now, Safari climbs mountains on a regular basis, spreading awareness and matching $1 for every foot she climbs with the goal of raising money for the Empower Nepali Girls Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to give young girls in Nepal the opportunity to gain an education.

More than 70 people attended Safari's keynote speech for Women’s History Month, which took place Thursday at Nelson Commons and was titled “Climbing Seven Summits to Empower Women.” 

“The fact that she’s able to infuse her passion for promoting equality for women, … challenging herself and… empowering women was such a powerful force for her,” M. Geneva Murray, the director of Ohio University’s Women’s Center, said. “That’s really wonderful, and we need more of that in the world.”

After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, which killed about 10,000 people and displaced more than 100,000 children, Safari went back to the country to look for the young girls she met before. Despite losing everything, the young girls were still hopeful for a better future. As they led Safari through the rubble to their temporary homes, they held her hand to prevent her from falling.

“It shows how strong, resilient and kind these girls are,” she said. “It might seem like I’m helping these women, but … they inspire me a thousand times more.”

Sarah Murphy originally attended the event as part of her class assignment but was glad to have been able to listen to Safari’s speech. Murphy was impressed and inspired by the way Safari talked about facing her failures and trying again and again. 

“She’s such a great example of, ‘I’m going to do what I want, I’m not gonna be held back and I’m gonna support other women,’ ” Murphy, a freshman studying outdoor recreation, said. 

People often ask Safari for tips and tricks when training to climb mountains such as Everest. But it’s not just about the physical training, Safari said. The most important thing is the mental training.

“This whole project was such a blessing because it wasn’t just about mountain climbing,” Safari said. “It’s about life. Because every day, you’re climbing your own Everest. Your promotion, your job, your education, … relationships with your kids (or) your parents, finding your passion, these are all Everests that you’re climbing every day.”

Jamie Dahl, the assistant director for hospitality, merchandising and recreation at the Career and Leadership Development Center, heard about Safari’s experience from a colleague and Safari’s book Follow My Footsteps.

“It’s very applicable … how she compares (Everest) to anything in life that seems difficult,” Dahl said. “You tackle that like you tackle a mountain.”

Safari’s acknowledgement of people having their own mountains of challenges to climb is important because it also encourages people to contextualize and understand that the idea of “Everest” is different depending on a person’s experience, Murray said. 

Although she has yet to reach the top of Mount Everest, Safari has set her sight on something more.

“I didn’t summit Everest, but I found a bigger mountain to climb,” Safari said. “I decided to dedicate my life to women empowerment.” 


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