She saw a lot of the world over the next half-dozen years, as Clark's assignments sent them throughout Europe. But when Galpin's sister, who is ten years her junior, enrolled at Adams State College in Alamosa, she and Clark moved to Colorado so that Galpin could be closer to Larissa. The world travelers settled down in Breckenridge, where they bought a home. Galpin got a job as a trainer at the Vail Athletic Club, but soon was offered a six-month gig in Paris as a master trainer in Pilates. Clark didn't want her to go, but she took the job — and when the six months were up, she promptly took another in Beirut. "It taught me to be comfortable in cities with guns, because there were AK-47s on every street corner," Galpin remembers. "It began to teach me what I was capable of."

She and Clark grew apart as she became more confident. But they had made a deal: She'd stay off birth control when she returned to the States. Nine months later, on December 3, 2004, Devon Galpin Clark was born.

Galpin's travels were over, at least for a while, but she soon found other ways to stretch her horizons. She read John Wood's Leaving Microsoft to Change the World and Rory Stewart's The Places In Between. And then, along with much of the American reading public, she purchased Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson's account of his transition from professional nurse to co-founder of the humanitarian Central Asia Institute. "I became very attracted to his accomplishments, especially because he was not an expert, either," Galpin says. "He was just a regular person, too, and I began to realize that a Pilates teacher living in Colorado could also become part of that. I saw a place for myself."

Shannon Galpin has developed a network of community partners in Afghanistan.
travis beard
Shannon Galpin has developed a network of community partners in Afghanistan.
Many Afghan children had never seen a woman ride a bicycle — until Shannon Galpin came along.
travis beard
Many Afghan children had never seen a woman ride a bicycle — until Shannon Galpin came along.

For more than a year, even as she continued her work as a wellness instructor, she helped raise funds for Mortenson's nonprofit from her home in Breckenridge. After one local fundraiser to benefit the Central Asia Institute raised more than $100,000 for women's schools in Pakistan, Galpin began thinking about creating her own organization, one targeted toward the issue of women's rights — which she always refers to as "human rights." The push to make it a reality came in 2006, when Larissa called to make the announcement that Galpin never had: She'd been raped.

As Galpin listened to her sister, the guilt struck her hard. "I felt like maybe if I had just told her, it would have prevented the same thing from happening to her," Galpin says. "I know that's unreasonable, but it spurred something. I always had a wall up, and I was unwilling to be vulnerable."

And in that haze of emotion, Galpin's life suddenly changed directions. "I had to do something, but I knew only a few things for certain: I wanted to work with women who felt like victims, and I wanted to work in the place that was named the worst for them to live," Galpin says. "It was a leap of faith. I think out of everyone, the change surprised me the least."

That place was Afghanistan, a country she'd never even visited.

The first step was to go there. Once Galpin realized she could not purchase her ticket online, she talked with a friend, a National Geographic photographer who lives in Boulder and had worked in Afghanistan on assignment. Her friend recommended a travel agent who arranged round-trip airfare to Kabul for $1,600. "My goal on that first trip was to ignore preconceptions as much as possible," Galpin remembers. "It was not to start a mission."

Following her friend's suggestion, Galpin hired a translator named Najibullah Sedeqe for this first trip — and many since. Through him, Galpin met Dr. Massouda Jalal, Afghanistan's former minister of women's affairs, who ran against Hamid Karzai for the country's presidency in 2004. That was just Galpin's first interview out of more than thirty over the next three weeks, as she met with women involved in as many areas as possible.

On her second day in the country, Galpin toured an Afghan prison, where she met women jailed without trial, women who had never taken a single class and women permanently deformed by marital "spats." A few days later, she discussed the country's high rate of maternal deaths during childbirth with a local doctor. And all through her travels, she developed a network of Afghan aid workers and international ex-pats who'd also somehow found their way to Afghanistan.

For most of the trip, Galpin's protective guide stayed by her side, locking the doors of his Toyota Corolla the second she was strapped in, unlocking them only after they'd arrived at their destination, and never letting her leave his sight. For good reason: Galpin is tall and blond, with blue eyes lighter than a Tiffany's box, and she is trusting. Sedeqe made sure she traveled in convoys and stayed in compounds.

With one exception: On one of her last days in Afghanistan, an Australian photojournalist offered Galpin a ride through Kabul on his motorcycle. "He asked me if I was allowed," Galpin says, frowning at her friend's joke, "and I was like, 'Am I allowed? Am I allowed? I'm going to do this.'" Without telling Sedeqe, Galpin straddled the bike and sped through the city where she had yet to take a walk unaccompanied. Her friend took her up to the mountains, where she looked down on Kabul...and her future.

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