Overcoming Walls: Taking Climbing to the Next Level with the OLAS Sanctuary Project

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By Jessica Wan. Header photo by Saki Cake.

This past June, Touchstone celebrated Pride all month long and Berkeley Ironworks partnered with the OLAS Sanctuary Project, to whom we donated all of our Pride proceeds; we also hosted their group earlier in June for a fun day of climbing (not to mention their first event back in 2017)!

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OLAS, which stands for Organización LGBT de Apoyo y Solidaridad (LGBT Organization for Support and Solidarity), was founded in 2014 as a response to the personal and collective needs of LGBT asylum-seekers from Latin America due to experiences of violence and discrimination in their countries of origin. And at Berkeley Ironworks, we were proud to provide a safe place for them to try something new, challenge themselves, and build community!

For the group, climbing was more than just a physical activity. It was a way to feel empowered and to build self-confidence. They entered the gym with the goals to have fun and accomplish something that in the beginning seemed scary and challenging. Moreover, rock climbing also symbolized Latino immigrants climbing walls, which only motivated them even more.

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By the end of their event they commented that, “It was a wonderful activity, which gave everyone a sense of teamwork, empowerment, and a sense that, with enough support, we can face our fears and come together to overcome obstacles! We had fun and we learned that we do not need to be afraid of walls. The activity was symbolically meaningful, personally challenging and stimulating, and extremely enjoyable. Thank you Berkeley Ironworks!”

We had fun and we learned that we do not need to be afraid of walls.

Those who participated that day left these comments as well:

“Gracias a Ironworks por permitirnos a nuestro groupos de las por experimentar una nueva y maravillosa experiencia de escalar.” (Thank you Ironworks for allowing our group to try a new and wonderful experience.)

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“Wow!!! Extraordinaria experienceia el dia de hoy. Ironworks es unn lugar genial para pusar un dia con los amigos de hermanos OLAS, fue especial.” (Wow, extraordinary experience today! Ironworks is a great place for a day with the friends from OLAS, it was special.)


“Quiero agradacer por toda. Su atencion y paciencia. Lo recomiendo mucho. Me gusta como me entrenaron para disfrutar mas escalar. Fueron muy pasientes y me enseñaron paso por paso de como estar segura y que todos estan comodos. Gracias volvere a este gran lugar.” (I want to thank you for everything. Your patience and attention. I recommend it a lot. I like how they trained me to enjoy climbing more. They were very patient and they taught me step by step how to be safe and made everyone comfortable. Thank you, I will come back to this great place.)

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And while Pride month may be over, our support for organizations like OLAS continues on! Later this winter, we’ll be hosting their annual fundraiser on December 1st. If you’re interested in donating and/or volunteering, please visit their website. We look forward to many more collaborations with their organization and continuing to be a safe place for them to climb!