Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three_cups_of_teaIn 1993, Greg Mortenson failed in an attempt to climb to the summit of K2. On the way down, lost and separated from his guide, he wandered into a tiny village. The hospitality of the villagers, who shared their meager meals with him, made him determined to come back and to find a way to return their kindness. When he visited them again, he asked them to show him the local school. Embarrassed, they had to admit that there was no school building. The village children had to sit on the ground to study. The government of Pakistan did not provide a school building, and, since they had to share a teacher with another village, they had a teacher only three days a week. Mortenson was touched to see the children studying their lessons, disciplining themselves without any adult assistance.  He became determined to provide a school building, supplies, and a teacher. Back in California, he worked as an emergency room nurse, saved every possible cent by living in his car, and laboriously wrote letters, using a rented typewriter, to ask everyone he could think of for financial assistance.

This is the story of his eventual success in founding, not one school, but–at the time of writing–fifty-five schools near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Despite opposition from some conservative people in that area, these schools teach girls as well as boys. Now some of the graduates of those schools are attending college, assisted by scholarships from Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute.

One interesting section tells about the September 11 bombings. A Pakistani friend awoke Mortenson in the middle of the night to tell him that buildings in “a village called New York” had been bombed. Then this illiterate man, without a phone or the Internet, made his assessment of the situation: this was the work of Al Qaeda–then he added, “Osama.”

The inspiring story shows how one person can truly make a difference. Mortenson became so obsessed with the need for schools that he didn’t think twice about giving up physical comforts in the effort to meet his goals. His schools present a balanced education, helping to counteract the warlike teachings of many schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Mortenson does not consider combating terrorism to be one of his highest priorities, he is doing much to bring about good will among people of different religions and cultural backgrounds and to show a way of bringing peace through education. He has become so beloved by those he helps that many would protect him with their lives.

(Helen Snow, Information Services)

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