Feb 16, 10
Read in February, 2010
I learned so much about Greg Mortenson, the man, when reading this wonderful book. His sense of humor, his passion, his mission is heard and felt throughout this story. Now I really understand what the CAI is, and who the people are that run it. The Central Asia Institute is run by quirky, brave people who Greg met throughout his travels to Pakistan and Afganistan and found worthy enough to help him fulfill his dream of building schools for girls in the remote regions of Pakistan, and now Afganistan as well. After the major earthquake in Pakistan, the CAI provided tent-schools in Azad Kashmir, the earthquake zone. The CAI set up water-delivery systems, hired teachers, built schools with the guidance from Chinese experts, who knew how to build schools that were earthquake-proof. As time has passed, the CAI's role has continuously emerged. In order to help more girls get a higher education, Greg has arranged for the smartest and the brightest girls to get scholarships so they can go back to their villages and help their families become self-sufficient. Not all families will let their girls leave home for various reasons, and their scholarship awaits these girls for years...
I met Greg Mortenson when I was in Atlanta for the NCSS conference in November. He was the keynote speaker. He spoke without notes. He was brilliant. His passion pervaded the conference room filled with teachers. What this book expresses that he did not express to his audience that day, is that the cost of fame from his book Three Cups of Tea, is a double-edged sword. He wants to be in Asia, working directly with communities, with teachers, with students. In Asia, he lives on bottles of Ibuprophen for the pain of an aching body who lives without sleep, rattling in trucks for endless hours on unpaved roads in the most rural of areas to meet with the heads of tribal communities who want to build a school for the girls. Greg finds this life "energizing and inspiring." Being in the United States, engaged in non-stop promotion, salesmanship, and fund-raising leaves him feeling "drained and debilitated." Greg continues to tour the U.S. to provide the needed money to help build more and more schools for the Pakistan and Afganistan people.
Greg continues to witness the aftermath of war. War continues to be the most costly for the innocent people who live in the countries of Pakistan and Afganistan. In Afganistan, the Taliban continues to gain power by hurtling granades into schools and terrorizing innocent people. Greg is now working with the United States military to help them rebuild Afganistan. Greg continues to help the leaders of the military in his Pentagon briefings to help them see that the aim of the military "is to enhance security by fostering relationships and building a sense of trust at the grassroots level with community leaders, village elders, and tribal authorities." Knowing the culture, respecting the culture, is most important. Greg receives many letters and e-mails from people who had served in Afganistan who are fully convinced that "providing young men and women with a moderate education was the most potent and cost-effective way to combat the growth of Islamic extremism."
Greg Mortenson continues to be one of my heroes. I am proud that the school I teach in has chosen "Pennies for Peace" as a global commitment to raise money to help build one of Greg's schools in either Pakistan or Afganistan.