Saturday, January 26, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson was a mountain climber. In 1993, in memory of his sister who died of a seizure, Greg went to Pakistan to attempt a climb of K2, the world’s second highest mountain peak and notoriously most dangerous mountain to climb. He failed to reach the peak, but discovered something else during the trip. While he was recovering from the climb in a tiny town where no one spoke a word of English, he met a group of kids writing with sticks in the dirt. Eventually, he figured out that these kids were doing their school work. They did not have a teacher, they did not have a school house, they did not have any resources. Greg became fascinated by and attached to these kids and before he left, he promised them that he would return within the next year and build them a school.

Well, Greg kept his promise. And since then, he has dedicated his life to building 61 schools in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has also worked hard to promote and support education for girls. Of the 25,000 students that attend Greg’s schools, 14,000 are girls.

When the U.S. government found out about his organization and incredible influence on the rural communities of a region considered the front lines of the war on terror, they offered a large sum of money in exchange for cooperation with military procedures. They wanted complete control over where schools could be located and when they could meet. Greg declined this offer. Though he was a military man himself, having served in Germany during the Cold War, Greg made a clear point of always distinguishing his work from the interests of the military while in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is how he was able to gain the trust of local government, tribal, and religious leaders. His mission and motto is to fight terrorism with books, not bombs.

Over the years, and especially since 9/11, Greg has received much opposition and scrutiny, being criticized and hated for offering aid and education to Muslim children. But he has persevered and never lost sight of that life-changing moment when he made a promise to a group of children on the side of a mountain. He has received several humanitarian awards for his work, and recently finished a book about his experiences which has received international fame and literary praise. It is called Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time and has been on the New York Times Bestsellers List for nine months. I just ordered mine from Amazon, and hope to be even more inspired by reading his own words. I’ll let you borrow it when I’m done!

Greg is a hero, and a beautiful example of how successful compassion can be.

Read more about Greg and his book here.

Tim Aline Rebeaud

This is the first post to help us inspire each other, and what better way than to write about Tim Aline Rebeaud? Although I have already told you about her on the phone, I want to write about her so that we can archive this collection of amazing people/events.

Tim, which is the Vietnamese word for "heart", was a world traveler. At the age of twenty, she landed in Vietnam. Upon her short stay (or what she thought at the time to be a short stay), she discovered an orphaned child crying in an alley. She took it upon herself to help this child, and since then, she never left foot of Vietnam! She started a shelter in Ho Chi Minh City called The Maison Chance, a place where orphans and the handicapped are welcome. Except, this place is unlike many other shelters of which we know. Tim recruits volunteers to help these orphans and handicaps to get back on their feet, by offering them English/French/skill lessons. They live together under one roof as a family. The amazing thing about Tim? She doesn't have a single drop of Vietnamese blood in her. She is a Swiss, who is now completely fluent in Vietnam! She has spent the last fifteen years of her life dedicating it to helping those others in need.

What an amazing lady, right?!

You can read more about her here or on her shelter webpage.