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.

3 comments:

trang said...

How did you find out about Greg Mortenson? When I was reading this post, I got chills. I thought this was just going to be a story about a physical achievement at first, but I was completely surprised by such a compelling story. Not only is he inspirational, so is his whole family! I love that love spreads love (haha, three love's in one sentence). I would love to read the book and learn more about him. What a wonderful guy!

shayni said...

A friend of my dad's told me about the book. She was so excited to tell me the story, and I was immediately amazed by this guy. Sometime within the next couple days, I read an article about him in the newspaper... and the story just got better and better. Now, I really can't wait for the book!

trang said...

Shayni,

I finally got a copy for myself that I can pass along, instead of mooching off of yours. ;)