Three Cups of Tea’s Greg Mortenson: An Unlikely Hero, A Builder of Schools

24 04 2009
Greg Mortenson didn’t set out to be a hero, but life pushed him into it. His sister Christa, a lifelong epileptic, died and he decided to honor her memory in 1993 by climbing Pakistan’s K2, the second highest mountain in the world and possibly the most difficult to climb. After 78 days, he did not reach the summit and stumbled into the village of Korphe…ill, worn out, exhausted.

The people there nursed him back to health. He visited the local school and saw 84 children writing their lessons in the dirt. They so desired an education, but poverty prevented them from having what they needed to learn. He promised the people he would come back and build them a school.

Greg Mortenson with Pakistani Schoolchildren - Image courtesy Central Asia Institute

Greg Mortenson with Pakistani Schoolchildren - Image courtesy Central Asia Institute

That promise led Greg to build 78 schools…and counting… in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 28,000 students so far have gotten an education because of Greg’s promise and passion.

The thing that is remarkable about Greg is that he had no money when he returned to the U.S. He lived in his car for a while. But he was determined to keep that promise. He wrote letters to 580 prominent people. He said he could build a school for $12,000 and finally Jean Hoerni, founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, sent him a check.

Greg had no experience fundraising or building schools, but he had a strong will to help the children get an education and he continually found the way to make it happen. On Hoerni’s death, he endowed the Central Asia Institute with $1 million and named Greg the director. It gave Greg the funds to build more schools and eventually more people were brought on board to help in the efforts, both in the U.S. and in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Greg has given tirelessly of himself in the last 16 years and has had tremendous support from his wife and two children. He spends part of each year in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region and the other part in the U.S. giving fund-raising speeches. He is a current nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and has won numerous awards.

This post just cannot do justice to the miracles that Greg Mortenson has brought into reality through his tenacity and passion. He has withstood personal danger, financial hardship, long separations from his family, and much more to make an education a reality for children…especially girls…who would otherwise have no future.

Greg has found that educating a girl does three important things:

  1. Significantly decreases the population explosion over a generation or two
  2. Reduces infant mortality dramatically in a decade or two
  3. Significantly improves the basic quality of health and life itself

Greg’s efforts have also helped build bridges, pipes to provide clean water, women’s centers, and other structures necessary to make it possible for children to attend school.

three-cups-of-tea-book-coverGreg is a testament to what one person can do…an unlikely hero, but a hero still. Read the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time by Greg and David Oliver Relin about Greg’s journey. It is captivating. You can read more about Greg on the website.

You can also learn more about the Central Asia Institute and make a donation to help build more schools. Pennies for Peace is a program of the Central Asia Institute that educates children about the world outside their experience and encourages them to make an impact globally by contributing pennies.

It only costs $1 a month to educate a child and $1 a day to pay a teacher’s salary. Consider giving. Your money will go a long way to making a huge difference in a child’s life.

Bravo, Greg Mortenson! You are my hero!

UPDATE 11/28/09: In a 11/25 letter from the Central Asia Institute, they say that they established 21 new schools in 2009 in Afghanistan. They also “started two dozen more women’s literacy centers, scholarship programs for hundreds of eager students and a new maternal health-training program in northern Pakistan.” Their Pennies for Peace program grew from 250 to over 4,600 schools in 2009. The program brought in the equivalent of 160 million pennies to help students all over the world. Greg’ new book Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan is being released 12/1.



5 responses

24 04 2009
Three Cups of Tea’s Greg Mortenson: An Unlikely Hero, A Builder of Schools

[…] Original post by Diane Beeler […]

24 04 2009

Cool, I can’t wait to read this book!

28 05 2009
Pages tagged "three cups of tea"

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21 07 2009
Dr Zelpha Kittler

I read Mortenson’s ‘Three Cups…’ with rapt interest and admiration. I do however express my deep reservation about his eulogy on Mother Teresa. I had the misfortune to work for her order (in Cal) when she was alive – I was applalled by the sheer inhumanity I saw – No, I didn’t go there expecting a lot as I know India fairly well and am aware you should not expect anywhere near international standrads; but I saw Indian charities achieve much more there with far less resources. Thinking people like Mortenson should not accept what they been bombarded with by the media over decades but approach issues with an open mind.

21 10 2010

I enjoyed Three Cups of Tea and it seems like Mortenson is an amazing guy.

That being said, there was a glaring problem with the section from the book on Mother Teresa, namely that Mother Teresa died in 1997 but in the book, Mortenson talks about being in India in 2000 and going to her funeral at that time. I read this passage several times to make sure I wasn’t missing something, but there’s no mistaking it. Moreover, based on the chronology of his story, it doesn’t seem possible that he would have been in India in 1997 when she actually died. So what to make of this? Is it fabricated in order to link the two of them in the minds of the readers? (Lending creedence to the opinion held by some that the book was a de facto Nobel application for GM.) Or is there a more benign explanation?

Regardless, Mortenson seems like an incredible guy. I just thought this was very strange portion of the book.

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