"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Friday, September 3, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

There are not many books that really get me fired up to actually get up and do something good.  But when I finished this book, I felt like climbing mountains and building schools with my bare hands. 

Three Cups of Tea is the true story of Greg Mortensen, who went from being a mountain climber to a humanitarian focused on providing education to girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  His harrowing, near-death experience while climbing K2 led him to a fateful meeting with the leader of a small Pakistani village called Korphe.  He promises to build them a school, as way of thanks for saving his life.  From there the book details the process of raising money, finding donors, traveling to remote and dangerous areas, and even once being kidnapped by Taliban sympathizers.

It also details the events that lead Mortensen and Jean Hoerni to co-found the Central Asia Institute, which has since built 131 schools in remote areas of the area and educated over 58,000 students, many of which are girls who would not have the opportunity otherwise.

Mortensen's main premise in the book is that the best way to fight extremism in this area is to work together to alleviate poverty and provide education.  He says it is especially important to offer schooling for girls in remote areas because often it is the females that stay in the village while the educated boys end up going into the cities to work.  The women back home are in charge and provide stability for the village.  If they are educated, they will pass that on to future generations.

I love this book for many reasons, the most important being its focus on equal education for all people and genders.  I love that Mortensen gets into this endeavor with his whole being, sacrificing much time with his family and putting himself in danger, in order to physically be a part of this work that he loves so much.  He is not one that just sends money and hope it is put to good use.  I also loves the stories of the Pakistani people, many of whom are eager for education and want peace.  The sacrifices they make and the ordeals they go through to fight for their schools is inspiring, to say the least.  I wish sometimes we here would be awakened to how lucky we are to have a multitude of educational opportunities, and how valuable it is to those who do not have easy access. 

Originally the book's subtitle read One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism One School at a Time.  Mortensen fought and won to have the subtitle actually read One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time.  Here is what he says about the difference: "If you just fight terrorism, it's based in fear. If you promote peace, it's based in hope."  This book truly does give you hope for the world.

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