February 10, 2010
Stones into Schools
by Greg Mortenson
When I read Three Cups of Tea, I was amazed and impressed by Greg Mortenson's travails and ultimate success in his quest to build a school in remote northern Pakistan. (I reviewed Three Cups here.)
Stones Into Schools begins when Mortenson meets a group of sixteen Kirghiz horsemen who have ridden six days to locate him on the Pakistan side of the Irshad Pass. These men have come from the farthest reaches of the remote Wakhan region of Afghanistan to ask Mortenson to build a school for their children.
Mortenson promises, but it takes him 10 years and much help from his native Pakistani and Afghani “dirty dozen” as he calls the brave lieutenants of his non-profit organization, Central Asia Institute (CAI), to achieve that goal. They must travel through areas afflicted by the ravages of 20 years of war, deal with landslides and earthquakes, and build relationships (through many cups of tea) with the local mujahedeen. Along the way, many poor communities request help, which is given where possible. The CAI builds several dozen schools while working toward one of the highest inhabited regions of the world where the Kirghiz horsemen dwell.
From the standpoint of overcoming incredible logistics, the CAI’s effort makes a fascinating story. But this is also the touching tale of a people surrounded by Taliban fighters, opium trade, and cruel environmental conditions whose last best hope is that a school will bring a better life to their children and community. Their persistence and eventual success in fulfilling this dream is nothing short of legendary.
As Mortenson says in his last chapter, “If this is what the weakest, the least valued, the most neglected among us are capable of achieving, truly is there anything we cannot do?”
This is an inspiring book, well written. Read it.
P.S. I'm out of town for a few days, playing with my granddaughter. I'll catch up on visiting your blogs when I return!