In a blog post some weeks ago, I talked about how chance events can end up shaping our entire lives—and sometimes the lives of others too.
Greg Mortenson’s example makes this all too clear. On a 1993 mountaineering expedition to climb Pakistan’s K2, he ended up lost in the remote village of Korphe, whose residents took him in and helped him recuperate. Then one day he noticed how eager the local children were for education. With no school building, and a teacher who only came to their village three times a week, they braved the cold to sit outside as a group and review their lessons on their own. Touched by their discipline and determination, Mortenson decided on the spot that he would return and build them a school.
Nor did he stop there. Today, Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute has built 145 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has educated 64,000 students—52,000 of whom are girls.
All because of a mountain climbing expedition that didn’t quite make it to the summit.
Three Cups of Tea is the story of how Mortenson’s life led him on this amazing path, and the determination with which he managed to climb much more challenging mountains than K2. In doing so, he had to deal with all kinds of people and circumstances, including war, political instability, being kidnapped, religious extremists who were against girls’ education and threatened him, and hostility from some of his own country people who didn’t believe in his mission. But as the book makes clear, he has also received an incredible amount of support from people who were inspired by his work and wanted to join forces, which is what made all of this possible.
It’s a definite must-read; not only is it an interesting and inspiring story of someone who really has made a difference, but also provides a great insight into how community-based development projects can be efficient and successful with the right approach—an approach that can be applied anywhere in the world.
One more interesting point to ponder: Mortenson is always quick to point out that his goal is to build peace, and that there is no better way to do so than by providing children with a balanced education. This seems particularly relevant in the International Year of Youth, dedicated to Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. What are your views on this? Do you think education is the cornerstone to building tolerant societies? What else, in your opinion, is essential for building peace?
Image courtesy Central Asia Institute