Over the Christmas holidays, I read Three Cups of Tea - One Man's Mission to Promotoe Literacy One School at a Time , the true story account of Greg Mortenson's work building schools in Pakistan. As a teacher, I'm always interested in reading about schools around the world, especially where girls are not afforded the same opportunities as our girls have in Canada. And this book is the incredible story of one man's humanitarian work that really is making a difference!
This book provides details about the political reality of life for everyday people in Pakistan - and I had no idea about many of the details. He talks about money not getting out of the big city and down to schools that are far out in the provinces. He talks about local warlords and outsiders controlling the population and young people who are uneducated. And he talks about how village fathers made a difference and provided hope for their own daughters and all the children in their communities.
Mortenson's desire to get involved started after his unsuccessful attempt to summit K-2 in the Himalayas and his subsequent time spent convalescing in a village in the Karakoram mountains. Near the end of his time in the village, he was trying to think of a way to help the villagers and asked to visit the local school, thinking he'd spend the last of his money to buy supplies or textbooks to send back. He saw 82 school children (78 boys and 4 girls) kneeling on the frosty ground because they had no school building. He heard that the government didn't supply a school teacher (the village couldn't afford to pay the salary of $1 a day) so they shared one with another village and he was only there 3 days a week. He marveled that the students practiced lessons on their own while the teacher was away, writing in the dirt or using slates with a mud and water mixture instead of chalk or ink. And he knew that he could do something more so he promised his host that he would build a school for the village.
The book goes on to describe the subsequent fund raising, letter writing, evening presentations and enormous efforts that Mortenson spent the next 10 years doing in order to raise funds and build 55 schools throughout the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Spending months every year in Pakistan away from his own family, he continues to find opportunities to help more villages realize the dream of educating their children and changing their futures. Inspiring to say the least!
One of the things I loved about this book is that after the acknowledgements, David Oliver Relin (the journalist who collaborated with Mortenson to tell his story) presents 9 suggestions for readers who might be inspired to do more. One of the suggestions is to blog about the book to increase the 'buzz' and awareness of education and literacy, especially for girls. Please consider reading the book, visiting the website Three Cups of Tea and carrying the torch!!!