Want To Save A Chunk Of Our 100 Billion Afghan War Dollars ? Greg Mortenson Says “Build Schools IN Afganistan, Not Just Bombs FOR Afganistan”

by: Marlene email

Greg Mortenson on Lecture Tour to Raise Money for Schools

On Thursday March 24th, I  zip-zipped the 45 minutes over  from Cape Charles, VA  to Norfolk where I attended an inspirational lecture at Old Dominion  University given by Greg Mortenson,  author of  “Three Cups of Tea” ,  the best selling book about his mission to build girls’ schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.   Montenson exhorted the capacity crowd of  3,000  to support building more  schools in  Afghanistan  and fewer bombs for Afghanistan.  I found his message of supporting education, especially for girls,  not simply  uplifting but also very timely and practical.  If you haven’t yet read  “Three  Cups of Tea” ,  it is definitely worth a special trip to my favorite bookstore, Barnes and Noble,  to buy it.  In fact, when it first came out a few years ago I found it so compelling that bought  copies  for each of my kids as well as a few friends. And check out his website,   www.ikat.org 

"3 Cups of Tea" - Buy It, You'll Love It !

I think of myself as a very practical person and one of the most interesting things,  from a practical point of view, about Mortenson’s championing the cause of education in Afghanistan,  especially for girls,  is that  the US military is now taking some of his ideas on relationship building to heart.    “Three Cups of Tea”   has become mandatory  reading  in U.S. Army war colleges and  by the commanders and special forces troops on the ground in  Afghanistan.  General Petraeus has incorporated Mortenson’s three core principles into the Army’s efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people– 1.) Listen more and look at issues from their perspective.  2.)Be respectful  3) Build relationships.   Since the US budget for the war in Afganistan is about 118 Billion  per year ,  clearly everything we can do to win over the people there will help our war efforts.  Both General McCrystal and General Petraeus were won over to Mortenson’s principle of working with the elders in the Afghan communities to create the trust needed to achieve the best results and to focus on empowering the Afghan people.

School Materials Must Be Carried By Human Express Up Steep Mountains

Mortenson’s great success has come because the Afgan people in each village where his foundation builds a school  must demonstrate their sincere desire for the school,  wait their turn for the school to be built and agree to donate the land and all the construction labor before  his foundation,  the Central Asia Institue  (CAI ),  agrees to donate the building materials, books and school supplies.  He estimates that it takes up to 8,000 or more  man hours of labor to bring in the construction materials, which often must be brought in  tied to the backs of the villagers as they climb up the mountains to deliver the materials to their remote villages and to actually construct  the school.  Because of the huge involvement on the part of  the entire village  which donates its  time and its  land,  the village becomes  so psychologically invested in the concept of  having  their own school and their children being able to get an education that to date not one village school built by the CAI  has been destroyed by the TalibanIn concert with  various villages in high mountainous  areas where there have never been  schools,   Greg Mortenson’s group has built 178 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan,  schools which are now educating 68,000 children per year who would otherwise receive no education whatsoever !    How amazing and life-changing for these children !   Most of the schools CAI has built are are schools for girls.  Mortenson’s  motto is  ” If you educate a boy you educate an individual but if you educate a girl you educate a community”.  Mortenson has also been building what he calls  “Women’s Literacy Centers” where they educate adult  woman on a variety of issues like nutrition and  hygeine,  etc., provide a wealth of  information and skills which they can then take back to their village and pass on to the other women of their village, who then pay to forward to other women,  so the information ripples ever outward,  helping entire families in these remote villages.  Empowerment through education !  Go,  Greg,  go !

Changing The World, One School At A Time.

Towards the end of his lecture,  Mortenson outlined one of this most interesting fund-raising efforts called “Pennies for Peace”,  www.penniesforpeace.org   This is a stellar program where 4th, 5th and 6th graders collect change to be given to help build  CAI schools.  But Mortenson indicated that  one of the most interesting things to come about through the Pennies  program was not just the benefit to the Afghan schools but the pride and interest created in the American kids who are participating in the program.  These kids  become  really interested in the world and how they can help the world,  they take enormous pride and pleasure in working  for a cause so important, it really expands their horizons and self esteem.    It’s no wonder that  President Obama donated $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize to Mortenson’s efforts.  And I agree with Greg Mortenson’s statement that    ” The real war over there is poverty and illiteracy.  You cannot bomb people into peace.”   If we would take just a small chunk of the 100 billion dollars we are spending to wage war in Afghanistan and spent it to educate the children and alleviate the proverty there we  could save money, save lives, save the situation.  As Mortenson would say,  “Speak  the  Peace”  and  let your Congressman and Senator know how you feel !   P.S. Check out the CAI and its efforts at   www.ikat.org


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