Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan

In December 2009, Greg Mortenson followed his 2006 #1 best seller, Three Cups of Tea, with its chronological sequel, Stones into Schools:  Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Stones into Schools picks up in late 2003 where Three Cups of Tea left off and continues into 2009. 

Three Cups of Tea starts with Mortenson's purposeful adventure to climb to the top of K2 in 1992, the second highest mountain in the world, which is located in the Karakoram range in northern Pakistan at its border with China, and claimed to be the most dangerous, to honor his sister.  Mortenson has to abandon his effort before reaching K2's peak and almost loses his life after wandering off alone during his descent.  He ends up in a small village, called Korphe, where the people welcome him and help him find himself in more ways than Mortenson could have imagined.  Mortenson was so moved by his experience that he promised the village leader he would return to build a school for Korphe's children.

By the time Vicking Penguin published Stones into Schools,  Mortenson's nonprofit Central Asia Institute (CAI) had built over 130 schools true to its mission "to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Stones into Schools continues with Mortenson's strenuous adventures often with his seemingly superhuman manager, Sarfraz Khan, while they first build relationships and then schools in the northeast corner regions of Afghanistan, Badakshan Province and Wakhan Corridor.  This effort to expand his mission into Afghanistan is interrupted by the catastrophic earthquake in the Azad Kashmir region of eastern Pakistan in October 2005.  By the time CAI returns to Afghanistan in 2007, the organization under the watchful eye and keen intelligence of Khan, has set up tent schools and built a number of earthquake-proof schools in Kashmir.  Back in Afghanistan,  the CAI successfully builds more schools even some in Taliban territory.  By this time, Mortenson develops relationships with US military leaders and men.  Even today, the US military solicits and implements Mortenson's advice and expertise about the diverse cultures found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I would highly recommend both Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools.  After reading them, I have a greater understanding of the complexities of this area.  Before reading these books, I wouldn't necessarily even understand the names of provinces when hearing the news let alone know where they are located and what the tribal differences might be.  Now, I'm no expert, but am inspired to support CAI and other nonprofit organiztions who promote the education of girls world-wide with donations, time, and energy.

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