By Mariah Pulver
Youth Journalism International
FORT WORTH, Texas, U.S.A. – Education is the way to promote peace, Greg Mortenson, co- author of Three Cups of Tea, told an audience at Texas Christian University last week.
|Image courtesy Central Asia Institute|
The Frost Foundation, part of TCU’s Center for International Studies, brought Mortenson to lecture. All first-year students had to read Three Cups of Tea over the summer, so bringing Mortenson to speak helped bring together the whole message.
The program began with a local children’s choir performing a song about all the work that Mortenson has done to help children in the Middle East. He shook the hands of each child and thanked them all for singing.
Mortenson spoke for more than an hour, discussing everything from the beginning of his work to what everyone can do to help.
He told about how he grew up in Africa with his parents, who were working to build hospitals. And although he never thought that he would end up doing work similar to that, he did.
Mortenson almost failed out of college his first semester, but was encouraged to keep trying and eventually he became a nurse.
But when his sister Christa died, he made a vow to climb K2 in Pakistan – one of the world’s tallest peaks – and place her necklace at the very top.
He never made it, though, and on the way down, got lost and ended up in a village named Korphe, where villagers helped him.
In Korphe, Mortenson made a promise that changed his life.
Haji Ali, a village chief in Korphe, shared three cups of tea with Mortenson, signifying with each cup that they moved past being strangers and friends, in order to become family. Mortenson promised to build a school for the village, since all of the children were taught outside, in the dirt.
To build the school, he had to work and attempt to raise money, which was a difficult task.
Today, Mortenson’s foundation , the Central Asia Institute, builds many schools, without Mortenson having to work all on his own to raise the money.
Mortenson spoke about where they built schools, how he dealt with the Taliban, and how the village elders are the ones who decide everything in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
One story he told was about a young boy, Gul Marjan, in Lander. The boy walked to the construction site for the school every day to see where he would be able to go to learn.
But one day, the boy stepped on one of the many landmines that covered the area due to war. It ended up being fatal and the boy’s death was a blow to the village. Mortenson said this boy died looking forward to a chance to be educated.
Mortenson stressed education as a way to promote peace everywhere. If people are educated, he said, then terrorism and war will decrease.
Instead of spending on the military, that money could be spent on schools, he said.
Through the efforts of Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute, many more children have had the benefit of an education.
In order to do this, Mortenson had to make deals with the elders in each village, who are usually suspicious of Americans. But by being respectful and listening, Mortenson did what others thought impossible.
He showed that anyone can make a difference, whether it is a nation, a town, or one person.