Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson


Audiobook.  Another inspiring book by Greg Mortenson about his work to build schools, especially for girls, in Pakistan; this one focuses on his work in Afghanistan.  (See my entry about Three Cups of Tea.)  He was sought out by an unlikely delegation, a group of Kyrgyz nomadic herders from the 100 mile long Wakhan Corridor, the very narrow panhandle of Afghanistan, who have been largely ignored by the government of Afghanistan.

It's not too surprising that they are ill-served by Kabul; this remote region in the Hindu Kush is closed to traffic for much of the year, and when you can travel here, you are not moving very fast.  This area was part of the Silk Road and was made part of Afghanistan to separate Tajikistan from Pakistan for political reasons in the distant past.  It reaches to China in the east.  Ten years after the delegation made their request, a school was built; the efforts of the local residents was especially important in this undertaking.

The participation of the local population is always a key element in any school that is built.  Before undertaking a project, his organization, the Central Asia Institute, meets with local leaders; mullahs are a vital part of the decision making.  When the Taliban has attacked girls schools, many times the local mullahs have been successful in protecting the CAI schools. 

Another unlikely group that has made a connection to Mortenson is the US military; Three Cups of Tea is required reading for many deployed in the region.  He has met with Admiral Mike Mullen and Mullen attended the opening of one of the schools, bringing with him a planeload of reporters.

A long section of this book describes the terrible 2005 earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; the CAI found itself trying to become a disaster relief agency.  Mortenson also describes his work as a fund-raiser.  He clearly does not enjoy the non-stop speaking engagements, and would prefer racing around Pakistan and Afghanistan with his buddy Sarfraz Khan, fueled by Advil.    He has written a wonderful book and is an articulate and appealing spokesman for this inspiring work. 

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