I could hardly believe my ears when a woman called to say she was inviting me to a fundraiser for Greg Mortienson in New Jersey. She was Sadia Ashraf from Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute (CAI). Greg has been my hero ever since I read his magnificent “Three Cups of Tea.” When she told me they would add my novel “Cracking India” to the gift package each guest would recieve, I was blown away.
The fundraiser took place at the Hyatt in Brunswick, New Jersey on Oct. 24th 2009. It began with a reception at which Greg Mortenson and I signed our books for patrons. By six o’clock the banquet hall was packed with over 800 guests. A group of children easily won over the audience when they recited verses pertaining to Mortenson’s schools in the remote mountains of North Pakistan. Mortenson and to a much lesser extent I, were continuously approached by the crowd to autograph our books. The gift package included “Three Cups of Tea” and the young adult and an illustrated children’s version of the book.
The theme for the evening was defined by the book’s subtitle “One Man’s Mission to Promote peace – One School at a Time.” Mortenson, a mountaineer who has built over 150 schools in North Pakistan and Afghanistan, spoke of the pressing need for schools in almost inaccessable regions that still exist in a bygone age. Since its inception, The Central Asia Institute founded by him has promoted and supported community based education, especially for girls, in the remote and almost inaccessible reaches of the mighty Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains. The Institute not only helps build schools, but provides scholarships, medical facilities, teacher training and seeds incipient libraries.
Through his personal story in “Three Cups of Tea”, Greg Mortenson has been influencing people globally. He has been able to motivate students to launch the Pennies for Peace program in schools all across America. For more information on this program, please visit http://www.penniesforpeace.org/.
Today, “Three Cups of Tea” is not only sold in bookstores worldwide, but is part of curriculums in schools and a mandatory read within US military and government organizations assigned to the area. Earlier last year, Mortenson launched a Young Readers version of the book aimed at elementary school children and in December 2009 he launched the long awaited sequel: “Stones into Schools” This has already climbed to the fourth position in the New York Times Bestseller List.
Mortenson gave a stirring talk of how his project came about. On his way back from an unsuccessful assault on the K2 Mountain he got lost and was befriended by the inhabitants of a small hamlet. When he asked the village elder, who Greg came to look upon as a father, what he could do in return, the elder told him, “I have no education and neither do our children because we have no schools.” He requested that Greg build them a school. Greg determined to do so. He got virtually no response to the hundreds of letters he sent requesting funds for the project. Eventually another mountaineer gave him the seed money for a school. “Three Cups of Tea” details the enormous struggle to build the first school. Later an article on him in Parade Magazine suddenly brought him donations from readers to build several more schools.
The event was well organized and the evening’s talks and films were inspirational. The dinner raised around $230,000.
To learn more about The Central Asia Institute or to make a donation, please visit https://www.ikat.org/. Photo courtesy Usheen Davar
Bapsi Sidhwa’s wedsite: www.BapsiSidhwa.com