by David Oliver Relin
In 1993 mountain climber Greg Mortenson went to Pakistan to climb one of the world\’s most forbidding peaks, K2. His attempt failed, and during the descent he lost the trail and stumbled into a remote village. The villagers nursed him back to health, and during his stay Mortenson was moved by their compassion for a stranger, and also by their need. He saw children attempting to hold classes in the open air, scratching their lessons in the dirt, and promised the villagers to one day return and build them a school.
Back in America, Mortenson stumbled about attempting to raise money for the school, and when by a mixture of luck and determination he\’d scraped together enough, he returned and made good his promise. A lot of the book seems to be about his mistakes. He had no experience fundraising, or constructing buildings, or running a non-profit organization, but the failures left him undaunted and he kept on until his goals were reached. After the first school he went on to build more across the region and into Afghanistan. With the help of donors and volunteers, his one-man effort grew into a charitable organization that not only built schools but also bridges and community centers, laid pipes to bring water into villages, paid teacher\’s salaries, established medical clinics and assisted refugees. I was amazed that he continued to travel through areas that were dangerous after war broke out, and how many times he got himself into frightening situations. His understanding of the local culture and aptitude for learning the language helped a lot. And the people overcame their suspicion of American foreigners when they saw that he simply wanted to help their children become educated. I think part of his rapport with the locals also came about because he didn\’t just bulldoze in and take over. He sat down to meet with tribal leaders, and got the communities involved- most of the villages donated land for their schools and supplied labor to do the construction themselves. Three Cups of Tea is a wonderfully inspiring story about how one man\’s dedication to help those in need. The latter part of the book was a bit harder for me to read; what with all the conflicts and bombings, but I did love seeing how near the end Mortenson returned to some of the villages where he\’d first built schools and saw children who were ready to move on to a higher education, who wanted to become teachers or nurses themselves, who had already thanks to their schooling, been able to help their communities. It\’s amazing what a difference he made.
Rating: 3/5 …….. 349 pages, 2006