Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations chronicles the true adventures of Greg Mortenson, a mountain climbing “bum” who was rescued by his Pakistani hosts after a failed attempt at conquering the difficult peak known as K2. His experiences in the remote village inspired his new mission of building schools for local children, especially girls, who are often denied education by conservative mullahs.
The Main Body:
The subtitle of Three Cups of Tea, “One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations,” says a lot about the focus of the book. The story begins with Mortenson’s recovery from exhaustion in the village of Korphe, Pakistan. He was so moved by the warmhearted hospitality of his hosts that he looked for a way to repay them.
He visited the village school, which was nothing more than a hillside. Most of the 84 children there had to write in the dirt with sticks, since they only had seven slates between them. Their cheerful spirit and their enthusiasm for learning were impressive to Mortenson. He decided then and there to do what he could to build them a real school equipped with the necessary tools for learning.
The rest of the book explores the way that Greg Mortenson went about his mission. He did not have any experience as a fund-raiser, but threw himself into the job wholeheartedly. He returned to the US in late 1993 and was determined to raise the $12,000 he needed to build a school in Korphe. After writing more than 500 letters to various celebrities and businessmen, selling his car, his mountain climbing gear and most of his possessions, he still only had about $3000 after a year’s struggle.
Then he visited the school in Wisconsin where his mother was principal and told the children about his dream. After he left, the students organized a “Pennies for Pakistan” campaign that brought in more than sixty thousand pennies. Their enthusiasm encouraged adults to give, and the project was underway.
In the years since then, his Central Asia Institute has built fifty-five schools in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson is convinced that providing an education for the children in these countries where Americans are often feared or hated is the best way to win them away from leaders who promote terrorism. It is an inspiring story of the way that one person really can make a difference in the lives of others.
Listeners who do not want to devote thirteen and a half hours to the story might want to consider getting the Young Readers Edition of the book. Coming in at four hours, it is a good summation of Mortenson’s work that will appeal to youngsters and their parents, alike.
Patrick Lawlor narrates Three Cups of Tea capably. At times his attempts at speaking with the accents of the characters seem unnecessary because this story is a documentary and not a drama. However, he displays a passion for the subject that is unmistakable.