371: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

by Gerard

371.82209549: Mortenson, Greg and David Oliver Relin. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. New York: Penguin, 2007. 331 pp. ISBN 978-0-14-303825-2.

Dewey Construction:

  • 300: Social Science
  • 370: Education
  • 371: Schools and their activities
  • 371.8: Students
  • 371.82: Specific kinds of students
  • 371.822: Women
  • +09549: Other jurisdictions in Southeast Asia

While climbing K2 in 1993, Greg Mortenson had to rescue three climbers stranded near the top. Due in part to his own fatigue and the strain of additional climbing, he never reached the summit himself. As he struggled to climb down from his base camp, he ended up in the Pakistani village of Korphe. During his time there convalescing, he noticed that the local girls were attending a school with barely any walls, dirt floors, and no teachers. In repayment for their hospitality, he promised to build them a school. And so began a two-decades’ long humanitarian mission.

Three Cups of Tea is a joint venture by both Mortenson himself and the journalist David Relin to reveal the history behind the Central Asia Institute, a group that builds schools throughout central Asia as an alternative to madrassas (or no education at all). When he returned to the US in 1994, he began contacting every wealthy person he could think of to finance the first school. When a fellow climbing enthusiast and aging millionaire chanced upon his need in a newsletter, he promptly gave him all the funds he needed, telling him “Don’t screw up.”

Mortenson’s mission to build that first school (and fifty-four after that) are a testament to one man’s vision to educate a seldom-seen part of the world. While some may question his practices or his altruism, women in Pakistan and Afghanistan are going to school, actively seeking to better both their lives and the lives of those around them. The stories are incredibly detailed and pleasantly paced. Unless you completely disagree Mortenson’s intent or philosophy, the tale is a good one to read.