A heartening follow-up to the bestselling Three Cups of Tea (2003).
Mortenson and his NGO Central Asia Institute (CAI) have been committed to building schools in the most remote corners of Pakistan and Afghanistan for the last 16 years. Here he resumes where he left off in his previous book and spotlights the extraordinary efforts to make good on a promise he made in 1999 to villagers of the Wakhan Corridor, a rugged, isolated area of northeastern Afghanistan. The Wakhan is occupied by the Kirghiz, who had been forced out of their land with the coming of the Soviets before returning to restricted migratory patterns, and are cut off from basic, life-sustaining government services. For Mortenson and his well-meaning, multiethnic crew he calls his “Dirty Dozen,” the village of Bozai Gumbaz proved to be “the definition of our last-place-first philosophy.” By enlisting the help of the local leaders and supplying the Kirghiz with necessary building materials (hauled by yak), the CAI fulfilled one of its main goals: to get the people to build a school on their own. Based in Bozeman, Mont., Mortenson tells the remarkable story of how his group operates. He travels America giving talks, raising awareness and enormous sums of money ($900,000 poured in after a 1993 Parade article), considering proposals about where next to build a school (it must be at least 50 percent girls) and courting local commandhans, or warlords. The organization had to contend with threats of kidnapping, Taliban violence, the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 and ingrained injunctions against educating girls. In his humble, winning style, the author writes of making peace with the U.S. Army, whose bombing caused enormous civilian bloodshed. Three Cups of Tea is now required reading for counterinsurgency officers, and Mortenson effectively demonstrates the “cascade of positive changes triggered by teaching a single girl how to read and write.”
Inspiring evidence of the tsunami effects of a committed humanitarian.