Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pennies for Peace

Three Cups of Tea is about Greg Mortenson's journey to build schools in Pakistan. After his failed attempt to climb the K2, when he was recuperating from the injuries he had endured at the summit, in Korphe (small village in Northern Pakistan), he discovered that the village's children did not have a school. The government of Pakistan, yes that is the country that received 10 billion dollars in foreign aid from the Bush administration, could not afford to pay the former Korphe teacher his monthly salary of 1 dollar. As a result, he left the village to find work elsewhere. However, the teacher of the neighbouring village came to Korphe once a month to give the students their homework. Mortenson saw the Korphe children learning the material on their own. Some of the children did not even have pencils or paper so they were writing with a broken tree branch on the rocky ground that they were sitting on.

Seeing this, Mortenson decided to travel back to the States to collect enough money ($12, 000 to be exact) to build a school for these forgotten children. Back in California, where he moonlighted as a nurse , he wrote 580 letters to various celebrities hoping they would be willing to help his cause to educate children in a third world country. However, other than a NBC news correspondent who sent a check of 100 dollars, none of the celebrities, including Oprah, wrote back. Disheartened, Mortenson shared his failure to raise money with his colleague at the hospital. The colleague said that he knew of a physicist Dr. Jean Hoerni who might be willing to help Mortenson's cause.

In the meantime Mortenson's mother who was a principal at an elementary school, invited him to speak to her students, about the school he was trying to build in Pakistan. The students were so touched by Mortenson's cause that each one of them donated a penny to build a school in Pakistan, starting the campaign 'Pennies for Peace'.

I will not regurgitate the entire book here. The fact is after initial roadblocks, Mortenson not only ended up building a school in Korphe, Pakistan, but since 1994, he has at least built 60 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has also sponsored schools in Afghanistan that did not have books, or other school supplies, and where the teachers were not getting paid.

Mortenson received several death threats in America after 9/11, because people believed that he was enabling the terrorists, the Muslims. Similarly, in Afghanistan he was abducted because they thought he was an American spy. Moreover, in Pakistan he was accused of propagating western teachings. But, in spite of all these trials, Mortenson is still busy building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We live in a very shitty world. There are people dying of hunger, children are not provided with proper healthcare and education, women are raped in Darfur so the government could ethnically exterminate the unwanted race. But it is people like Mortenson, who remind us that every action no matter how small makes a big difference.

In the news, we hear about the Republican and Democratic nominees, arguing who has the tougher anti-terrorism policy. Who would be able to obliterate terrorism from Northern Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The American government can kill the Taleban all they want, while collaterally taking lives of innocent individuals and children. In the book Mortenson mentions seeing this boy Ahmed at the Afghan border sitting on a bag of potatoes with his younger brother. Mortenson went up to him, wondering what he was doing alone. The boy said that since his family could not find food in Afghanistan, he and his brother had come to Pakistan to buy food with their father, but their father got killed, on their way back to Afghanistan, by the mines the American soldiers had laid out in the region.

If this boy, is not provided education, food, or proper healthcare, and is constantly reminded that Americans took away his father's life, would it not be expected of him to follow the crusade of Al-Qaeda?

The title Three Cups of Tea reminded me of George Orwell's essay A Nice Cup of Tea, therefore I couldn't help myself from drawing comparisons between the political innuendo presented in Three Cups..., and Orwell's Animal Farm. As George Orwell illustrated in Animal Farm, when a revolution is brought about, it is propagated by reminding average individuals, who have faced years of injustice, hunger, and other hardships, that their problems are caused by the powerful authority.

In Animal Farm, the pigs (Snowball and Napoleon) revolted against the owner of the Manor Farm, by recounting the atrocities the animals of the farm had suffered at the hands of Mr. Jones. Once they had successfully ousted Mr. Jones from the farm, they worked in tranquility for a while, but the superior pigs who had taught themselves how to read and write, had the upper-hand over other animals such as the horses, sheep, chickens, etc., as they did not have the same brain power. But when the farm had trouble sustaining on its own, they needed another scapegoat to blame their troubles on. In order to achieve that, Napoleon (pig) used terror to mute the scepticism that was expressed by the animals, and blamed the economic problems, the farm was facing, on one of their own, Snowball (also a pig). Since the other animals were not as educated, they were made to believe that they did not have the ability or the vision to fully understand the corrupt tactics Napoleon was employing to run the farm. The animals were asked to blindly trust Napoleon, and live by his doctrine.

If there is no education in these troubled areas, if they are not provided with an opportunity to feed their families, the world would always have its share of Hitlers, Stalins, and Osama bin Ladens.

p.s. For more information please buy the book, the money goes towards building schools.
All Animals are equal
But some animals are more equal than others.
(George Orwell, Animal Farm)


changetheworld360 said...

Wow, that's a great story. I should definitely read that book. There is so much bloodshed, poverty, and chaos in the world that we absolutely need to do something about.

Zany said...

Thank you for reading.

I agree with you, and these are the stories we do not hear about. People like Greg Mortenson sacrifice everything to help those in need.

Josh said...

A great post, I read the book a few months back and thought it was truly inspirational:
But never equated it to Animal Farm, an interesting correlation....