One person making a difference
By Ethel Fopeano
This past fall we were privileged to hear Greg Mortenson, who with David Relin, co-wrote Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations…One School at a Time. This was part of the Distinguished Speakers Series held at the University of Buffalo in their Alumni Arena where basketball games and concerts are usually held. This time, instead, the Arena was filled with noisy, enthusiastic students from the University and high schools plus the general public. With their registrations the UB students had been given free copies of the book, Three Cups of Tea, which they used as a text in their classes. On stage at the opening of the talk were young students from local grade and high schools who had made generous contributions to Mortenson’s fund, Pennies For Peace.
The noise was hushed when Mortenson told of his attempt to climb K2, the second highest mountain in Pakistan, but became separated from his group. Hurt and disoriented, he eventually stumbled into a remote village and was nursed back to health by the local people whom he found were caring, proud and independent. In gratitude he promised to build a school for their children, whom he observed meeting in an empty field. It took several years for him to raise private funds, and overcome almost unbelievable obstacles. One such obstacle was getting building materials over a roaring glacial stream (answer: build a bridge). His sincerity and passion were evident at this talk when the close-up camera showed beads of perspiration on his face. He explained how he had worked with the local people without receiving any governmental support. After his first school was completed, he went on to build 145 more. Later in Afghanistan, he continued his work in building schools and promoting education, obtaining clean water, and establishing health care. This is documented in another book, Stones Into Schools.
I would recommend both these books as a way to hear how one person can make a difference in this world. These readings would also help create an understanding of our neighbors in Pakistan and Afghanistan.