Three cups of tea

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About Greg Mortenson

Click here for a full biography.

Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute http://www.ikat.org , founder of Pennies For Peace http://www.penniesforpeace.org , and co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea http://www.threecupsoftea.com , and author of the bestsellerStones into Schools http://www.stonesintoschools.com .

In 2009, Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil aheadingward, Sitara-e-Pakistan (“Star of Pakistan”) for his dedicated and humanitarian effort to promote education and literacy in rural areas for fifteen years.

Several bi-partisan U.S. Congressional representatives have nominated Mortenson twice for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2009 and 2010.

Mortenson was born in Minnesota in 1957. He grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (1958 to 1973). His father Dempsey, co-founded Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) http://www.kcmc.ac.tz a teaching hospital, and his mother, Jerene, founded the International School Moshi http://www.ismoshi.org .

He served in the U.S. Army in Germany (1977-1979), where he received the Army Commendation Medal, and graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983.

In July 1992, Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dysersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, was filmed in a cornfield.

To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.

While recovering from the climb in a village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school.

From that rash promise, grew a remarkable humanitarian campaign, in which Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan’ Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, escaped a 2003 firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. He has overcome fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and also received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children with education.

Mortenson is a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.

He is one of few foreigners who has worked for over a decade in rural villages where few foreigners go, and considered the ‘front lines’ of the ‘war on terror’

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Afterthought: After writing this post, I was astonished to find that a journalist had written a ‘disclaimer’ book, claiming that Greg Mortenson lied about some of his adventures and that m

English: Greg Mortenson's Portrait

English: Greg Mortenson’s Portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

uch of the money for the charity has gone missing. This led to an investigation by the Attorney General of Montana which has now been completed and stated:
“Our investigation centered on whether CAI’s officers and directors satisfied their legal duties with regard to Mortenson’s books and speaking engagements, and in managing the financial and operational affairs of the organization. We concluded that the board of directors failed to fulfill some of its important responsibilities in governing the nonprofit charity. Further, Mortenson failed to fulfill his responsibilities as executive director and as a member of the board.
Despite policies that committed him to do so, Mortenson failed to make contributions to CAI equal to the royalties he earned on the books the organization purchased. Nor did he and CAI devise an equitable way
to split the costs to advertise and promote the book, which was required by his 2008 employment agreement. Mortenson also accepted travel fees from event sponsors at the same time that CAI was
paying his travel costs. Moreover, he had significant lapses in judgment resulting in money donated to CAI being spent on personal items such as charter flights for family vacations, clothing and internet downloads.
Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute can learn from their missteps. The settlement we negotiated provides an opportunity to make meaningful changes and re-establish the charity going forward. Despite the severity of their errors, CAI is worth saving. Its pursuit remains admirable, and it still has significant assets to advance its cause and fulfill the donors’ intent.

Three Cups of Tea website http://www.threecupsoftea.com
Central Asia Institute website http://www.ikat.org
Pennies for Peace website http://www.penniesforpeace.org
Stones into Schools website http://www.stonesintoschools.com

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