Sunday, December 12, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time

Several friends reported glowing reviews of this book, and I finally got around to reading it. I agree, it's a great story. After failing to climb K2 in Pakistan, he accidentally wandered into a rural village whose leader kindly hosted him. To pay them back, he promised to return and build the village a school. It took a while, but as he found a sponsor and built a network of contacts, he was able to build more schools in the region. After the attacks in the US in 2001, he began working in Afghanistan as well. As you can imagine, it's not an easy job.

I enjoyed the book and I strongly agree with its premise, that violence isn't going to end the strife in central Asia, and that education (the best way to lift people out of poverty) will be more effective. I also think the author did a good job of making each chapter exciting and interesting. On that note, it was also obvious that the goal of this book is not just to tell a story, but to inspire Americans to care about educating poor kids in central Asia, and to raise funds. I hope it worked.

The reason I mention this is that I read some unfavorable reviews on Goodreads that complain about the unbalanced Mortenson-worshipping and the gaudy descriptions. I won't say I disagree. Mortenson is described as a hero and his faults are minimized. I also noticed the author's propensity for run-on sentences with lavish descriptions of the scenery, but I figured that was the author's way of making the story more accessible to people who maybe are more into mountains than education. It's the kind of thing I'm willing to put up with, in exchange for regular assertions that my opinion (about education being more effective than violence) is the right one.

When I finished, I immediately went to my computer and sent in a donation. I have $30/month designated in my budget for donations, and I'm two months behind for the year, even after this donation. What an embarrassment! I'm way over budget in work expenses, having purchased TWO computers this year for work (and another for entertainment), but I have to make a concerted effort to spend a measly $30/month on donations. In case you're behind too, here are my favorites:

Central Asia Institute - Greg Mortenson's foundation for building primary schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kiva - They take donations too, but it's a non-profit organization that facilitates micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. After they pay the loan back, you can re-loan it to someone else.

Heifer International - Remember the episode of The West Wing when the president took a picture with a goat? That goat was from Heifer International. They give livestock (and other things) to farmers in developing countries to help them provide for themselves. Donating to them is fun because you can say you donated a flock of chickens or something like that.

Doctors Without Borders - We donated to them after the earthquake in Haiti, though they're always in need of funds.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund - I donated to them through their walk for diabetes, because a friend of mine has type 1 diabetes. If you're not into that, there are lots of other disease-specific causes.

NPR/PBS - My primary source of news is National Public Radio, and I value them enough to support their work. My local station, WNPR, is associated with my local Public Broadcasting Service station, CPBN. We've been watching more and more from CPBN since we got rid of cable, and there's some good stuff. I'm happy to be a member.

Our Companions - This is the local non-profit that helped me with my crusade against unsterilized feral cats. They also run a shelter and fostering/adoption program for pets.

This American Life - Supporting NPR stations helps them, but I also appreciate being able to listen to their podcast, so I make sure to donate a little something every year.

Live Wire Radio - I also enjoy this program, which isn't on my NPR station, but it's good and we should have more programs like this.

If there's someone who already has everything, but you still want to give them a gift this holiday season, find out what they care about, and make a donation in their honor. It feels good.

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