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Q&A with 'Three Cups of Tea' Author Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea, has dedicated his life to promoting community-based education and literacy programs, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many say that his efforts to build schools and educate poor, isolated communities have done more to combat terrorism than most military campaigns.

What inspired you to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

After attempting to climb K2 in 1993, I stumbled, weak and hungry, into a small Muslim village called Korphe. While the villagers nursed me back to health, I met a group of children who sat each day on the cold ground, writing out their lessons with sticks in the dirt. Although I had no idea how I'd do it, I promised to help them build an indoor school with proper pens and paper. Little did I know, that promise would forever change my life.

Why is the education of girls so important, especially in this region?

When girls are educated, research shows that it reduces infant mortality, reduces the population explosion, and improves the quality of health and of life itself. In this part of the world, extremists are afraid of educating girls. The Taliban don't fear the bullet, they fear the pen, because once a girl is educated, they have lost their ideological control over her.

How does your organization "Pennies for Peace" allow American educators and students to get involved?

A penny buys a pencil and gives a child hope. The mission of "Pennies for Peace" is to teach children the rewards of sharing and working together to bring education to other children worldwide. With the support of the NEA Foundation and the Pearson Foundation, we're developing a tool kit for educators with curriculum, lesson plans, video, and other materials to help get students involved in service learning. Starting in January, the tool kit will be available to teachers and students at no cost, both in hardcopy and online, at, when they register their Pennies for Peace campaign.

Is there a lesson from your experiences that you'd like to pass on to our readers?

The real enemy in explosive areas of the world is ignorance, because ignorance breeds hatred. The most important thing we can do to bring peace is to promote education.


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