Author Greg Mortenson drinks tea for peace

Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:07pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Greg Mortenson had no idea of the hate he would incite when he decided to devote his life to raising funds for schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It began when Mortenson climbed Pakistan's K2 mountain in 1993 to honor his sister Christa who died from epilepsy.

He never made it to the top but on the way back, he got lost and stumbled into the Pakistani village of Korphe where the children were using sticks to write out school lessons in the dirt and could only afford a teacher every second week.

The kindness and generosity of the villagers made him determined to help them when he returned to the United States, so he raised money to build a school in Korphe, and since 1996, has built about 80 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But along the way he has faced death threats, a kidnapping, and considered giving it up when his own family was threatened.

His campaign to help bring peace, one school at a time, led to the Pennies for Peace program in which schoolchildren donate pennies to help fund schools in Central Asia and also to his best-selling book, "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission To Promote Peace ... One School At A Time."

Mortenson said it was in the village of Korphe that he learned that to do business in that part of the world you take three cups of tea -- the first cup, you are a stranger, the second, a friend, and by the third cup, you become family.

His 2006 book has just been adapted into a young reader's version with a foreword by animal rights activist Jane Goodall.   Continued...

<p>Greg Mortenson poses with Sitara "Star" schoolchildren in Wakhan, northeastern Afghanistan in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters March 11, 2009. REUTERS/Central Asia Institute/Handout</p>