Books & Magazines

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea
By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Lost in the mountains of northern Pakistan, Greg Mortenson somehow found his way to a tiny Pakistani village where he was able to heal and recover his strength. One day he noticed the village “school” – a ring of children sitting on bare ground, in the open, winter mountain air. Moved by compassion for the villagers and by gratitude for their help, Mortenson promised to come back to build them a school.

The ensuing story is about Mortenson’s heroic struggle to overcome public indifference as well as his own personal limitations and difficulties in order to follow through on his promise to his Pakistani friends and raise enough funds to purchase building supplies. It is also about the generosity of many different people from all walks of life, from Wisconsin schoolchildren who donated $623.40 in pennies, to an anonymous donor who attended one of Mortenson’s presentations and contributed thousands.

Two years after leaving Pakistan, Mortenson was able to return with the money he had raised – only to find out that before building a school, he would first have to build a bridge for easier access to the village. Accordingly, the Braldu Bridge was completed in 1995, and the next year, Korphe School opened its doors.

Since then, “Mortenson has established or significantly supports 131 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.”

Operating on the philosophy that change in a society begins with its women, Mortenson’s schools focus mainly on educating girls. Many of the schools’ alumnae have gone on to become professionals and respected members and leaders of their communities.

What started out as a gesture of gratitude has become a full-blown “mission to promote peace…one school at a time.”

The book’s title refers to the Pakistani custom of hospitality: it takes three cups of tea to pass from stranger, to friend, to family. Mortenson’s dealings with the people he is trying to help have not always been easy, to say the least. But he has proven that many obstacles and even dangers can be overcome by honesty, trustworthiness, the willingness to understand other cultures, and a sincere desire to serve.

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