Monday, May 10, 2010

Jen's Book Review: Stones into Schools

     Stones into Schools picks up where Three Cups of Tea left off and follows the continuing and amazing progress of Greg Mortenson and his non-profit group, the Central Asia Institute, to promote peace by building schools in remote Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this follow up, Mortenson is determined to fulfill the promise he made to the Kirghiz horsemen in 1999 and build a school in an isolated area of the Pamir Mountains. Many years pass, and the CAI team is faced with several obstacles, but ten years later Mortenson fulfills his promise. During those ten years the CAI constructs schools throughout Afghanistan, which leads to other ventures, such as centers for older women to gather and learn. After the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, the CAI became involved in relief efforts, setting up temporary tent schools and eventually constructing earthquake proof schools. During all of this, Mortenson continues to fly back and forth to the U.S. to spend time with his family and to speak at many fundraisers to help continue the money flow for his school projects.

     Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns (both on my long list of favorite books) wrote a wonderful introduction for Stones into Schools. He says that "the muddled war in Afghanistan is now in its eighth year, and has become the most urgent foreign policy challenge facing President Obama." The Atlantic Council has published reports calling Afghanistan a failed state. The country has many problems, including violence, poverty, joblessness, homelessness, etc. One of the few success stories is the progress made in education. This year nearly eight and a half million children will attend school in Afghanistan, and girls account for nearly 40% of enrollment. Greg Mortenson believes that the conflict in Afghanistan will not be won with violence but with education, and his philosophy and dream is well on its way to being a reality.

     Over the past 16 years, Mortenson and the CAI have built over 131 schools that provide education to nearly 58,000 students. Mortenson believes that girls' education leads to income growth, better educated and healthier families, boosts farming productivity, creates a more effective government, and empowers women. "Educated girls and women are more likely to stand up for themselves and resist violence." Therefore, Mortenson continues to do everything he can to achieve universal literacy and provide education for girls.

     I cannot emphasize enough how good this book is. What makes it so amazing is that it is TRUE. Greg Mortenson should be an example to all of us on how to reach out and help others. He is truly inspiring. 
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