If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it. This book tells the story of Greg Mortenson and his mission to build schools in the most remote villages of Central Asia. His journey is both heart warming and eye opening.
Greg is a mountaineer and on one of his most challenging expeditions, he fails to make it to the summit. He is lost and exhausted, and stumbles upon a remote village up on the mountains in Pakistan. The people of the village nurse him to health even though they have very little themselves. Greg sees how poor the village is. But what moves him are the children who study their lessons in their make-shift “school.” The “school” was nothing more than an open space on the ground where children “scratched in the dirt with sticks they’d brought for that purpose. The more fortunate ones had slate boards they wrote on with sticks dipped in a mixture of mud and water.”
Can you imagine a group of children with such a fierce desire to learn, they would sit around in a circle to learn their multiplication tables, with no teacher or adult supervision? Their dedication to education was very touching to me, and certainly reminded me of how lucky I had things growing up.
I know that I am very blessed to grow up in Canada. And even though I have worked hard to achieve what I have today, it is largely in part to have been given the opportunity to be born in a land of political stability and opportunities. It is also due to my parents who left their homeland to give my sisters and I this better opportunity, parents who continually encourage and support my sisters and I. My working hard is part of it, but a smaller part of it in the big picture.
After reading Greg’s book, I saw $1 differently. $1 can educate a child for an entire month in Pakistan or Afghanistan, $12 can provide education for a child for a year. Most of Central Asia Institutes (CAI) schools are built in remote villages where the Pakistan or Afghanistan governments’ money fail to reach. CAI funds goes to building these schools, school supplies and teachers’ salaries.
One of my 2011 goals is to give more to charity. And this charity supports women’s rights, education and children.
Education to Fight for Peace
During Greg’s time in Central Asia, on September 11th, 2001, one of the most senseless acts of terrorism of my lifetime occurred. And there has been many controversial debates as to extremists and those who believe in a peaceful religion. One of the key points I took away from Greg’s book is that the people who commit those acts may not be bad people but they may be desperate people. Their livelihoods were destroyed, their homes were destroyed, their children dead.
I read about madrassas (religious schools) and how they were often religious school for extremist teachings. Parents and families would send their children to these schools because there was no alternative. There was little money and little food. These religious schools fed and clothed their children, but also taught them to hate certain people.
More violence is not the answer. Blowing up these villages or schools and harming innocent children will not help anyone. But educating them, and giving them an opportunity for a better future can help everyone.
“We’ve launched 114 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Afghanistan so far. Now take the cost of one of those missiles tipped with a Raytheon guidance system, which I think is about $840,000. For that much money, you could build dozens of schools that could provide tens of thousands of students with a balanced nonextremist education over the course of a generation. Which do you think will make us more secure?”
Giving to CAI
Supporting women’s rights, education and rights of children is something important to me. I encourage you to read Greg’s book, and to learn more about CAI efforts. Please check out reviews on their charity and decide for yourself if this is a cause you’d like to support. From Well Heeled’s blog, she lists the following charity ratings websites you may want to check out. It seems there is some issues concerning the transparency of CAI’s fund allocation, since it is mainly Greg who is running the show and doing most of the work. I will also continue to monitor the reviews, but for now I am comfortable giving to CAI.