April 18, 2011

Letter from Greg Mortenson

Sunday, April 17, 2011
Asalaam-o-Alaikum (Peace Be With You). Greetings from Montana and on behalf of the dear children and communities we serve in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thank you (Tashakur and Shukuria) for the overwhelming response to the news in recent days, for the outpouring of support, prayers and the confidence that you, our supporters, have showered upon Central Asia Institute, Pennies For Peace and my family. In the midst of these difficult and challenging days, I keep thinking about the Persian proverb, "When it is darkest you can see the stars." You are all shining lights and we are grateful for your compassion.

Although we would like the world to be linear, orderly and peaceful, the reality is that our world is a dynamic, fluid place, often filled with chaos and confusion. In that space, I thrive and get the courage to help bring change and empower people. I also feel great pride that you have chosen to support those who live in the 'Last Best Places', where other organizations or governments offer few or no services.

I welcome and am used to facing criticism, which sometimes even turns into hostility and threats, over the important work we do in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As an introvert and shy person, it is also not easy to have to enter an arena of a media circus at the drop of a heartbeat. But, as those of you who know me and have supported my work over the years will recognize, the story being framed by "60 Minutes" to air in a few hours today - as far as we can tell -- paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year's (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in the book "Three Cups of Tea" that occurred almost 18 years ago. Apparently, the CBS program is to be followed in the near future by a similar negative piece by Jon Krakauer in an unknown magazine, which I only recently heard about last week.

The Board of Directors and I made the very difficult decision to not engage with "60 Minutes" on camera, after they attempted an eleventh hour aggressive approach to reach me, including an ambush in front of children at a book signing at a community service leadership convention in Atlanta. It was clear that the program's disrespectful approach would not result in a fair, balanced or objective representation of our work, my books or our vital mission. We also turned down a last minute request for an interview with Jon Krakauer.

The "60 Minutes" program may appear to ask simple questions, but the answers are often complex, not easily encapsulated in 10-second sound bites. Working in isolated areas, in communities that are not on any map, and often in areas of turmoil, religious extremism or natural disasters where education is still relatively rare and ancient codes of conduct and social hierarchies still dominate - all these things demand constant adjustment, accommodation and patience.

We have always maintained that our work is about investing in relationships, respecting elders, and listening over a time span that stretches generations, not in one that lasts just a few minutes on prime time television.

So although I did not do an on-camera interview, CAI's Board of Directors and I have duly responded to questions provided us late last week by "60 Minutes" with both statements and answers. And as always we pride ourselves to be transparent with our financials and IRS 990 forms.

All of this can be found on our website, www.ikat.org, and more information will be added in coming days.

Because of a medical condition mentioned below, I have spoken with our hometown newspaper, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, about this attack, and the newsroom is closely following developments on this story:

Mortenson under fire from '60 Minutes' - Bozeman philanthropist denies allegations (Friday, April 15, 2011)

CAI responds to Mortenson allegations (Sunday, April 17, 2011)

I also recently returned from Afghanistan, and was amazed to see how incredibly well everything is going there, including having five female managers (out of 15 total) and a plan to establish and build over 60 new schools this year. Our Board Chairman, Dr. Abdul Jabbar, also recently returned from an extensive trip to Pakistan. We will combine the news and send you an email and / or printed information within the next month to share the good news.

I would like to take this opportunity to disclose that for the last 18 months, I have been struggling with hypoxia (low oxygen saturation), which made it very difficult to get through a grueling schedule. My physician told me I had to stop and rest, however the urgency of what we do spurred me on. Last Friday (4/15/11), I came home and was diagnosed with a hole in my heart that was shunting blood, causing my low saturations.

Tomorrow, I will have further tests and then a heart surgical procedure this week to fix the hole. After a few weeks my doctor says I will be as good as new. For the first time in eighteen months, I will have tremendous energy, strength and lots of oxygen. At that time, I will come out fighting for what is right and just, and be able to talk to the media. Regardless of what happens, our work must go on. It's most important to know that education is the only thing one can never take away from an individual; it remains forever.

It is a true blessing to be at home now, with family and friends. In the meantime, I send you my heartfelt thanks for your continued support, and if you have any questions or concerns at all, I urge you to contact our office. Our small committed staff will be responding as quickly as they can to answer your calls, e-mails and requests for more information.

Please feel free to pass on this email to your families, friends and colleagues, and if you feel compelled, please write letters to the editor, or your on-line communities, about your thoughts.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Greg Mortenson
Bozeman, MT

Statement from Central Asia Institute Board of Directors

Please read the response from the CAI to the questions asked by 60 Minutes:

April 7, 2011

Global Partnership for Afghanistan

Global Partnership for Afghanistan (GPFA) works with rural Afghans to create farm businesses that alleviate poverty, build sustainable livelihoods and promote economic development.

GPFA partners with individuals, governments and institutions to provide the technical inputs, capital, supplies, and infrastructural and community support required to rebuild Afghanistan’s agrarian economy and create a better future for Afghan farm families.

GPFA is a people-to people, capacity-building nonprofit organization that is helping self-reliant Afghan farmers restore their livelihoods and their country’s economic and environmental sustainability. Since2004, GPFA’s community-based programs have provided thousands of Afghan men and women with the planting supplies, tools and training they need to revitalize and rebuild the vast network of farmer-owned nurseries, orchard, vineyard and woodlot enterprises that have long formed the backbone of Afghanistan’s economy. With an established presence in central and northern Afghanistan, GPFA is expanding its operations province by province to help ensure a secure, prosperous and healthy future for the country.

Please take a look at their website and see what amazing things this group is doing to better the lives of the farmers of Afghanistan:

March 15, 2011

One School One Book

Sandwich Central School's

“One School – One Book” Project

featuring the book: Three Cups of Tea

Submitted by Kathleen Hill

During the months of January and February, all students in grades K – 8 participated in a “One School – One Book” activity that focused on the award-winning book, Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen. This is a story that takes place in Pakistan and that depicts the power of one… one person who made a difference in the lives of others. Every student in grades K – 8 received their very own copy of the book. Students in grades K – 4 received the children’s version entitled, Listen to the Wind. Students in grades 5 – 8 received the young readers’ edition of Three Cups of Tea.

Throughout this project, students had the opportunity to learn about Pakistan (and the surrounding area), and learned about the people and culture. The theme of ASPIRE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE was woven into our activities. Below is an outline of activities:

A kick-off assembly was led by the principals in their respective buildings: (At the assembly, students received their books and some buttons.)

Project Gets Underway:

· All students in grades K-4 received a personal copy of Listen to the Wind, the picture book version of Three Cups of Tea

· All students in grades 5-8 received a personal copy of the young readers’ Version of Three Cups of Tea


· TRAVELING TRUNK: A trunk which contained a variety of authentic Afghan artifacts, was available throughout the month. A core group of staff members was “trained” to talk about the contents of this trunk and were available to come to classrooms/grade levels to share these artifacts and discuss their relevance to Afghanistan. Teachers invited someone who had been “trained” to present the trunk to their students.

· GUEST SPEAKER: David Lincoln, a retired businessman from Maine was in-district throughout the day to meet with classrooms/grade levels. Mr. Lincoln has travelled extensively in Central Asia and will share pictures and stories. He compared and contrasted the people, food, schools, clothing, games, sports, homes, customs and traditions in Central Asia to our own local culture.

· SPECIALISTS:: All of the specialists (art, music, PE, Spanish) researched and planned activities that dovetailed with Three Cups of Tea and/or the Power of One: Aspire to Make a Difference theme. These activities were woven into specials classes throughout the month.

Teachers were encouraged to include cultural activities that supported cultural understanding and comprehension.

· WEAVING PROJECT: Teacher coordinated a one-school/one-weaving project.

· GIANT MAP: a GIANT FLOOR MAP of Asia will be used in the gym during PE classes.

King Arthur Flour Bread-Making Assembly:

The main culminating activity involves each student in grades K – 8 baking a loaf of bread. The bread was donated to local food pantries and helped feed many people. Our students learned that through this simple act, they have made a difference for someone…and collectively, our schools have made a tremendous food donation and made a difference to people in need.

King Arthur Flour Company donated all of the ingredients to bake the bread. The bread was baked in the schools over the course of a few days. King Arthur representatives ran an assembly teaching students in grades 5 – 8 how to make bread. Each student will received the ingredients to bake 2 loaves of bread. Over the course of the next few days, students in grades 1 – 4 paired up with students in grades 5 – 8 to make the bread.


· Classes were paired up (older grades with younger grades) and scheduled for a bread making session.

· Bread made early in the week was frozen until the “loaf collection”

Special Event - Tea with the Principals:

· At I-LES classes will be scheduled to go to the kiosk to listen to a story and have tea with Dr. Kelley and Ms. Mulcahy. Sandwich will conduct a similar activity.

Closing Ceremony:

· An assembly was held to celebrate the learning and baking the students have done. All 600+ loaves of bread were brought into the multi-purpose room for viewing and for delivery to local food pantries.

Some Related Information:

Enduring Understandings:

· People of different countries have different systems of beliefs, knowledge, values, and traditions

· Events or global issues effect interactions between countries

· Societies around the world express themselves artistically

· Geography affects the way that people live, work and play

· Needs and wants are unlimited. Resources are limited

· Scarcity requires economic decisions

· The world is interconnected

Ideas that the specialists may be implementing:


  • Middle East Unit will be taught, including geography, instruments, and music of that area.
  • Students will learn the 3 Cups of Tea Song for the closing assembly.
  • Students will view the 3 Cups of Tea song video.


  • Decorated trunks-clay tiles-raised relief wood pieces
  • Islamic pattern
  • Artsonia-poetry folders
  • Metalwork-silver cardstock
  • Mosque architecture
  • Textiles - rug design
  • Beaded bracelets
  • Block prints
  • Mehndi - painted hands


  • Cultural norms and vocabulary from the region.
  • Language, (greetings, etc).
  • Reading of various stories about / from the region.
  • Geography of the area

Physical Education:

  • Discuss/play games that are big in Pakistan and talk about some of the traditional sporting games. (Badminton, soccer, field hockey).

January 28, 2011

Teacher Resource

Please check out this wonderful website with great resources submitted by Angie Miller at Holderness Central School in NH.

One School/One Book~Sandwich Central School