New York Times Best-Selling Author Greg Mortenson Helps Kids Escape Life as "Slum-Dogs"

03/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Naazish YarKhan Media & Content Strategist * Publicist * Writer * Managing Editor * NPR.PBS Commentator * Public Speaker

I finally managed to get a chance to watch Slumdog Millionaire and I've got to say scenes of the children in jeopardy were the hardest to endure. I have children that age of my own and this wasn't the first time that I've wanted to leave a movie theater because a child on screen was in peril. But I'm glad I stayed to watch the movie to the end.

Slumdog Millionaire also reminded me of the obligation we have to all those children who don't have as much as their more secure counterparts. It reminded me of the extent to which those of us from the Indian sub-continent ( India, Pakistan,Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan) have looked the other way, treating the rampant poverty around us as just another sad fact of life. It reminded me of all the stories I've heard about six year old Nepali girls being sold into prostitution across the border in India because their parents didn't have enough to eat, the times children have worked even for my own family back home, to help earn three square meals a day. I hope and pray Slumdog wins big at the Oscars and shames us into doing something for millions and millions of kids.

That is probably the reason why Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and his charity Central Asia Institute, have got to be one of my favorite success stories. This American has dedicated his life to using education to keep Pakistani children out of poverty. And now, the New York Best-seller is available in a format for Young Readers titled Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child. I can't wait to get my 6 & 11-year-old to read it ! Bringing it to a whole new age group means empowering children to see that they too can potentially change the world.

He recently spoke to school children in Naperville, IL at All Saints Academy and St. Peter & Paul Catholic School and North Central College. He narrated his story of failure where stumbling, lost and delirious, he found himself in a remote Himalayan village in Pakistan after a failed climb up to K2. Greg Mortensen's life, that day, was saved by the villagers. He vowed to return and build them a school. That promise was the start of a 15-year journey where Greg established over 78 schools in rural and often volatile areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to more than 28,000 children, including 18,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before. He has endured death threats, a kidnapping, and more to dedicate his life to building literacy and peace, one child at a time.

Greg decided to create the young readers' edition of the worldwide bestseller Three Cups of Tea thanks to the countless requests from children, teachers, and adults alike. City after city, school after school, children begged Greg to tell them how they could help. The idea for Pennies for Peace too was sparked by a ten-year-old boy who listened to Greg's story and decided that he had to try and make a difference. Now tens-of-thousands of students have participated in Pennies for Peace projects and raised over thirty-million pennies, most of which was raised in the last two-years.

Greg's story is a beginning of what should be a war against poverty and his is a story worth re-creating over and over and over.