A Magnificent Event to Honor Greg Mortenson
By Haya Farooqui
Irvine, California
Pictures by Faiz Ahmed

Glimpses of the fundraiser


Greg Mortenson is a rare individual. He has touched the hearts of millions of people by writing his absorbing book “Three Cups of Tea” that became the New York Times best-seller for several hundred weeks ( www.threecupsoftea.com).

Explaining the title of the book with manifest compassion for the Pakistani people, he says, “First cup you are a stranger, second a friend and by the third cup you are family but that doesn’t mean that you just keep drinking tea but you keep building relationships.”

He comes from a family of educators and he is inspired by the famous African saying, “If you educate a boy you educate an individual but if you educate a girl you educate a community.”

Greg set out to climb Mount K2, one of the hardest mountains to climb, in memory of his sister but was not successful. Little did he know that he would end up climbing another mountain that was even harder to climb -the mountain of illiteracy and ignorance. Disheartened and unwell after his failure to climb Mount K2 he stumbled into a nearby village where he was overwhelmed by the villagers’ hospitality and in return he ended up with a resolve and promise to build a school for them.

After coming back to the USA he sold his car and his climbing gear but he could only come up with twelve thousand dollars which were not enough to build a school. So he decided to send out more than five hundred letters to celebrities and high-profile individuals in an effort to raise funds for the school but he was greatly disappointed by the poor response.

His mother, who was the principal of an elementary school at that time, asked him to talk to the children in her school. After hearing the heartening story of the villagers the school kids decided to bring pennies from their homes and collect them in jars. By the time these jars got filled up they had collected six thousand pennies and thus the “Pennies for Peace” program ( http://www.penniesforpeace.org/home.html))was launched that helped him raise money for his first school.

The Pennies for Peace program for Central Asia Institute (CAI) not only raises money but also helps teach children the importance of education and how a penny can make a positive impact on a global scale, one penny at a time.

In his speech he mentioned how the publisher of “Three Cups of Tea” wanted to change the title of his book to “One man’s mission to fight terrorism one school at a time.” He emphasized that “by promoting terrorism you are promoting fear but by promoting peace you are promoting hope.”

Mortenson stressed the fact that Pakistan’s real enemy is ignorance and lack of education. At present, his book is a required reading for officers in the military because it helps to educate them on the importance of listening to people, building relationships, and respecting all people of the world.

It was nice to see the mayor of Pasedena, Mr. Bill Bogaart, grace the evening with his presence. He too praised Greg’s efforts and said that he was honored that “such a wonderful event took place in the city of Pasadena.”

The evening was followed by the performance of a talented upcoming group called Fanah Fi Allah. They captivated the audience by singing famous qawwalis of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The surprise appearance by the famous Pakistani pop-singer, Haroon, rocked the stage and had everybody dancing to his numbers including Greg Mortenson who seemed very happy and comfortable doing the Bhangra on his hit songs.

The event was organized by CAI’s Outreach Coordinator, Sadia Ashraf, who and her husband, Tauheed Ashraf who launched the tradition of doing fundraisers for Greg Mortenson’s charity in 2007 and annually organize 4 to 5 events with the Pakistani community all over the US. Ashraf was contacted by Dr. Majjida to bring Greg to L.A. as early as the 2007 APPNA convention. Reema Kamran, the event planner from Chicago and Dr. Sarah Khan the chief volunteer in L.A. worked indefatigably with a team of volunteers to make this event a smashing success.”

This magnificent event was hosted by Dr. Majjida and Dr. Suhail Siddiqui, Dr. Aaliya and Dr. Imran Ali, Dr. Farzana and Dr. Salman Naqvi, Naushaba and Dr Asif Mehmood, and last but not the least dozens of volunteers who worked day and night to sell tickets, coordinate meetings, and collect items for the silent auction. All of them worked with remarkable consistency and zest led by Sadia Ashraf, Reema Kamran and Sarah Khan. It was gratifying to see that one man’s altruistic deeds could prompt so many people to work together to organize this event and make it a success. To do a fundraiser for CAI in your community,  please contact sadia@ikat.org.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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