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Central Asia Institute

In one of her many moments of profundity my mother once told me that the greatest thing that can be obtained in lifetime is knowledge. Since the only possessions one can take with them beyond this world are those things stored within the mind, it was worth ones greatest effort to learn all that one could.

Equally strong for me was the impression I received while growing that an educated woman, no matter her role, served as a vital asset to her community and her children.

These two ideas have found a strange place in my life. My formal education ends with a few college level classes, yet I have enjoyed exploring and learning through the gift of literacy. This immense tool has allowed me the opportunity to educate myself about topics as diverse as nutrition to politics. I have also developed a fondness for the speeches and writings of many great men and women throughout history. My newest point of interest, however, is the biography or memoir. If they are well written (and mildly humorous) these types of books can open up an entire new outlook on life given from the perspective of another soul struggling through this life.

Recently I became intrigued with one such book and decided to hunt it down at my library. "Three Cups of Tea" is the incredible story of one mans journey into the world of selflessness through a series of heart rending disappointments.

He has devoted the better part of the last ten years to building schools is rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, schools geared towards the education of girls. His name is Greg Mortenson, his group is the Central Asia Institute, and he has become my first (non-denominational) charity of choice... Were I to have the money to support it,that is.

I suppose, however, that moves right into the best part of his work. It costs roughly $12000 to build one school, and $1 to educate a child in these extremely rural areas for a month. That's it!

It's incredible to me that one American dollar can have so much power. I can't buy a loaf of bread for a dollar but I could educate a young girl in one of the most religiously oppressive regions of the world.

In his book there is a point where he's talking to a certain Pakistani General and the General says, "As a military man, I know you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you and then run off and hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. In America's case [the] enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever."

Knowledge, education, truly is the most important possession we can obtain. It frees us to make our own decisions. There are so many places in this world where children do not have the opportunity to learn the most basic math and literacy skills and here we are with jars of spare change sitting in our kitchens and offices unused (well you maybe... I actually don't currently have such a luxury) . Is it so much to ask that we use that small amount for something greater than ourselves? Something far more important than that frivolity you've been eying for the last week?

So since I'm unable to donate my finances (ha! finances, what are those?), I thought the best thing I could do for Mr. Mortenson is spread the word. Go check out his site... And maybe donate a dollar or two, maybe save a few girls from a life of illiteracy and oppression. And perhaps we can have one less suicide bomber in this world.

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