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Stones Into Schools

The inspiring sequel to "Three Cups of Tea" follows Greg Mortenson into remote Afghanistan where he continues his quest to build schools.

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Until this year, children living in one of the remotest corners of eastern Afghanistan could only dream of getting an education. No schools existed to nourish hungry young minds. But now, a simple wooden structure in the heart of a valley stands as a beacon of hope for a brighter future. Outside, its red door frame and windows extend a cheerful welcome. Inside, four classrooms with earthen floors can accommodate 200 students. Many will be girls. Perched at an altitude of 12,480 feet, this schoolhouse sits on the “roof of the world,” where transporting construction materials is virtually impossible. It represents one of the proudest achievements of Greg Mortenson, an American mountaineer-turned-humanitarian. His passion for educating girls has led to the building of 131 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, often against daunting odds and amid considerable danger.

Mortenson’s unexpected career change began in 1993. After failing to scale K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, he became lost. Exhausted, he eventually stumbled into the impoverished village of Korphe. There, residents shared their meager provisions and nursed him back to health. During his recovery, he watched as 82 children scratched their lessons with sticks in the dusty soil. In gratitude to the villagers for saving his life, Mortenson promised to return and build a school.

That pledge in Pakistan forms the heart of his runaway bestseller, “Three Cups of Tea,” which has sold 3 million copies around the world. Now his equally inspiring sequel, Stones into Schools, describes the challenge of building schools in Afghanistan. Calling young women “the single biggest potential agents of change in the developing world,” he describes this phenomenon as “the Girl Effect.” It echoes an African proverb he often heard as a child growing up in Tanzania, the son of teachers: “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual; but if you educate a girl, you educate a community.” He adds, “No other factor even comes close to matching the cascade of positive changes triggered by teaching a single girl how to read and write.

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