Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan was released on December 1, 2009. Over the past sixteen years, Greg Mortenson, through his nonprofit Central Asia Institute (CAI), has worked to promote peace through education by establishing more than 130 schools, most of them for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The story of how this remarkable humanitarian campaign began was told in his bestselling 2006 book, Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson’s philosophies about building relationships, empowering communities, and educating girls have struck a powerful chord. Hundreds of communities and universities, as well as several branches of the U.S. military, have used Three Cups of Tea as a common read.
Just as Three Cups of Tea began with a promise—to build a school in Korphe, Pakistan—so too does Mortenson’s new book. In 1999, Kirghiz horsemen from Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor rode into Pakistan and secured a promise from Mortenson to construct a school in an isolated pocket of the Pamir Mountains known as Bozai Gumbad. Mortenson could not build that school before constructing many others, and that is the story he tells in this dramatic new book. Picking up where Three Cups of Tea left off in late 2003, Stones into Schools traces the CAI’s efforts to work in a whole new country, the secluded northeast corner of Afghanistan. Mortenson describes how he and his intrepid manager, Sarfraz Khan, barnstormed around Badakhshan Province and the Wakhan Corridor, moving for weeks without sleep, to establish the first schools there.
Those efforts were diverted in October 2005 when a devastating earthquake hit the Azad Kashmir region of Pakistan. Under Sarfraz’s watch the CAI helped with relief efforts by setting up temporary tent schools and eventually several earthquakeproof schools. The action then returns to Afghanistan in 2007, as the CAI launches schools in the heart of Taliban country and as Mortenson helps the U.S. military formulate new strategic plans as a road map to peace. As the book closes, the initial promise to the Kirghiz is fulfilled.
Stones into Schools brings to life both the heroic efforts of the CAI’s fixers on the ground—renegade men of unrecognized and untapped talent who became galvanized by the importance of girls’ education—and the triumphs of the young women who are now graduating from the schools. Their stories are ones you will not soon forget.
“ What Greg understands better than most—and what he practices more than anyone else I know—is the simple truth that all of us are better off when all of us have the opportunity to learn, especially our children. By helping them learn and grow, he’s shaping the very future of a region and giving hope to an entire generation.” —Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
“ This week . . . I watched Greg Mortenson, the famed author of Three Cups of Tea, open one of his schools for girls in this remote Afghan village in the Hindu Kush mountains. I must say, after witnessing the delight in the faces of those little Afghan girls crowded three to a desk waiting to learn, I found it very hard to write, ‘Let’s just get out of here.’” —Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
“ Sometimes the acts of one individual can illuminate how to confront a foreign-policy dilemma more clearly than the prattle of politicians. Such is the case with Greg Mortenson, whose work gives insights into an essential element of fighting terrorism.” —Trudy Rubin, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“ Mortenson’s story serves as a reminder of the power of a good idea and the strength inherent in one person’s passionate determination to persevere against enormous obstacles.” —Marilyn Gardner, The Christian Science Monitor