Monday, December 14, 2009

Olympia High School Student Group Works To Bring "Three Cups of Tea" Author Greg Mortenson to Olympia in May: They Need $12,500 by December 28

Above: Interact student group coordinators Kaycee Keegan, left, and Teasha Feldman sit on either side of Olympia High School Principal Matt Grant.

By Janine Gates

Olympia High School’s Junior Rotary club, Interact, is working to bring “Three Cups of Tea” co-author Greg Mortenson to Olympia on May 13, say student group organizers Teasha Feldman and Kaycee Keegan. Logistics for Mortenson's arrival to Olympia is still being worked out, but it is expected to include a major public speaking opportunity and an international dinner.

"Three Cups of Tea" is now required reading for all officers enrolled in counterinsurgency courses at the Pentagon. Mortenson's new book, released December 1, is called, “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

According to Mortenson's publisher, “Stones into Schools” picks up where “Three Cups of Tea” left off in 2003. Mortenson recounts his ongoing efforts to establish schools for girls in Afghanistan; his extensive work in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan after a massive earthquake hit the region in 2005; and the unique ways he has built relationships with Islamic clerics, militia commanders, and tribal leaders even as he was dodging shootouts with feuding Afghan warlords and surviving an eight-day armed abduction by the Taliban.

Mortenson receives about 2200 speaking requests per year and his honorarium is $25,000. The honorarium goes towards Mortenson’s non-profit foundation, Central Asia Institute, to build schools, primarily for girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mortenson's organization has established more than 130 schools, serving 58,000 students. In his new book, Mortenson says that, "$20 is enough to educate a first grader for an entire year, $340 can send a girl to four years of high school and $50,000 can build and outfit an eight room schoolhouse and endow the teacher's salaries for the first five years."

The student group has raised $5,700 so far, much of it pledged by four local Rotary Clubs and several local banks. Keegan says they just found out that they need a total of $12,500 by December 28. The other half of Mortenson's honorarium, $12,500 is due by April 13.

The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, a 501(c)3, has stepped forward to be a fiscal co-sponsor for the event. Checks can be made out to "The Community Foundation," and mailed to: The Community Foundation, 111 Market St. NE, Suite 375, Olympia, Washington 98501. Be sure to write "Greg Mortenson Project" in the memo section of your check. Donations are tax-deductible.

"I think it's going to be a great event. This is an ideal community for Mortenson to reach to - he appeals to a very diverse audience," says Community Foundation program coordinator Anne Kirske.

According to Keegan, the first half of Mortenson's honorarium must arrive in New York by December 31st. For more information on how to contribute towards Mortenson's honorarium, the public can email Keegan at

Above: Last week, Olympia High School Principal Matt Grant met with the student group, Interact, which is hoping to bring "Three Cups of Tea" co-author Greg Mortenson to Olympia in May.

Student Kaycee Keegan, 18, was inspired by reading "Three Cups of Tea," and contacted Mortenson last June to see if it was possible for him to come to Olympia. For her senior project, Keegan says, “I wanted to do something that really mattered.” Mortenson recently confirmed his availability to come to Olympia.

"I thought it was a long shot to even get him. I wanted to promote service in our community - he gave us his whole life and I hope it will inspire us to do more in our own community. Every little thing helps. It will educate us, and build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Keegan said in a recent Interact student group planning meeting.

The Interact student group meeting gathered 12 students and various group advisers last week, including Matt Grant, principal of Olympia High School and Martin Meyer, Rotary Club liaison. Meyer says the Rotary service club seeks the “bring youth ages 14 - 18 together in an organized fashion to promote leadership, awareness of international and local issues and have fun along the way.” This is the club’s fourth year of working with the Rotary.

The Interact group is involved with many projects. Last year, the group held an international dinner for the Malawi Clean Water Project and raised about $2,000 for the project.

Mortenson will be speaking at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. The free event is open to be public. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. to the first 2,000 people.

Above: Two Cups of Tea in Turkey: "The first cup of tea you share with us, you are a stranger. The second cup, you are a friend. But with the third cup, you become family...." - Balti Saying.