Friday, November 23, 2007

NewJersey Fundraiser a Huge Success (11-10-07)

11-10-2007, New Jersey, -A fundraiser for CAI and was tremendously successful as it raised $264,000 to benefit the charity. This event was sponsored and organized by the American-Pakistani community and spear-headed by a local couple, Sumeera and Zahid Baig. The Robbinsville High school entrance hall where students mill, socialize, exchange notes and notice each other fashion oddities during the day was transformed in a splendid banquet Hall at night. Mortenson first had a book signing from which it was hard to tear away the 470 guests that were able to get a one-on-one time with the legendary author/humanitarian whose book has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for over 40 weeks.

"If you promote peace, that's based on hope," Mortenson said, "The real enemy is ignorance because it's based on hatred." The book's title, Three Cups of Tea, refers to the measured progression of becoming a trusted partner with people in developing areas. With the first cup of tea, you're a stranger. With the second, you're an honored guest. With the third, you're family." Mortenson then spoke of his journey from the peaks of K-2 to the pinnacle of humanitarianism in front of the hundreds of spectators where one could have heard a pin drop. In simple lyrical sentences punctuated by a slideshow of his voyages, the unassuming American hero who has been called a real Indiana Jones retold his story. Mortenson explained, "There are 145 million children without education because of slavery, gender discrimination, religious intolerance and corrupt governments. It only costs $1 per month, per child to change that, roughly $6 to $8 billion per year."

In a region marked by tribulation, Mortenson's schools and projects have been triumphant by extending self-empowerment to communities, which leads to enduring life development. Before a project starts, he explained, the community matches Central Asia Institute project funds with equal amounts of local resources and labor. Such ownership ensures the project's viability and long term success. As he said, "When the Taliban was in power, only 800,000 kids were in school. Today more than 5 million children go to school -- and 1.8 million are girls. That's where we should be putting our money."

As Mortenson finished speaking, the captivated audience gave him a standing ovation. A school building now costs $50,000 and as the fundraiser ensued the checks cascaded in and a ticker on the screen tallied $264,000: the amount raised. All the proceeds will benefit Mortenson's Central Asia Institute and help sustain schools and build new ones.