By Alex Garcia ’12
The cornerstone behind Greg Mortenson’s wonderful humanitarian work happens to be a 501(c)3 non-profit organization- the Central Asia Institute, or simply the CAI. Shortly before his death, Dr. Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and the non-profit’s founder, endowed Mortenson with a one million dollar payment and the title of Executive Director to start an institution to promote education, specifically girls’ education, in poverty stricken Central Asia. This occurred after Mortenson had succeeded in building his first school in Korphe, Pakistan in 1996.
Many of the remote villages where the CAI has done work did not even have a school, and, where they did have schools, girls did not have the same opportunities that the boys did. This is a main reason why Mortenson and the CAI construct schools, train teachers, and endorse education in general. The CAI, with the central headquarters in Bozeman, Montana as well as offices in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has built 145 schools since its founding in 1996. What started in the Karakoram Mountain range of Pakistan, then branched out to Afghanistan and other areas of Pakistan with approximately 64,000 students educated, including 52,000 girls. Around 1,200 teachers are also paid and some trained through special workshops.
Other projects are funded and built as well, such as sanitation and latrine projects and “Rural Health Care Camps,” all improving the lives of thousands of people in need. A great aspect of the CAI’s work is that villagers are included in all aspects of the project: planning, implementation, and evaluation. With this, self-responsibility is being promoted along with well-being and vitality (www.ikat.org). Amazingly, the CAI does not receive any payment from governments or students for any of the projects. All of the income comes from donations. Organizations like the CAI truly improve the outlook and future of the world, as education is an essential element to understanding other cultures and by doing so preventing conflicts and terrorism.