Sunday, February 28, 2010
Listen to the Wind
photo by Howard F. Schwartz, http://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5363901
Prairie people are used to listening to the wind. As the saying goes, there's nothing to stop it but a barbed-wire fence! The wind tells us when the weather is warming or cooling and whether it will rain.
The wind told Greg Mortenson something else. A nurse and mountaineer, he stumbled into a Pakastani village in a mountain climbing descent, disoriented and ill. The villagers took care of him, and when he was well, he wanted to do something to repay them. "What shall I do?" he asked the village elder. "Listen to the wind," the elder replied.
Mortenson looked. He saw children gathered, writing arithmetic problems in the dirt with sticks. An itinerant teacher came to instruct them on an irregular basis. Mortenson listened to the wind and to his heart, and vowed to build the village a school for girls and boys.
He faced many obstacles, but he kept his promise, and continues to build schools throughout the region. His story was told in the adult best-seller, Three Cups of Tea.
Now, Mortenson has collaborated with Susan L. Roth to create a version for children telling the story in words, photos, and collages. In an interview with author Cynthia Leitich Smith, Roth says, "One of the most important roles that I see for children's books is as vehicles for teaching our children about other peoples, cultures and places, leading them easily, comfortably, and naturally to understanding and appreciation of other peoples, cultures and places. This is how I prefer to help people, using the only voice I have. My heavier subject matters seem to me to be logical choices as ways to do this best." Read the rest of the interview here.
The collages use Pakistani fabric patterns to show the villagers' dress and give a three-dimensional feel to the book. The story simply tells how "Dr. Greg" came to the village, and after years of struggles, Mortenson and the entire village--including the children--helped build a school. The book spent 46 weeks on the New York Times Children's Best-Seller List.
Stones for Schools, a current New York Times adult non-fiction best-seller, continues Mortenson's story of the founding of the Central Asia Institute and the ongoing challenges and success of his school building in that volatile part of the world.
Mortenson does not accept government money and promotes no ideology other than the importance of education for girls and boys. To find out his successful process, see his 30-minute interview with Bill Moyers on PBS (or read the transcript). His commitment to educating girls in this part of the world has transformed villages' health and economic situations. See more about the results of educating girls in developing countries here (Click "Fact Sheet" at the bottom).
What do you hear when you listen to the wind?