Kansas State Honor Students Raise Funds To Promote Education In Afghanistan, Pakistan

This story was written by Amanda Keim, Kansas State Collegian


When Greg Mortenson wrote Three Cups of Tea, his vision of giving an education to the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan became realized for thousands.

Kansas State Universitystudents who are members of the University Honors Program were told to read Mortensons novel over the summer. The book explains Mortensons journey to build schools in the mountainous regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortensons conquest had the students asking how they could help.

The villages want their kids to have an education, but they dont have a school, said Stephen Kiefer, director of the University Honors Program. The students just got very excited and said, We need to do Pennies for Peace. We need to help the Central Asia region start building schools. Education is one of the ways to fight terrorism, and I think its probably the best way.

As a spinoff of the original Pennies for Peace project founded by Mortenson, the honors program has started Purple Pennies for Peace at K-State. Kiefer said representatives will collect pennies in residence halls, greek houses, the K-State Student Union and at football tailgates.

Part of the process is not just collecting pennies but explaining what its for, Kiefer said. Its to build schools in these war-torn areas and give kids a chance for an education. Its to get people informed of what Greg Mortenson is doing because its a good way to go.

Collection officially begins today with a kickoff table in the union from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The students goal is to collect five million pennies, Kiefer said - enough to build a school, run it for five years and then let the village take over.

Its a way K-State students can get involved working towards peace, said Karre Schaefer, junior in history. It averages out to about $2.17 a person. Thats a cappuccino. I think sometimes we dont understand how truly blessed we are and we take for granted our education. To get a school up and running is worth that small sacrifice that $2.17.

The deadline for meeting the goal is Nov. 21.

This is one of the few times I have seen a project get started and seen the enthusiasm and watched it take fire, Schaefer said. There has just been such a desire of people to get involved in this. I think thats what touches me most how quickly it happened.

Schaefer said he was impressed by Mortensons ability to communicate with another culture, discover its needs, and make sacrifices to change the world.

It teaches a lot about true dedication and self-sacrifice, he said.

The Manhattan Public Library is supporting the efforts of the students and the efforts of Claflin Books and the Riley County Senior Center, both of which are collecting pennies for Pennies for Peace.

Susan Withee, library reference manager, said it was a coincidence that both the library and honor students chose Three Cups of Tea as their reading projects. The library is also organizing a presentation on Afghan womens lives and education at 7 p.m. Oct. 30. The presentation will feature an American woman who has both lived and worked in Afghanistan.

So far Pennies for Peace has constructed 75 schools, and Mortenson plans to build as many as necessary, Kiefer said.

There are a lot of very poor villages in this area, and hes barely scratched the surface, Kiefer said. His model is one that can be used by other agencies and governments. Theres a very real ripple effect going on there.

As the effects of Mortensons novel continue to ripple throughout the world, Kiefer said it is important to recognize how K-State and the rest of the United States are connected with the situation at hand.

Kiefer sai Pennies for Peace is an important organization because it helps people learn they do not have to resort to violence to solve problems. He said educated people generally do not join extremist groups, which recruit members from the Middle East.

I think its important because the lack of an education is one of the problems that the world has, Kiefer said. It does have an affect on us and in our country. Education is a very important part of our lives.
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