Debate Magazine

The BBC Investigates Three Cups of Tea Controversy

Posted on the 21 April 2011 by Kungfujedi @Kungfujedi
The BBC Investigates Three Cups of Tea Controversy
A few days back I posted a story about a damning report from 60 Minutes on Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson. The CBS investigative reporting program alleged that Mortenson took, shall we say generous liberties with his own story, which has sold millions of copies and inspired people across the globe. They also contend that Mortenson's charity organization, the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools and other facilities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is woefully mismanaged and taking claim for things that it hasn't done. (Watch the entire 60 Minutes clip here)
Now, the BBC has looked into the affair and is trying to get to the bottom of the story themselves. They posted this story yesterday which takes a look at the work of Mortenson and the CAI from the perspective of the people living in the regions that he is trying to help. Unsurprisingly, what they found was a bit of a mixed bag as well.
First of all, the BBC story side-steps any controversy surrounding Mortenson's personal tales and doesn't even touch on the allegations that he has fabricated significant portions about his past. Instead, it goes straight to Pakistan and Afghanistan to discover what the people there think about him and the CAI. The message that they received is that Mortenson has done a lot of great work in the Himalaya, and that CAI may have helped fund and build even more schools than it takes credit for on its website. The people living in the villages where the organization has helped fun projects, seem extremely grateful for the help that they have received, with many crediting Mortenson himself.
But once again, there are also charges of mismanagement and deceit, with some officials, particularly in Afghanistan, saying that CAI hasn't done much of the things they say they have. Some of those comments come off a bit like sour grapes however, as it seems that the organization has sometimes operated without direct supervision from local leaders, which has put them at odds at times. Still, it is clear that Mortenson and his non-profit are not universally lauded even in the countries that he is trying to help.
The BBC story doesn't really shed much new light on the topic, although it was good to be able to read the perspective of Pakistanis and Afghanis whose lives CAI's work has had a direct impact on. 60 Minutes couldn't have done a better job of having those elements in their piece as well.
As I said in the original piece I wrote a few days back, clearly Mortenson and CAI have done some great things in the Himalaya. Even if he had only built one school, that is more than what most people have done to help the people there. CAI has in fact built dozens of schools and helped fund and manage even more. That doesn't mean that there hasn't been mismanagement of the program or that they shouldn't be more transparent with their operations out of respect for the donors however. And why Mortenson would feel the need to embellish his stories remains a mystery as well. He should be proud of the great things that he has accomplished and that ought to be enough.
Thanks to reader Dennis Large for sending me a link to this story. It is much appreciated and I'm happy to see another side of what CAI and Mortenson have done in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Three Cups of Controversy

    Three Cups Controversy

    Considering the subject matter of this blog, I'm sure that most of you are familiar with Greg Mortenson and his wildly popular book Three Cups of Tea. For... Read more

    By  Kungfujedi
    BOOKS, CULTURE, OUTDOORS
  • Three Grains of Salt

    Three Grains Salt

    Greg Mortenson poses with Sitara ''Star'' schoolchildren in Wakhan, northeastern Afghanistan in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters March 11,... Read more

    By  Center For International Private Enterprise
    BUSINESS, CURRENT, POLITICS, SOCIETY
  • The Three Cups of Tea Controversy Continues

    Three Cups Controversy Continues

    Over the past couple of weeks, the controversy surrounding Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson has continued to roll through the mountaineering community an... Read more

    By  Kungfujedi
    OUTDOORS
  • Cee Lo Green Addresses Homophobic Tweet Controversy

    Green Addresses Homophobic Tweet Controversy

    Cover of Cee-Lo 06/21/2011 Cee Lo Green, currently a coach on NBC’s The Voice has come under lukewarm scrutiny over for tweeting a statement that can be viewed... Read more

    By  Cynisright
    LGBTQ, SOCIETY
  • BBC Video On Uncontacted Tribes

    Yesterday I posted a story about another uncontacted tribe being discovered in a remote region of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. Read more

    By  Kungfujedi
    OUTDOORS
  • Of Madmen and Tea Partiers

    According to H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, Richard Nixon subscribed to "the madman theory of the presidency." The idea is that, in adversarial... Read more

    By  Erictheblue
    POLITICS, SOCIETY
  • In Juxtaposition, from the BBC World News Service:

    Juxtaposition, from World News Service:

    4 August 2011 Last updated at 10:43 ET Virginia Tech on lockdown over 'gun' report Virginia Tech university, site of the 2007 shooting that killed 32 people, ha... Read more

    By  Mikeb302000
    DEBATE

Magazines