It has been some time since we’ve had any kind of update on the Greg Mortenson story. You’ll recall, he’s the climber-turned-author-turned-humanitarian who wrote the book Three Cups of Tea, and then proceeded to use his platform to raise funds to build schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His organization, the Central Asian Institute (CAI) was viewed as a model for doing good in struggling countries.
But then, in 2011 Mortenson became the subject of a hard-hitting 60 Minutes piece that called into question the stories he wrote about in his books, how the money CAI was raising was being spent, and whether or not schools were being built at all. That followed on the heels of an article written by John Krakauer entitled Three Cups of Deceit, which further blasted Mortenson, essentially calling him a liar and a fraud. In a matter of a few months, Mortenson’s world crumbled around him, and CAI’s funding dropped dramatically. Civil lawsuits were raised against him, although most were quickly dismissed, and for his part Mortenson disappeared from the limelight, with not much more to be told.
That is, until now.
Two filmmakers, Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Roads, are working on a documentary that delves back into the Greg Mortenson story. Their film is called 3000 Cups of Tea (see trailer below), and it is nearing completion. They say they have a very different side of the story to tell, and that their experience with CAI, and Mortenson’s work, does not resemble what 60 Minutes reported. They have visited many of the schools that were the result of Greg’s work, and they say that aside from a few that aren’t up and running, most of them are serving the purpose that their founder intended.
Recently, Jennifer and Jeff gave ExWeb an interview about their work, and what they had to say was quite interesting. While they don’t address all of the issues raised against Mortenson – they’ll save that for the film – they certainly do offer a different view from what has been the public story over the past few years.
The filmmakers are seeking $40,000 to complete their documentary so they can get it out to the public to see. To that end, they’ve set up a donation page for anyone who would like to contribute. They hope to wrap up production soon and have the film released sometime this year.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the final product. When the 60 Minutes and Krakauer story broke, it was big news in the adventure and mountaineering community. It seems only fitting that we report on the other side of the story too. It is also important to point out that Mortenson and CAI continue to press ahead with their work, despite funding dropping off by 80%. Apparently, the author was able to build up a sustainable fund to keep his efforts going, even when hard times set in. That’s a far cry from the financial mismanagement that was reported in 2011.
Hopefully we’ll hear more about this soon.
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