How Do We Inspire a University?

Greg Mortenson was homeless and poor, yet made it his priority to help a poverty-stricken community in Korphe, Pakistan. He wrote hundreds of letters pleading for assistance and those that were most eager to help in the end were children instead of adults. It’s incredible that while his own life was in such disarray he pushed it all aside to place all of his effort into building a school. He overcame the incredibly self-absorbed attitude that encompasses most college students to help small children on the other side of the planet who in many cases had no school at all, or, in the photo shown here, are crammed into something as primitive as an abandoned truck trailer.

Eighty-one boys attend school in an abandoned truck trailer in Chiltan Village in Afghanistan (Photo courtesy: Central Asia Institute).

Young adults get too caught up in their own lives; they think they’re too busy to help others, and feel as if their own problems are more pertinent than anyone else’s. Asking students to live in their car and use every single penny to their name for a good cause may be a little extreme (although it worked out great for Greg Mortenson,) but asking for a couple notebooks and pencils to give to a child – who may have never held a spiral notebook in their life- isn’t necessarily asking them to chop off a limb. Especially in stores such as Wal-mart and the Dollar Tree, a notebook and pencils can be bought with the spare change from your car. In fact I’m sure I could just open the glove compartment of a few friends’ cars and acquire pens or pencils that have long been abandoned and forgotten. However, the thought of trying to inspire college students to donate school supplies to help children in Afghanistan seems as challenging as climbing Mt. Everest with nothing but a toothpick and a protein bar.

So what do we do? We have a number of young adults who have the immense ability to create change, but they won’t pull their eyes away from their data plan phones long enough to try. Unfortunately I’ve posed a question to which I don’t have a definite answer. In my experience students are more likely to donate items or money when there is an incentive for them in return. Sadly the incentive of helping a child on the other side of the world is not enough because we live in an instant gratification society enamored with google search and drive thrus. Students don’t realize that in a country like Afghanistan a little help can go a long ways. My interest in Greg Mortenson’s story after reading his book Three Cups of Tea led me to his site,, where posted is a list of approximate summary for costs:

$20……….One student’s school supplies for one year
$50……….One treadle sewing machine and supplies
$100……..Maternal health care supplies for 1 year
$600 …….One teacher’s annual salary
$800……..One advanced student’s annual scholarship
$5,000…..Support for existing school for 1 year
$50,000…One school building and support for up to 5 years

It’s hard to believe that the cost for a student’s school supplies in Afghanistan is less than what it takes to fill up the gas tank of my car. I was shocked when I read the annual teacher’s salary. Six hundred dollars is hard for an American family to get by for a month. However, in Afghanistan, a donation like that would support the livelihood of a teacher and be providing the education of a classroom full students for an entire year. The most common complaint you hear from college students “I’m poor” but what if instead of going out to see a movie we rented a red box movie and we cut back on Starbucks? Just this week alone I’ve bought three sodas from a vending machine and eaten Taco Bell twice all of which wasn’t completely necessary. Attending a university isn’t about getting in and out as quick as possible while beating out the competition. It’s also about stopping to learn about other cultures and communities and learn how to make a difference in the world our generation is soon to be in control of. I’ve always told myself “Well, when I’m a veterinarian that’s when I’ll make a difference”. Why not now? Students are putting aside the opportunities of change because it doesn’t feel convenient but there won’t ever feel like a convenient time but there’s always the time when change is needed and right now those small children in the crowded truck trailer are in need.

For a complete list of items we are collecting, click on the button on top of this page that says “How to Get Involved.” If you can spare a tax deductible donation, click on the button at the top that says “Support our shipping fund.”

This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Awareness campaigns, University of South Florida and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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