HOW IT STARTED
When Greg Mortenson arrived home from his first trip to Pakistan in 1993, he wrote letters to many wealthy and influential people asking them to donate money to the project of building a school in Korphe. For nearly half a year, no one responded. However, he had also contacted his family in River Falls, Wisconsin, and they were more than willing to be of assistance in his endeavor. His mother, Jerene Mortenson, was the principal of Westside Elementary School, and when she heard of her son's need for money, she looked to her students for help. Unlike the adults in River Falls, who were skeptical about sending money to Pakistan, the children were eager to help. The school came up with the idea of collecting pennies, which taught the students that there is a way for people of all ages to make a difference. The Westside Elementary School raised sixty two thousand three hundred forty five pennies, or six hundred twenty three dollars and forty-five cents. The amount of pennies they raised was equivalent to two full forty-gallon trashcans. Mortenson had been on the verge of giving up on his hopes of building a school in Pakistan, but the pennies sparked something inside of him. From that moment on, he knew that he needed to keep working towards his goals with perseverance and determination. Pennies for Peace became a non-profit organization in 1994 and is sponsored by Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute.
PENNIES FOR PEACE
The original school in Wisconsin continues to raise pennies, and schools worldwide have joined in their effort to promote peace. With more than two thousand campaigns around the world, Pennies for Peace has raised over eight million pennies since its inception in 1994--that's eighty thousand dollars worth of pennies.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Although many people believe that pennies are unimportant and almost useless in today's society, in impoverished regions such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, a penny is worth more than we may think. Here, in the United States, a penny can't buy much. In the Middle East, one penny can be used to buy a pencil so that a young child can learn how to read and write. With enough pennies, a school can be built, teachers can be paid, and children can be educated.
Everyone has dreams and ambitions--someone they want to be. In the United States, the majority of the population receives an education that allows them to reach their goals. However, in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, those dreams are more difficult to reach and there are not as many opportunities, especially for women. A solid education can make a huge difference in a single person's life. With an education, one can get a job, make money, and take care of their family.
" They raised 62,345 pennies. These kids, in all their purity and innocence, were reaching out to kids halfway around the world. "
— Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time)