In the United States, a school is generally thought of as a building with students, teachers, desks, books, and blackboards. However, in the small Pakistani village of Korphe, "school" consists of a patch of ground and some sticks to write with in the dirt. Greg Mortenson knew immediately that he had to do something for these children whose need for education was not being properly met. He returned to the States to raise the money he needed, an estimated twelve thousand dollars, to build his school. After much hard work, he received the money from one donor, Jean Hoerni and went back to Korphe. In Korphe, another problem arose; Pakistani suppliers and contractors were hard to come by.
After spending much time, and the majority of Jean Hoerni's money on supplies, Mortenson went up to the village of Korphe where the school was to be built, only to be told that what the village needed first was a bridge. Since Greg had bought all the supplies for a school, he had to return to the United States, in order to publicize his endeavor ands raise more money for the bridge. Hoerni donated the money for the bridge. And Mortenson returned to Korphe and finished the bridge. Finally, after much hard work, he started on his first school.
At first Mortenson oversaw every single detail, recording everything, but one day the villagers took all his records and receipts, and told him to relax and let them handle it. He soon learned to slow down, take each day as it came, not to lose sight of his purpose, and many other ideals that he still remembers every time he starts a new project. Finally, after two trips between Pakistan and the States, building a bridge, and countless obstacles, Greg and the villagers finished the first of many schools to come.
Since he built the Korphe School in Pakistan, Greg Mortenson and the CAI have built over eighty more schools and education centers in many rural and deprived villages and communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The schools educate some twenty-four thousand students, fourteen thousand three hundred of which are girls. The organization also employs more than five hundred twenty teachers, to whom they provide teacher training and stable salaries.
The CAI offers many scholarships to students financially unable to go to a larger city to learn. They give scholarships to primary, secondary, and advanced schools. Scholarships include everything from room and board to uniforms and travel.
Each school costs an estimated fifty thousand dollars to build, stock, and subsidize for five years. Before the school is constructed, the leaders of the village are contacted and play a crucial role in the assembly of each school. They evaluate the school during each step of its construction, and collaborate with experts to guide the project until its completion. The rest of the village also plays a part in the assembly of the school. All the land for the school to be built on is donated by villagers. A nurmadhar is hired to recommend local builders, contractors, and suppliers. Local input is vital in the process of making the schools, which is why the CAI tries to keep expenses low.
" That's my goal: to work myself out of this job and let it run on its own. Knowing that I can walk away and thousands of kids are still going to be able to go to school, "
— Greg Mortenson; Imagine, Premier Issue (Changing the World One Girl at a Time, Central Asia Institute)