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U S mountaineer builds schools in Pakistan, Afghanistan

Written by: Staff
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Washington, Apr 26 (UNI) An American mountain climber, whose life was saved by villagers in Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains during a failed attempt to scale the world's second highest peak, is returning the kindness by building schools in northern Pakistan and northeastern Afghanistan.

Greg Mortenson wandered hungry and was lost on the Baltoro glacier in 1993 after failing to reach the summit of the 8,611-meter high Mount Godwin-Austen, or K2, the world's second highest mountain, according to media reports here.

He was found by the villagers in Korphe village and nursed back to health. During that assault on the summit, the team of 12 climbers lost five members during the descent. Two climbers made it to the top. Mortenson had to turn back 600 meters short of the top. Because of its steepness, Mount Godwin-Austen is more difficult to climb than Mount Everest, the world's highest peak.

While recuperating in Korphe, Mortenson noticed that the village had no school and children did their lessons by scratching twigs in the sand on a mountain ridge. The teacher split his time between Korphe and a neighbouring village because the Korphe residents alone could not afford to pay his salary, the equivalent of one dollar a day.

After he recovered his health, Mortenson told the village chief, Haji Ali, that he would return to Korphe one day and build a school for the children. He fulfilled his promise in 1996 and has gone on to build 54 more schools in northern Pakistan and northeastern Afghanistan that employ 527 teachers and have more than 22,000 students.

Following the massive earthquake that struck the Kashmir region in October 2005, Mortenson has helped build more than 30 tents schools.

The 55 schools that Mortenson built earlier were not touched by the quake.

Mortenson's story of mountaineering, his brush with death, and his educational philanthropy is recounted in his book, ''Three Cups of Tea'', which has become a best seller.

Mortenson is a former U S military nurse who served in Germany and is the son of Christian missionaries who worked in Tanzania. The first contribution for the Korphe school, 100 dollars, came from former TV anchor of NBC news, Tom Brokaw, who, like Mortenson, attended the University of South Dakota and played football there under the same coach as Mortenson.

A second donation came from students at an elementary school in Wisconsin where Mortenson's mother was a principal. They contributed 623.45 dollars in a "Pennies for Pakistan" drive.

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