Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, appears to have a problem with exaggerating. In an interview on Charlie Rose, he said he built 11 schools in a part of Pakistan when he had only built three. This 60 minutes investigation shows that some of his most emotionally compelling stories in Three Cups of Tea are largely made up:
Greg never heard of the village of Korfe until a year after he said he visited there.
Greg’s own original articles contradict his later book.
Greg was never captured by the Talibhan as claimed. The supporting photos include a prominent professor and his family. Other photos show they let Greg hold the AK-47 too.
60-minutes audit (in person) reveals that half of the schools he claimed to have built were empty, non-functioning, or built by someone else.
His organization spent more money promoting Greg and his books than building schools, and Greg kept nearly all of the profits from his career as an author and speaker.
This is a sad story.
I believe 60 minutes presents enough evidence to believe Greg Mortenson misled the public, even though he has done some good. He’s inspired so many people to do good. It’s the part about lining his own pockets and building a media empire along the way that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. He didn’t need to lie about anything to do good – that is Greg the personality getting in front of Greg the do-gooder.
The real sad part is that for every Greg that destroys our public trust in non-profits, there are 99 other legitimate organizations doing the same work that suffer from it. The public generalizes their distrust to other organizations.
So I am here to tell you that the real Greg Mortenson – by which I mean a leader in Afghanistan who has put over a hundred thousand girls in school and never exaggerated her impact, nor the daily threats she faces on her life for doing so, is none other than Sakena Yacoobi.
I had the luck to meet her on my first day of work at GlobalGiving nearly three years ago. She’s the real deal, and she’s neither flashy nor a best-selling author. She’s simply a woman who was lucky enough to get an education and then used it to fight the Talibhan with an idea: that all girls deserve to go to school, and that Afghan’s future depends on it.
Instead of getting Angry at the Greg Mortensons of the world – let’s look for the Sakena Yacoobis the the world and promote them.