ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 21 /PRNewswire/ --

On Monday, March 23rd, 2009, humanitarian Greg Mortenson receives Pakistan's highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan) for his sixteen-year effort to promote peace through rural girls' education and literacy, in an official ceremony in Islamabad.


Only three foreigners have received Pakistan's Sitara award.

This is a great honor and humbling, says Greg Mortenson, presently in Kabul, but the real credit goes to the millions of determined teachers, students and the good people of Pakistan, who persevere and aspire to hope through education, despite enormous obstacles.

Mortenson often quotes an African proverb that he learned as a child, If you educate a boy, you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a community.

Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute, started Pennies For Peace, and co-author of international bestseller 'Three Cups of Tea' presently the #1 New York Times nonfiction bestseller (on the list for over two years), and published in 29 countries.

Mortenson believes educating girls should be a top global priority, and points to statistics showing that in countries where there is higher female literacy, the infant mortality significantly drops, population explosion curbs, and the overall quality of life and health is improved. He believes education and literacy are a main conduit to peace because ignorance fosters only hate.

Mortenson grew up near Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (1958 to 1973). His father Dempsey, co-founded Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, and his mother, Jerene, started the International School Moshi.

In July 1992, Mortenson's sister, Christa, died from a seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dyersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, 'Field of Dreams', was filmed in a cornfield. A year later, to honor his sister's memory, Mortenson attempted to climb Pakistan's K2, the world's second highest mountain.

After the 1993 K2 ascent, while recovering in a local village, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school.

From that rash promise, grew a lifelong humanitarian campaign, dedicated to promote education, especially for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mortenson has established over 78 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 30,000 children, including 22,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.

His work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight-day armed kidnapping in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, escaped a 2003 firefight between feuding Afghan opium runners by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck headed to a leather-tanning factory. He has overcome two fatwehs from Islamic clerics, been investigated by the CIA, and received death threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children.

Mortenson is a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs.

While not overseas half the year, Mortenson, 51, lives in Montana, USA, with his wife, Dr. Tara Bishop, and two children.

Related Links Book Central Asia Institute nonprofit Pennies For Peace children's program

Contact Info: Jennifer Sipes, Operations Director, Central Asia Institute, USA, ph: +1-406-585-7841

Suleman Minhas, Central Asia Institute Operation Director, Pakistan, +92-300-519-6177, Imran Ali, Director for Foreign Office, Islamabad, Pakistan, +92-321-516-1941, Jennifer Sipes, Operations Director, Central Asia Institute, USA, +1-406-585-7841,; Photo: