Promoting Peace, Empowering Communities

by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications

I was in the audience Saturday evening as ChildFund’s president and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard shared a cup of tea with Greg Mortenson during the Richmond (Va.) Forum.

Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time,” addressed a sold out crowd.

Although his topic was serious, his delivery was engaging and resonating. He spoke about how peace is based in hope and how people need to be empowered “so they can lead their destinies.”

Those words are so similar to ChildFund’s mission: “We believe that the well-being of all children leads to the well-being of the world. We empower children to thrive throughout all stages of life and become leaders of enduring change.”

Later in the evening, audience members provided questions, which Anne moderated. She and Mortenson sat on plush chairs comfortably facing each other. Before Anne began asking questions, they shared a cup of tea. As the saying goes, the first time you share a cup of tea, you are a stranger; the second cup you are a friend, and the third cup you are family.

Because of their shared commitment to helping the world’s children, their interaction was natural and free flowing. Clearly, they were not strangers.

When Anne, who has spent more than 25 years living in developing countries, speaks about poverty she describes it as more than a word.

Mortenson did the same thing during his talk. “We have to touch it, to smell it, to be with poverty,” he said.

Since 1993, Mortenson has committed his life to building schools in developing nations, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. His first school took a while to build, Mortenson admitted, because he was micromanaging the work. But then he turned it over to the community and six weeks later it was built. “You have to let go and empower the community.”

That’s another familiar theme. When ChildFund begins work in a community, we first ask the community what needs to be changed. We then collaborate with community members to bring about that change and then, most important, hand control of the project back over to community members.

In recent years, Mortenson and his team have begun building playgrounds along with the schools. “The children are brought up in war, hatred. They never had a chance to play,” Mortenson said. “When the children started to play even the parents got happy.”

That’s one of the reasons ChildFund is working to fund playgrounds in Afghanistan. As part of its Fund a Project, supporters can donate to fund playgrounds in 20 communities in Afghanistan.

It’s always inspiring to spend an evening with others who are committed to making the world a better place for children.

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