Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The problem of Greg Mortenson

Writing this entry saddens me.

A couple of weeks ago, "60 Minutes" aired an episode that brought up some significant questions about the authenticity of Greg Mortenson's book "Three Cups of Tea" as well the work that his charity, the Central Asia Institute, has done in Afghanistan. And as many of you know, one of the goals for riding in this year's Etape was to raise money for the CAI.

There are several issues that have been raised by the recent turn of events. Numerous sources have come forth to state that many of the stories included in Mortenson's books are either stretched or completely fictionalized. Furthermore, significant issues have been raised about his charity, the Central Asia Institute. There appears to be doubts about the claims that the charity has made about the numbers of schools it has built and actual impact it has had on the region. It has, in the 15 years of its existence, only provided 1 audited financial statement. And Mortenson has been accused of using the charity as his personal ATM, using funds to pay for his book tour (including a private jet) and other sundry expenses.

These are all disturbing accusations. After deliberating on this for the past couple of weeks, I've decided that I do not feel comfortable asking my readers and friends to send donations on my behalf to the Central Asia Institute. From this point on, I will only be collecting donations for the World Bicycle Relief. All donations that were previously designated for the CAI have already been forwarded to them but that page is now closed.

Unfortunately, things like this happen sometimes and it's disappointing. Though I don't doubt that Mortenson has done good in a part of the world that needs help, I cannot support a charity until I can be confident about its transparency and honesty.

In the meantime, please continue to support the World Bicycle Relief!

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