Journey leads to book, erection of schools

By | September 16, 2009


Mary Vanden Busch, principal of Notre Dame School in De Pere, met author Greg Mortenson last month and presented him with a check for $6,148 to help build schools in central Asia. Mortenson co-authored the book, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time.” (Submitted photo | For The Compass)

The Central Asia Institute (CAI) grew from Mortenson’s efforts. The organization has built 130 schools serving more than 51,000 students. CAI emphasizes education of girls, many of whom previously had no opportunity to attend school.

“‘Educate a girl and you educate a community’ is the belief,” said Mary Vanden Busch, principal at Notre Dame. “If we could educate the children of Afghanistan, they would be less likely to go to war as opposed to finding a means of peace. Educated mothers are less likely to condone their children joining terrorist groups.”

In addition to reading the book, middle school students put on plays to show the struggles Mortenson faced on his journey. Notre Dame also held an international day featuring items from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and teachers used a curriculum that accompanied the book to incorporate lessons in the classroom.

Notre Dame set a goal to raise enough money to purchase a school. Fund-raising activities produced $6,148.

“We had a penny collection,” said Vanden Busch. “Bishop (Robert) Banks brought all his pennies to add to the collection, which was fun. Three teachers and a student shaved their heads to raise money. We had a bowl-a-thon and competitions between homerooms. We talked throughout about what we could buy with the money raised. Education on the culture was an important part of raising the money.”

In March of 2009, Vanden Busch met Mortenson in Florida, where she shared the school’s push to build a school. She presented him a check on Aug. 21 at the Education for Peace conference in Chicago.

One Book, One Community

The Brown County reading initiative featuring the book “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time” kicks off with a Tea Party event at 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay.

Copies of the book are available at all Brown County Libraries and for purchase at The Reader’s Loft and Butterfly Books. The book is also available in Spanish, a young readers’ edition and a children’s picture book.

For a schedule of upcoming events, teacher and classroom resources and reading group discussion questions, visit For more information about One Book, One Community, contact Sue Premo, committee chair, at (920) 429-9445.

“I began to tear up,” she said. “His eyes started watering. It was very exciting.

“When you think about what Greg Mortenson, one person, did, you realize that anyone can do anything,” she added. “He is just amazing and as humble and gentle a person as you will ever meet. His life has been transformed.”

The public is invited to read the book as a part of One Book One Community’s fifth Brown County read. One Book One Community is a reading initiative designed to inspire dialogue among residents through shared book-reading experiences. The community-wide read kicks off with a Tea Party event at 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay (see box). Vanden Busch is an active participant in the One Book One Community initiative.

Service is a staple at Notre Dame. One Friday afternoon each month, students and faculty provide service at 14 different locations in the community.

“We come back and do a reflection as to what difference does this make to us and to others,” said Vanden Busch. “We do outreach locally, nationally and globally each year. A lot of kids who have left here have shared that the service program has changed their perspective. For example, there is a graduate who is now a nurse who makes a mission trip to Guatemala each year.”

The school community is reaching out to Kosovo this year. Tyler Burke, a social studies teacher at Notre Dame, is committed to serving two years at a school in the Yugoslav province.

“He left in August,” said Vanden Busch. “He told us what they are working on, what their needs are and how we can be of assistance. Tyler served in Ghana when he was at St. Norbert so I’m not surprised that he is now in Kosovo.

“He has a need to do ministry and reach out to the poor. That’s what attracted me to him as a teacher. The students are really excited about helping Tyler because they loved him. He inspires them.”

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