Pagosa Springs Elementary School helps promote global literacy

Over the last few weeks, students at the Pagosa Elementary School have been collecting their pennies in containers of all shapes and sizes for the Pennies for Peace Program.

Pennies for Peace is a program of the Central Asia Institute. The Central Asia Institute is a nonprofit organization with the mission to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pennies for Peace teaches children the rewards of sharing and working together to bring hope and educational opportunities to children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A penny in the United States is virtually worthless, but in Pakistan and Afghanistan it opens the door to literacy. It cost $1 per month for one child’s education in Pakistan or Afghanistan, a penny to buy a pencil, and a teacher’s salary averages $1 per day. Pennies for Peace educates children about the world beyond their experiences and shows them that they can make a positive impact on a global scale, one penny at time.

Greg Mortensen is the co-founder of CAI and the Pennies for Peace Program. In 1993 Mortensen drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram Mountains after a failed attempt to climb K2. Moved by the inhabitants’ kindness, Mortensen promised to return and build a school. Over the decade following his experience, Mortensen built more than 50 schools, especially for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This story is told in the book “Three Cups of Tea,” which he co-authored.

CAI builds schools to educate children up through the fifth grade and focuses on increasing enrollment for girls. Once boys are educated, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities. Mortensen explains that the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they’ve learned. A fifth-grade education for girls improves the basic indices for health for her and her family which changes infant morality rates. Educating girls changes the culture of the community. Literacy overall, for boys and girls, provides better social, cultural and economic opportunities for their future.

Our best hope for a peaceful and prosperous world lies in the educating of all the world’s children. Through cross cultural understanding and a solution-oriented approach, Pennies for Peace encourages children who are ultimately our future leaders, to be active participants in the creation of global peace.

Pennies will be collected until Dec. 12. Participation in this program has been made possible due to the support of building principal Kate Lister, teacher Cathne Holt, and all of the teachers at the Pagosa Springs Elementary school.

Anyone interested in learning more about Pennies for Peace or about the Central Asia Institute can go to and click on media and press, and then click CAI videos to preview a ten minute video promoting this program.