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Central Asia Institute Charity Profile
Central Asia Institute (CAI) is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, founded in 1996, with IRS registration number is 51-0376237. Initial funds to establish Central Asia Institute were provided by Dr. Jean Hoerni, a Swiss physicist, (far right in photo below) a Silicon valley microchip industry pioneer. Greg Mortenson, co-founder and Executive Director of Central Asia Institute, began his work in northern Pakistan in 1993. He also has lived overseas for many years, growing up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania for fifteen years, and served in the U.S. military from 1975-1977. Mortenson’s initial development efforts were first inspired by the Balti people he met after a 1993 climb of K2 (world’s second highest mountain). The K2 climb was dedicated to his sister Christa, who died from severe epilepsy in 1992. Mortenson’s biography describes his background in detail.
Mortenson’s work was catalyzed when he met Dr. Hoerni, who provided funding for the first two projects, a bridge over the Braldu River and a school in Korphe village. From 1993-1996, he spent the majority of his time living and working in the rugged Karakoram mountain villages of northern Pakistan. This was an invaluable experience in a remote region relatively unknown to outsiders. Mortenson learned to appreciate the vitality and resourcefulness of the Balti mountain people, and how remarkably skilled the people are to survive and live in the harshest of conditions. In 1996, Hoerni established Central Asia Institute, and appointed Mortenson as the director. Tragically, Hoerni died a year later from leukemia. The initial Board of Directors decided to first focus our efforts on one geographic region, Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains, to gain expertise facilitating community-based projects.
The tribal communities of northern Pakistan taught Mortenson a critical lesson in our first five years of existence: sustainable and successful development can only occur when projects are entirely initiated, implemented and managed by local communities. It is also important to listen and learn from the local communities served, rather than impose external evaluations or judgment of what is best from an outsider’s perspective. The philosophy to empower the local people through their own initiative is at the heart of all CAI programs. As of 2008, Central Asia Institute has successfully established 78 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide (or have provided) education to over 28,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education. A few additional projects have been in Mongolia (rural health education) and Kyrgyzstan (teacher training scholarships). Over the first decade of CAI’s evolution, our programs and projects expanded to several regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan with an emphasis on education, health issues, environment and cultural preservation.
Central Asia Institute community projects continue to focus primarily in remote, underserved regions where few organizations serve. Since 2005, CAI refined and focused its priority to focus mainly on rural education and literacy, especially for females. This also includes ongoing teacher training programs, to establish libraries, and provide temporary education in regions of natural disaster or crisis. CAI also continues to pioneer and promote education in regions where there few or no education opportunities. We now put more resources into sustainable initiatives, to improve the quality of education, support teacher training, and help motivated students to achieve their education goals with higher education. We are reducing the number of new schools built and funds put into mere brick and mortar to build school buildings.
Central Asia Institute Volunteer Information
We are pleased to hear from so many people who wish to make a significant difference in the world. For International Volunteering, most of our projects are in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the present time we do not have international volunteers for several reasons:
1) Central Asia Institute’s limited financial resources are devoted primarily to community-based projects, to keep our overhead at a minimum. At this time, it is impossible for us to manage projects as well as be responsible for volunteers.
2) Central Asia Institute is a grass roots non-profit organization, established in 1996. CAI is a small organization with few staff, and we are not set up to coordinate volunteers or manage them in the field. It is imperative that any volunteer who came to Pakistan or Afghanistan would have a positive learning experience, as well as offer something constructive during their time in return. We are not in a position to oversee such an opportunity due to our limited staff that could serve as a liaison between the locals and foreign volunteers. Due to language and cultural barriers, such an intermediary is essential in this region. It has taken our founder, Greg Mortenson, twelve years to establish relationships and trust with the local villages, and it was hard earned.
3) Pakistan and Afghanistan’s government’s are in a state of dynamic transition. It is difficult to predict what the regional long-term outcomes will be. The US State Department and British Council have warned US and UK citizens not to travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
4) There are inherent dangers in the local region we work in, and safety considerations are paramount. The Siachen Glacier war between India and Pakistan is ongoing. CAI projects are also on the LOC (Line of Control) border war area, and involve war refugees from the conflict. As one of the only full-time agencies to work in certain restricted and closed regions, CAI is under the close scrutiny of government, military officials and intelligence agencies. For these reasons, we are uncomfortable with the responsibility for other foreigners. Anyone assumed to be with us incurs the same risks we do. In Afghanistan, rural security has deteriorated making rural travel dangerous in some locations. Opium and heroin trafficking has escalated. The renowned aid agency “Médecins Sans Frontières” (Doctors Without Borders) pulled out of the region after 23 years, when five of its aid workers were murdered in 2004.
We do not want discourage anyone who sincerely wishes to help. Your enthusiasm, curiosity and determination are appreciated. Although we are not able to offer you a volunteer opportunity with Central Asia Institute, we do encourage you to pursue your goal in another area where you could make a difference and learn a great deal.
Central Asia Institute Donation Information
Central Asia Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, and all donations are tax deductible.
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