"Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Asalaam Aleikum (Peace be with you). Central Asia Institute's big news this month is that the board of directors has hired a new executive director, David Starnes. David will join the CAI team later this month, after he completes his work with USAID in Pakistan.  


You can read more about David below, along with online links to CAI's press release on the subject and David's bio.  


CAI's Anne Beyersdorfer and Karin Ronnow are currently overseas, working with project managers on 2013 plans and budgets. They helped the village of Khurd, Pakistan, inaugurate its first girls' high school. And Karin attended a CAI-supported teacher-training program in Gilgit. You can read more on both of those celebrations of hope below.  


CAI's mission remains critical to the future of the countries where we work. The ravages of war, extremism, and drug trafficking, combined with the inability of governments to provide adequate educational opportunities are of great concern. We believe education, especially for girls, is the key to a more peaceful future.  


The world is moving in that direction and girls' educational opportunities have improved modestly in the past decade. But a 2012 UNESCO report demonstrates that it remains an uphill battle.


Pakistan, for example, has the second-highest number of girls who are not enrolled in school, yet it has reduced its education budget to less than 2.3 percent of GDP. And although Afghanistan has made significant strides since 2002, increasing current girls' enrollment to more than 2.4 million, there are still 3 million girls in Afghanistan who are not in school.  


As always, we draw our strength and motivation from the people we serve. But none of our work would be possible without you, our supporters. Thank you for your continued interest, encouragement, and contributions to our mission.




David Starnes joins CAI team as new executive director  

Will move to Bozeman in late Febuary.


Central Asia Institute announced today that it has hired a new executive director, David Starnes.


David, a 57-year-old father of three, will join us in late February after winding down his work with USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives-Pakistan. He brings to the job more than 30 years experience as a professional and organizational development consultant, working with nonprofit, for-profit and government organizations, including 19 years as executive director of the Baltimore-Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Center.


David joins us just as we are gearing up for the 2013 building and maintenance season. In the past year, bolstered by our supporters' continued confidence, we sustained our commitment to more than 300 existing projects, and initiated 60 new projects: 20 in Pakistan, 36 in Afghanistan, and four in Tajikistan. As most of our projects are in the remote Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Pamir mountains, springtime is the busiest season.


"I am looking forward to working with CAI's team both in the United States and in the communities it serves," David said. "CAI has made a profound impact on people's awareness of the need for education and community health initiatives in the remote and rural villages of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. I'm excited to be on board."


Greg Mortenson, CAI's co-founder, served as executive director from CAI's founding in 1996 until December 2011. He remains on staff, playing a supportive role, primarily with overseas programs and relationships. He will also continue to help with fundraising.


"With a new, capable board of directors and the experienced leadership of David Starnes, CAI is ready to move strongly into the future," Greg said.


David currently serves as the deputy country representative for USAID-Office of Transition Initiatives in Pakistan. He has been in Pakistan since January 2010 working with the Pakistan government in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province.


Prior to taking the USAID post, David spent a month as a volunteer in Jordan, teaching English at a Palestinian refugee camp. From 2008 to 2009, David worked as a senior program analyst with Stanley, Baker, Hill LLC in support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-Office of Safety and Health in Iraq.


Stateside, David worked with Outward Bound USA for more than 20 years in a variety of senior executive roles, including his years at the Baltimore center, Outward Bound's first urban center. He worked with local government officials to initiate the Philadelphia center, and played a key leadership role in shaping Outward Bound USA's long-term strategy on urban centers.


David earned both his bachelor's degree in parks and recreation administration and master's in public administration at Western Illinois University. He has three adult children, Justin, 28, Rachael, 26, and Sarah, 24.


CAI launched a nationwide search to fill the executive director's position and received dozens of qualified applicants, said Steve Barrett, chairman of the CAI board of directors.


"CAI is excited to have someone of David's background and experience join us in our mission to promote literacy and education, especially for girls," said Steve, a Bozeman attorney and former member of the Montana University System's Board of Regents. "David's extensive experience in community development and his past three years in Pakistan uniquely qualify him to help CAI continue to fulfill its mission of the last 17 years. Our board is thrilled and we look forward to David joining our team."


Last August, Greg noted on the CAI Communique: "Being executive director of Central Asia Institute is a unique task with incredible rewards. More than a job, it is a calling. ... We look forward to the added vitality that this person will bring to the CAI team - especially during these particularly challenging times in the communities CAI serves in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan."


Read Greg's fall 2012 comments about the executive director search HERE


  Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Visit our blog    

Punjab village gets its first girls' high school
New 11-room building serves 410 girls in classes six to 10. 


The crowd fills the schoolyard for the inaugural ceremony. Photo: Mohammad Nazir/CAI 2013
KHURD, Pakistan - People filled every available chair and patch of ground in the schoolyard on opening day of the Central Asia Institute-supported Khurd Government Girls' High School.


They sat two to a chair, plunked down on the ground, leaned against walls. Women rocked babies. Young men sat at the feet of the turbaned old men. Everyone cheered and applauded, and celebrated the inauguration of the first girls' high school in the area.


"The people of this area have been backward with respect to education due to lack of facilities, especially for girls' education," said English teacher Arshad Mehmood, who emceed the school inauguration on Jan. 29, 2013.  


"There was no girls' high school nearby. Most of the students had to give up because of lack of access. Now CAI has gifted this building to the people of the area. At last, people get solution to their problem.


"The Koran says, 'A gift of God will make its way to stone walls.' And this is indeed a beautiful building - by all measures," Mehmood said.


Read more about the Khurd Girls' High School inauguration HERE



Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Visit our blog    

CAI teacher training provides creative teaching tools
Gilgit Teacher Training
Dozens of teachers from CAI-supported schools attended January training in Gilgit 

GILGIT, Pakistan - The 74 teachers attending Central Asia Institute-Gilgit's teacher-training program were practically giddy with excitement on the final day of the course.


Two weeks earlier, when the course began, they had been divided into groups by geographical region and given a big assignment - craft a handmade "book" about your region, including details about the history, population, traditions, culture, and language. They were instructed to use reliable sources, and illustrate their books with drawings, photos, maps, or other graphics.


The results were, in many cases, the first draft of history ever written by local people.


"There were so many events that happened in the past and nobody was writing it, even really good teachers and professors who didn't think to do that," said Shahina, a teacher from Gojal Valley, whose five-member group titled its 41-page handmade book, "The Land of Marco Polo Sheep." "Now we were given the idea to put it together and, really, it was exciting to do this."


Read more about the Gilgit teacher-training program HERE.




Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Visit our blog   Blue

Journey of Hope



"Here's to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They're not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."- Apple Inc.  

Click on the cover to view the  
2012 Journey of Hope

Each year, Central Asia Institute documents its work in photos and stories published in the

Journey of Hope.

JOH VI shares how the organization and the communities it serves cope with extremism, the opium trade, and traditional barriers to female education and equality. There are stories of CAI's work to sustain existing projects, support and train teachers, and encourage young women to continue their education with scholarships. Images and words document Mortenson's return to Korphe in northern Pakistan last spring, and his work this fall in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.


To request a copy of the JOH, contact us HERE, or it is also available online  HERE.  


Additional copies for use in classrooms, places of worship or book clubs, or to share with friends, family and colleagues are available free by request. To request additional copies, contact us  HERE.




Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Visit our blog   Blue

2013 Journey of Hope Calendars

Click on the calendar to purchase
 CAI's 2013 Journey of Hope Calendar

"The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time."

- Abraham Lincoln


CAI's Journey of Hope calendar for 2013 is still available!   


Copies are $10 each, and all proceeds go to support CAI programs overseas.  


To purchase copies, you can email info@ikat.org, call 406.585.7841, or visit our website, www.ikat.org.




Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Visit our blog   Blue

Connect with us!


A girl at Bien Primary School in northern Pakistan grins as she listens to Greg Mortenson and her teachers encourage students to pursue their dreams. Photo: Karin Ronnow/CAI 2012
The latest news from CAI is always available on our blog, CAI Communiqué, at www.ikat.org/cai-communique/.


The blog includes stories about projects, communities and our overseas project managers, field reports from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and breaking news from the areas we serve.  To stay up to date, sign up to receive an e-mail notice whenever the blog is updated. 


And please forward this electronic newsletter to any and all people you think share our hopes for peace through education. Thanks for helping us spread the word. 



Central Asia Institute staff





Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Visit our blog   Blue

It's easy to share
Young students at CAI-supported Marzigon School in the Hushe Valley of northern Pakistan prepare to welcome "Dr. Greg" to their school.  
Photo: Karin Ronnow/CAI 2012
Help us promote girls' education, literacy and peace: one penny, one pencil, one child, one book, and three cups of tea at a time! Make a tax deductible donation to Central Asia Institute to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

CAI Website Links


CAI Website


Pennies for Peace Website


CAI Videos


CAI Communiqué


 For the latest news, follow us on our social media outlets:


Follow us on Twitter     Like us on Facebook     Visit our blog


Join Our List
Join Our Mailing List

Help us reduce our carbon footprint, sign up your friends and family to Alima, our email newsletter.