Three Cups of Tea in Udhailiyah
Kirk K. Peterson and students at Udhailiyah School. Photo courtesy Kirk K. Peterson

Udhailiyah Library students engaged in a service project last spring called "Helpful Halalas." The name of our project was suggested by Kemi one of our 2nd grade student from Nigeria.

Inspired by Greg Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea, a beautiful PowerPoint lesson was created to share this story with students from kindergarten through 9th grade during library lessons. The book talk was a huge success, filling the school with a positive energy resulting from the presentation.

Many parents wrote thanking me for the special lesson. Others came to me and asked what the world this presentation was about; they have never seen their children so animated! One mother told me that her young children talked for a solid hour at the dinner table about the things they had learned from the presentation. This is what excellent teaching is all about; it felt incredibly validating!

Students, teachers and parents were asked to go home and find that special jar, cup, or drawer that they throw their loose coins into and bring them to the school library. A large glass bottle with a tea pot and three cups were placed at circulation desk as a collection point. Soon, this jar filled up with halalas and a mixture of other donated coins!

Students canvassed Udhailiyah door to door, telling residents about our project and kindly requesting loose halalas to donate to the Central Asian Institute. Other students took it upon themselves to make popsicles to sell and raise funds. The story found within Three Cups of Tea struck a chord with members of the community. Coins and cash started rolling in! The glass jar in the library filled up twice in two months.

Once the coins were collected, students helped sort, count, and bag coins to take to the bank and turn into cash. Members of our school community were able to send $3,200 to the Central Asian Institute to help educate needy children in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was an incredible way to end a successful school year and it was one of the best experiences of my 20 year educational career!

The young readers edition of Three Cups of Tea and children’s storybook version, Listen to the Wind, were purchased for the Udhailiyah School Library. These books are popular commodities in our library and I’m finding it hard to keep them on the shelves!

Three Cups of Tea is now required reading for all employees of the U.S. Pentagon, and many universities and high schools across the United States are making this book required reading for all students. If you have not read Three Cups of Tea yet, read it!

Those interested in learning more about this worthy cause, visit Central Asian Institute to find out about the organization's incredible work that makes the world a better place.

Kirk K. Peterson is the Udhailiyah School Librarian in Saudi Arabia.