Greg Mortensen attempted to climb K2 in 1993, one of the highest and most dangerous mountains in the world. He failed and almost died in the process. Stumbling down from the mountain, he was rescued by impoverished Pakistani villagers who nursed him back to health despite their meager means. Mortensen was so inspired by his benefactors that he wrote a book about his experience, Three Cups of Tea, and started a non-profit organization upon his return to the U.S. His organization has now built over 130 schools in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia.
Mortensen's Central Asia Institute is among the ranks of hundreds of thousands of "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs) that have sprung up around the world over the last century. NGOs are more commonly called "non-profit organizations" or "civil society." The Salvation Army is an NGO, as is the Sierra Club. This sector of our society, still little understood by most people, collectively forms the eighth largest economy in the world, employs over 19 million people, and spends more on international development than the World Bank. It is clearly a major force for change.
Read the rest at Santa Barbara's Independent.