Central Asia Institute

Rating: 3.04 stars   49 reviews

Issues: International

Location: PO Box 7209 Bozeman MT 59771 USA

Mission: Central Asia Institute (CAI) works with communities in remote areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, to promote education, especially for girls. At home and abroad, CAI is committed to sharing its expert knowledge with the public. Together we can cultivate peace, nurture hope, and change the world, one child at a time.
Results: Central Asia Institute has: - Built and or supported just under 300 schools - Constructed or sponsored 48 women’s vocational and literacy centers - Created 34 public health programs - Established 9 scholarship programs - Undertaken 16 community programs
Programs: Since its founding in 1996, Central Asia Institute has: Built and or supported just under 300 schools Constructed or sponsored 48 women’s vocational and literacy centers Created 34 public health programs Established 9 scholarship programs Undertaken 16 community programs CAI’s service-learning program, Pennies for Peace (P4P), was started in 1994 to teach children that a little goes a long way. By raising pennies to donate to impoverished schoolchildren in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, kids discover their potential as humanitarians and philanthropists. While a penny is virtually worthless in many societies, it can open the door to literacy for a child in Central Asia.

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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I continue to donate to this organization and have faith in CAI's management. They have addressed funding/organizational issues responsibly and continue extraordinarily important work in central Asia.

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Review from Guidestar
Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

I have donated to this charity for years and intend to keep doing so. A while back 60 Minutes did a piece on this charity to highlight claims of abuse by a climber and author. As I had promoted giving to this charity with family and coworkers, I was interested in learning more about the claims presented by 60 Minutes. What I found was that to learn more about the specific charges, I was expected to pay a fee to access a website containing an online book.

After using every other avenue available and finding out all the information about the charges, here is my summary view of them: The otherwise peerless CBS 60 Minutes was duped into providing free publicity for a money making effort by the person who made the claims.

Furthermore, in investigating Mr. Mortenson's so called lavish personal travel benefits: I looked at the event schedule, trying to find a date to hear him speak in person. Day after day, week after week, month after month was filled with events for faculty, students, groups, and boards. I have had to travel extensively for my job as a staff trainer. I could not have held up under Mr. Mortenson's schedule.

Each day of every month was crammed full of educational and fundraising events throughout the morning, day, and evening. Then a flight to another destination, sometimes with another event taking place upon arrival at that new location. Most of the events were at U.S. colleges and universities, and at community groups where those institutions are located. His detractors would have us believe that he was flying around the world on a vacation junket to luxurious tourist destination resorts.

Also, one reviewer here said building schools is cheap, but staffing and maintaining them is the difficult part. This is quite true. Please use the links here to go to this charity's webpages to see how paying teachers, providing school supplies, and supporting attendance is a large part of their efforts. U.S. government military built schools may be very generous, but unfortunately are viewed by locals as attempts to subvert their culture.

CAI does not just go somewhere and build a school in hopes that teachers and students will somehow show up. They receive requests from village councils to build a school in a remote village, one that the government will not serve with its own resources. In lands that are dominated by warlords, zealous clerics, and tribal chiefs, no one is going to send their children to a school unless such community leaders support it.

The brush with 60 Minutes caused the charity to make many changes to ensure transparency, protect the investments of donors, and ensure the long term viability of its charitable operations. If you want to make your own decisions about these concerns, please visit the archives of the Daily Bozeman, the court documents, the charity's website, and good old Google searches. I trust you will arrive at the same conclusions I have.

Was your donation impactful?

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How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

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When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2014

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Rating: 4 stars  

After serving with the U.S. military in Kabul, Afghanistan, I observed the effects of discrimination against girls and women. The Afghan Major General in charge of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) legal department proudly claimed, "Four women equal one man!".

Greg Mortensen, though imperfect, has broken the code on breaking the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, and ignorance in South Asia. His organization needs our support. The solution, rather than military might, is soft power through education. Please help us turn the tide--donate to CAI.

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Rating: 1 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

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 to provide basic support and stabilization services for communities in the critically important border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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."


Was your donation impactful?

Unlikely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Unlikely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Unlikely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 4 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

I am not a little disturbed by your information on Central Asia Institute, as it is badly out of date. Greg Mortenson resigned as Executive Director some time ago and recently has left its Board of Directors in order to preserve what has been an important mission of both Mortenson and the Institute. I shall continue to contribute.

Was your donation impactful?

Likely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

I feel Greg Mortenson is one of the great men of the world and question whether that can be said about 60 Minutes or Jon Krachauer. One of the reviewers commented that his was an impartial report. How do we know that? Obviously, Mortenson is not necessarily good at handling money and it appears that the institute has recognized that and is now using him where his talents are strongest. How many of us can say that we have done so much to change the world for better?

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Likely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Likely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

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Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 1 stars  

5 people found this review helpful

I've spent many years in Afghanistan. I donated good money to the CAI nearly a decade ago. Greg Mortenson has been proven a thief. Believe me when I say this: putting up schools in these countries cost's nearly nothing out of pocket, but costs nearly everything out of heart and passion. When I was in the Marines, we built three schools in 1 DAY! You know what took 6 months? Getting students there, getting teachers to stay, getting girls there and getting supplies. Mr. Mortenson, you may think one day that people will see your overall effort as positive. Don't, for a second, think that I will. Spending $1.5 million on domestic travel for yourself. What you've done is beyond forgivable - not because we can't forgive, because we must forgive - but because a man of your malicious moral fiber can never be upstanding. There's a reason you spent your twenties living in a car - if that was even true - because you can only steal your wealth.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 3 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

O and rachels beautiful and she makes me smile 24/7

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 4 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

Charity Navigator does not do itse reputation any good by assuming guilt based on allegations against Central Asia Institute. CN should continue to display the CAU financial information, and put an advisory about the allegations, but let the donors make up their own mind.

Was your donation impactful?

Likely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Likely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 1 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

I have no idea why people would want you to take down your "Donor Advisory"; I, for one, appreciate it and it's one of the reasons I use Charity Navigator! No, simply reading the reviews and other info doesn't speak for itself - the advisory is helpful. As a co-founder of a non-profit that works with war-injured children, I'm appalled at the "salary" and perks that Greg Mortenson was taking from his "charity". I think what the CAI does is wonderful, but without removing Mortenson from the Board, I can't have much faith that the money is going where it should.

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Unlikely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Some

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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Review from CharityNavigator