The Price of Stones has all the markings of a Greg Mortenson knockoff. The book’s foreword contains a letter from its publisher favorably comparing it to Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea. (It happens that Viking is the publisher of both books.) And the title, The Price of Stones, has a familiar ring, sounding quite similar to Mortenson’s follow-up, Stones into Schools. But The Price of Stones’ author, Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, has one thing Mortenson lacks: serious street cred. While Mortenson stumbled upon Korphe, the remote village in Pakistan where he built a school in Three Cups of Tea, Kaguri was born in the Ugandan village that he struggles to save from the ravages of AIDS.
Kaguri writes movingly about growing up in a country where almost a third of the adult population is infected by AIDS. The disease is so prevalent in Uganda, he informs us, that natives have given it a nickname: slim. The shadow of death darkens the doorway of Kaguri’s home, with AIDS claiming the life of his brother, Frank, and sister, Mbabazi. When he becomes the guardian of one of his brother’s children, he discovers that more than a million Ugandan children have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic, and he vows to take action. Returning to Uganda from his studies in the United States, Kaguri builds a school for these orphans.
The Price of Stones is an engaging account of the work of Kaguri and his wife, Beronda, to build Nyaka School, which provides free education, meals and medical care for some 200 orphans. Nyaka School not only educates students, but also has a working farm to grow food for the children, a program to teach villagers to build clean water systems, vocational training and a program to assist caregivers for the orphans. The school’s success has even led to the establishment of a second school in a nearby village.
The accomplishments of Nyaka School are the result of Kaguri’s perseverance, having overcome obstacles (from the superstitions surrounding AIDS to his father’s initial refusal to help) to raise money, transport supplies and building materials to a rural area, and maneuver around the corruption of government officials. Kaguri rightly earns admiration for his achievements, and The Price of Stones earns accolades for its inspiration.