Mortenson recently visited the campus of Colorado State to talk to students. From the Coloradan, writer Sara Hansen records some of Mortenson's remarks.
"You, yourself can never solve the problems of the world," he told a group of 90 students Monday afternoon in a ballroom at Lory Student Center. "It has to be a team effort."
He offered words of encouragement and also told students that for service work to be truly successful, the project must connect with the people it is trying to serve.
"The local people have to be consulted and that doesn't happen very often," he said. "Unless the people are consulted, unless they feel empowered, it doesn't work."
As an example, he cited relief efforts in Pakistan in 2005 after a major earthquake. Many relief agencies from the United States sent clothing. It ended up being burned for fuel.
Mortenson was involved in helping set up tent schools to educate the students. They set up the tents for classes, but no one came. It took a young girl to tell him that the students needed desks. When the earthquake hit and the schools collapsed, only students (primarily boys) who had desks were able to take shelter underneath and survive.
Once the volunteers scrounged up desks, the children were eager to learn.
"For them, the desks meant life," Mortenson said.