Issue 5, November 2009
Message From Our Team

Dear Friends:

I have just returned from a trek to Southern Africa with a group of Room to Read investors and we all returned profoundly touched by what we experienced, and motivated to continue to be ambassadors for our work.

As those of you who have traveled to Africa can attest, there is no way words can do justice to the impact this continent and its people have on one’s mind and spirit. On one hand, you bear witness to such grinding poverty and the impact malnourishment and HIV/AIDs is having on a population that is faced by so many challenges. Yet, on the other hand, you are greeted by smiles, dancing and music everywhere you go and by a power in the voices of the people that gives one hope the future will be different. We visited girls in Zambia that are supported by our Girls’ Education program and flourishing because of it. We also traveled to a community school that was one of the poorest communities I have ever been in; yet, the positive energy of the children was addictive. We experienced some of the most well-managed and utilized libraries in South Africa, including one which serves orphans and vulnerable children that have little else in their lives except for the teachers and schools that act as their safety net.

But, the story that I really want to share with you is a poem called "Miss Library" that's in our Story Time section (see below) and one I think everyone on the trek would agree was the most memorable and inspiring. It belongs to a student called “Mr. Poet” whose own words prove our work, with your help, make our results possible and so tangible.

Here’s to empowering more student poets through the power of education!

Sincerely,

Erin Ganju

Qualcomm Wireless Reach and Room to Read Pilot a Wireless Lab Project

Through support and technology provided by Qualcomm Wireless Reach, Room to Read just launched a special pilot project called the “School Wireless Computer Lab” to connect rural schools in Vietnam and Nepal to the Internet – for the first time ever! Two simultaneous launches took place in Vietnam and Nepal to welcome the five wireless labs established in Kaski and Kavre regions of Nepal and six labs in Can Tho Province of southern Vietnam. Qualcomm’s CEO, Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, and Room to Read Founder, John Wood, were on hand for the opening ceremony in Nepal which took place at the Shree Amarjyoti Gaunpharka Secondary School.

Each lab includes 20-25 computers that will serve as many as 50 students during a class period. All the labs were established in schools where Room to Read has active programs. For example, at Shree Anarjyoti school, Room to Read had been working with the community since providing them a Reading Room library in 2007. With the added value of a wireless lab, these students will be able learn from the over 2,000 library books and then continue to research a subject that peaks their interest through the Internet.

Through Room to Read’s challenge grant, each community has a stake in the project’s success because we required each school to raise a certain amount of money for a Computer Lab Development Fund – a savings account managed by a Computer Lab Management Committee that allows for lab administration and equipment maintenance after Room to Read’s support ends.

In addition to providing training for students to learn basic computer skills, each lab will use technology to teach other subjects such as English, math and science. Teacher training is also a component of the pilot project. For example, in Vietnam we held a teacher training with consultants from Hewlett-Packard Vietnam that oriented teachers on the management and operation of the wireless computer lab.

The regions targeted for this pilot are in areas where landline access is limited or unreliable.  By providing affordable and high-quality Internet connectivity to government schools, these wireless lab pilots address the goal of universal access and opportunity in education and will help underserved students to bridge the digital divide.

>> To learn more about our pilot projects, click here.


Room to Read Website Gets a Facelift – Plus New Features


Have you seen our website lately and noticed any changes?  If not, please have a look at www.roomtoread.org because we have a new site, a new look but, more importantly, new features to keep our supporters more frequently updated with information!

Blog – Room to Read now has its own blog at www.blog.roomtoread.org (and also available through our homepage) that posts new stories about our work in the field, our supporters and recent headlines.  Click here to subscribe to the blog feed.

It’s been all over the headlines but we can’t seem to stop telling people the exciting news: Room to Read has been chosen by Twitter as its first Corporate Social Innovation Partner. The partnership is being centered around The Fledgling Initiative, a Twitter program that is driven by Twitter’s belief in democratizing access to information throughout the world via tweeting. As part of the project, Twitter staff will be making wine with Crushpad (www.crushpadwine.com) – a San Francisco-based custom winery.  Five dollars from every bottle sold will go directly to Room to Read so please visit www.fledglingwine.com to pre-order!

And, don’t forget to sign up and follow all our accounts on Twitter, especially since we are now ranked in the top 1,000 ranking for Twitter followers!

@roomtoread or twitter.com/roomtoread
@ JohnWoodRTR or twitter.com/JohnWoodRTR

Personal Appeals – We’re making it easier than ever for you to get your network involved to help Room to Read.  Room to Read’s personalized fundraising tool now gives you the opportunity to create and manage your own fundraising campaign and share the Room to Read story with your friends and family through your own web pages and email messages.  Click here to learn more.

Facebook – don’t forget we still have a fanpage on Facebook at www.facebook.com/roomtoread.

 Chapters are comprised of individuals who have made a long-term volunteer commitment to promoting Room to Read within their communities, and we depend on their network to achieve our goals.  Learn more about our chapter network here. Join us for events scheduled in:

November 11 – San Francisco
November 13 – Hong Kong
November 17 – Vancouver
November 20 – Canberra
November 21 – Tokyo

>> Click here for more details about upcoming local events.

Room to Read’s Stimulus Package: From now until the end of November all online donations will be matched by an anonymous supporter up to US$100,000.  Help us end the year in a strong position and leverage your investment.

Meet Dinesh Shrestha: Founding Father of Room to Read

Many of you may have heard the name Dinesh Shrestha before but you’ve probably never met the legend himself. Well, here’s your chance and what better time than now, on the heels of Room to Read’s 10 year anniversary!

Dinesh’s history with Room to Read began in 1998 when he was connected over email to John based on a request to help him deliver books to a rural library. From that chance meeting, John and Dinesh collaborated to launch what was then known as Books for Nepal. You could call Dinesh our first in-country ambassador and first full-time volunteer (not counting John and Erin, of course).

Before joining Room to Read, Dinesh worked as chief of operations for the German Technical Corpora-tion's Rural Development Program (GTZ) and later held a position with the World Health Organization –  all while volunteering with Room to Read.

In 2001, Dinesh became Room to Read's first official full-time country director in Nepal, where he led the team for eight years and ultimately established Room to Read as an influential NGO in Nepal. In June 2008, Dinesh transitioned to the role of regional human resources and administration director for Asia.

Following is our conversation with one of Room to Read’s founding fathers:

Take us back to the beginning. How did your connection with John grow from a one-time book donation to the co-founding of Books for Nepal?

After I received John’s original letter request through my social club, I saw it as an opportunity to work on more projects so even though John’s books arrived in December of that year, I kept pushing John to send more and told him if he sent more, I would deliver more to places in need. This became my own personal project and I think John also saw it as his personal project. Later that year we thought, “This could be its own organization” because that would help us continue the work that we both wanted to do.

The story goes that the idea for the “Challenge Grant” model can be traced back to you. Why did you feel that was important?

I think the name was John’s but the concept was mine because I wanted to make sure communities were involved with the work and felt a part of it and feel the ownership. So, when the communities told us they needed our help, I said, “OK, why don’t you match the amount we will give you by donating money, materials or manual labor.” In fact, I remember in the Dhading District of Nepal we were helping to build a school our second year and one of the community meetings, just to encourage and get their contribution for the project, I raised my hand first and announced the community I would personally donate 5,000 NPR (Nepalese Rupees) out of my own pocket and then everyone started raising their hands and we were able to raise and match our contribution in that 20 minutes meeting. John and I were both there for the inauguration of that school in 2000.

In 2001, when you became the first official country director in Nepal, did you know or expect that Room to Read would become the global organization it is today?
No, I never envisioned when we started we’d one day be an organization that now has over 300 employees and works in 9 countries!  I attribute our success to having a team that is dedicated, committed and passionate about what we do. With that, and the reputation we have created in the countries where we work, we have found great success which has allowed us to rapidly expand our organization and programs.

What excites you most about Room to Read’s future?

I am excited about the direction we are headed because I see many challenges but with challenges come opportunities. I am excited about disrupting the status quo and helping to take the organization to the next level so we can achieve even more. I am most excited about building upon our relationships with partner organizations – particularly with governments with whom we work. In order to succeed in impacting more children, we need to work more closely with government partners because Room to Read can only do so much for so long. We want the communities we invest with to thrive and be sustainable long after Room to Read’s support ends.

>> We're hiring! Learn about our current career opportunities.

Room to Read Touches the Sky with Cathay Pacific

Room to Read is proud to continue its relationship with Cathay Pacific in 2009 and as the supporting airline of Room to Read. Our partnership began in 2006 and really took off in 2007 with the Literacy One Flight on a new Boeing 777, a special campaign to deliver 400,000 donated English-language books to Room to Read libraries across Asia.

Cathay Pacific’s generous donation of airline miles provides valuable operating support for Room to Read across the globe, enabling our employees to travel between our country offices in Asia and Africa and our global offices in San Francisco, London and Hong Kong, which helps keep our overhead low.

We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Cathay Pacific for their generous contribution as we scale our programs to provide access to more libraries, schools, local language books and long-term scholarships to millions more children in the developing world.

>> Click here to learn more about our corporate partners.

 


Mr. Poet Meets Miss Library

The following poem was written by “Mr. Poet,” a student and frequent visitor to a Room to Read library in East London South Africa.

Miss Library

Miss Library, you are the quiet lady full of respect and dignity.

You attend to people who take time to seek information and never get disappointed.

Your shelves are full of books filled with knowledge, inspirational information and amusement.

Through you I shared in the ideas of very important people like William Shakespeare and Gcina Mhlophe.

The dinosaurs became extinct before our time but you kept record of them and make them alive to us.

Anytime I visit you seeking knowledge, I depart more powerful which confirms the saying ‘knowledge is power.'

When I seek a good story, she leaves me inspired. Oh Miss Library you are one of a kind.

You are a mother of all nations.

You feed the nations with knowledge and wisdom.

Feed us.

>> Learn more about our Reading Room program