Issue 7, May 2010
Message From Our Team

Dear Friends:

In honor of it being the month that celebrates Mother’s Day, we are celebrating women’s empowerment! We’ve seen first-hand that girls who have the resources and mentoring necessary to complete their education grow up to become empowered women who make better decisions for themselves and their families. Those educated women also become role models in their communities, just like our mothers were for us…

As a little girl, my mother always told me, ‘Live the life you have always dreamed – there is no reason your dreams can’t become your reality.’ She gave me the confidence and support to reach for the stars and has been a huge role model for me throughout my life. I love that our Girls’ Education program is providing mentors for girls to help them reach their full potential in life and live their dreams too. And, of course, it is my mom’s favorite Room to Read program!” - Erin Ganju, Room to Read CEO & Co-Founder

I can still hear my mother’s voice as she would make up wonderfully imaginative stories from the Sunday comics. Somehow she never tired of reading me Green Eggs and Ham and Go Dog Go, no matter how many times I had to hear them. Is it any wonder I still love reading?” - John Wood, Room to Read Founder & Board Chair

The power of educating a girl has been proven almost 10,000 times over by the incredible girls who have participated in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program. You can read more about the positive impact the program has had in eight countries by downloading the new 2009 Girls’ Education Yearbook (pdf).

Please join us this Mother’s Day as we each thank our mothers and the influential women in our lives for the lessons and opportunities they’ve provided over the years.  And, we hope that you consider paying it forward in their honor by making a donation to the Girls’ Education program. This May, all donations made to the Girls’ Education program will be matched up to $150,000 by an anonymous donor, meaning your contribution will go twice as far.

We hope you too can find inspiration and give thanks to those special women in your life. We know the almost 10,000 girls in the developing world who you have helped support through our Girls’ Education program thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!


John and Erin

Hot Off the Press: 2009 Girls’ Education Yearbook

Now available is the new 2009 Girls’ Education Yearbook! We invite you to have a look to learn more about the program that has enabled thousands of girls the opportunity to learn in a positive environment and to thrive as strong and educated women in the future. In this year’s Yearbook you’ll read personal stories and true accounts from the girls whose lives have been changed by our Girls’ Education program, in addition to special features called “Outside the Girl” where we highlight individuals and groups that are vital to supporting the program’s growth and success.   Download Now »

Milestone Moment: 10,000th Library Opening!

Did you hear the news? Last week Room to Read opened its 10,000th library. The event itself was the culmination of a trek through Nepal led by John Wood with a group of Room to Read investors. The commemorative trek took them to the very first Room to Read library that John helped back in 2000 and closed with a final stop at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 10,000th library near Pokhara, Nepal.

To see, hear and see how the “Trek to 10,000” unfolded visit

Girls’ Education Program Convenes on Life Skills Education

Room to Read’s new strategic vision includes a strengthening of our commitment to supporting life skills education through our Girls’ Education program (see Envisioning our Future: A Roadmap for Learning). The program goal is to have girls’ complete secondary school with the life skills necessary to make key life decisions such as problem solving, critical thinking and communication.

To meet this objective, almost 30 Girls’ Education global program staff met last month to participate in a four-day life skills education workshop run by external consultants and Room to Read staff. The purpose of the workshop was to develop a common understanding of life skills education, share experiences from the field and further develop Room to Read’s strategy for implementing life skills education in all eight countries that run the program.

The workshop included sessions on developing a Room to Read definition of life skills, discussing the key life decisions faced by the adolescent girls we work with, and reviewing tools for implementation and measuring life skills acquisition. Highlights of the workshop included presentations by each country team on their current life skills education programming, group activities to identify consistent life skills competencies to be measured across countries, and several engaging ice-breakers—such as musical chairs put to Sri Lankan music!

Participants unanimously agreed that they left the workshop with a stronger understanding of how to create, implement and measure life skills education programs. The forum also helped enhance the sense of community felt among the Girls’ Education worldwide program teams, as they look for more ways and opportunities to exchange knowledge and share experiences that will help them enhance gender equality in education through our life skills education programming.

Learn more about the Girls’ Education program »

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. Join us for events scheduled in:

  • Greenwich – May 5
  • Austin - May 12
  • Los Angeles - May 13
  • Atlanta - May 17
  • New York - June 3

Learn more about our chapter network »


Education is critical to improving the status of women around the world and is considered the best investment one can make to address global poverty. Honor the women in your life by supporting our Girls’ Education program. All donations in May to the Girls’ Education program will be matched so you can double your impact.

Meet Cory Heyman, Our New Strategic Advisor

We would like to introduce you to Dr. Cory Heyman, the newest member to Room to Read’s management team. Cory has been a friend of Room to Read since 2004 when he helped develop our first monitoring and evaluation study and from his days as an active member of our advisory board. Cory has extensive expertise in international development and education, having most recently served as the vice president and deputy director of the Academy for Educational Development’s Center for Gender Equity. A sociologist by training, he’s worked at the nexus of public, private, and non-profit sectors for nearly two decades, managing large-scale educational projects in the U.S., Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Emily Leys, senior global program officer for our Girls’ Education program talks with Cory about his passion for gender equality in education and what excites him about his new role as Room to Read’s Strategic Advisor.

EL: Your position as strategic advisor is a new one, but you’ve worked with Room to Read for some time as an advisory board member. Will you tell us about that and why you’ve chosen to come onboard full-time with the organization?

CH: I am very excited to have this opportunity to join Room to Read full-time. I have been a big fan since Erin first called me in 2004 to ask my thoughts about monitoring and evaluation. It was as clear then as it is now that Room to Read is a learning organization committed to real outcomes in girls’ and boys’ lives. I feel inspired every time a Girls’ Education program staff member from a Country office asks me how to improve data collection and analysis. These questions are clearly motivated by a laser focus on ensuring that Room to Read scholars succeed in school. With two daughters of my own, it is very satisfying personally and professionally to work toward important educational goals with people who are so passionate about what they do.

EL: Why do you think it’s important to close the gender gap in education, particularly in the developing world?

CH: Reducing the gender gap in education is a matter of justice. A quality education is key for children to develop the skills in reading, computation, and critical thinking to make good life decisions. When all girls and boys in a community receive a quality education, they become more empowered to chart their own life courses. Education can be the key to tearing down historical power imbalances in societies.

In addition, on a social level, the evidence is clear that investing in girls’ education brings substantial economic and social benefits for families, communities, and countries. Improving educational opportunities for girls in addition to boys can have huge effects on reducing poverty and increasing standards of living. This is particularly important in developing countries where the benefits of preparing a skilled workforce are particularly high.

EL: What excites you most about your new role and its implications for the Girls’ Education program?

CH: I look forward to help make a strong Girls’ Education program even stronger. The Program has grown differently in each Country to respond to local needs, and all Country teams have done a tremendous job of identifying and supporting individual scholars in school within their contexts. One of the biggest opportunities is to help think more about some common standards across countries—where they make sense—so that every girl who participates in Girls’ Education programming around the world has a core set of experiences and skills to help them complete secondary school.

I also appreciate the fact that Room to Read has expressed interest in bringing a gender lens more fully into its programming overall. This includes reflecting on gender dynamics internally and making sure that all of Room to Read’s programming promotes the needs both girls and boys—both of which Room to Read already does extremely well but there is always room for improvement. I have worked with other organizations to promote this kind of “gender mainstreaming” and look forward to sharing my experiences as Room to Read undertakes this thoughtful activity.

We’re hiring! Learn about current career opportunities »

Mom Pays It Forward

Mary Byron considers herself lucky. Lucky to have been the first in her family of seven siblings to go to college; lucky to have a mother whose love of books transcended her profession as a librarian; lucky to have received a quality education that unlocked her potential and opened doors of opportunity.

She attributes her success to many things, but in particular Mary feels it was a college scholarship that made all the difference. She says, “I was a scholarship recipient in college. I couldn’t have afforded to go otherwise. The idea that somebody out there would provide money for my education was very impactful and I vowed that as soon as I was able to do the same for someone else, I would.”

Mary got her chance to pay it forward, and learned a surprising lesson about literacy, when she and her daughter moved to Tokyo, Japan in 2005. For the first time in her life, Mary says she, “understood what it felt like to be illiterate. I didn’t know the language or the alphabet so I was unable to read or fill out a simple form, read signs or do ‘normal’ things.”

In Japan, Mary soon found a cause to throw her weight behind as an early member of the Room to Read Tokyo chapter, helping to organize its first fundraising event and the successful launch its Japanese -language website.

Taking her involvement with Room to Read a step further, Mary has since become a dedicated individual investor in the Girls’ Education program, which holds a special place in her heart, both as a daughter and mother, and as a business professional. In creating her own personal appeal to support the Girls’ Education program, Mary fondly remembered her mother’s words to her that “an education was the path to your future and with that come choices to be and do whatever you want in life.”

Mary’s passion for the empowerment of girls through education has carried over to her professional life as partner at Goldman Sachs, where she has become one of the strongest advocates for global education and women’s initiatives. Ever the savvy business leader, Mary’s quest to provide more girls with an education is far from over. In fact, her enthusiasm is contagious because both her daughter and mother are also hooked on paying it forward to future to enable future generations of empowered and educated women.

Learn how you can create your own fundraising campaign for our Girls’ Education program »


A Seedling Out of a Bed of Rice

Ou Srey Net is stepping out of the rice paddy and into university. Along with her books, she brings the pride of her family and entire village. Srey Net was born into a farming family in a jungle village of the Kampong Cham province of Cambodia. Living thirty miles from the main town in an area of rubber plantations, Srey Net’s parents and five children subsist solely on their rice crops, Their poverty is apparent, but their hope is resilient, and Srey Net is their beacon.

Prior to enrolling in the Girls’ Education program in grade 7, Srey Net woke up at 4am each morning to cook rice and ride her bike ten miles to school. Her strong dedication paid off, for she recently graduated from high school and received a scholarship to study accounting at Chea Sim Kamchay Meas University. “I might not have found this success unless I got the support from Room to Read,” said Srey Net. “The bicycle, boarding room, tutoring, uniform, and material supplies helped me so much and I am really grateful.”

With a tear in his eye, Srey Net’s father said, “I know we are very illiterate and have no means to get out of this poverty, but I don’t want my children to inherit the same fate. Thus, I have to push Srey Net as much as possible even though it makes it harder for myself and the whole family. She is now a seedling out of rice bed since she is the only one in this village who can pursue a high education. I am happy to see her jump out from the rice bed in this way. Room to Read has truly helped my family.”

Learn more about the Girls’ Education program. »