April 30, 2004
In its continuing work to provide educational opportunity to children in developing countries, Room to Read today announced the opening of its 1000th school library. Students, teachers and government officials join Room to Read's local partners and founder in cutting the red ribbon to mark the completion of the school library at an opening ceremony amongst the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. To date, Room to Read has given over 300,000 underprivileged children in the developing world access to books and classrooms, for the first time in their lives.
In only four years of its existence, Room to Read has already built 1,000 bilingual school libraries, donated 400,000 books, and partnered with poor rural villages, particularly those with high illiteracy rates, to build 75 schools across Cambodia, India, Nepal and Vietnam. Room to Read was founded by John Wood, a senior executive with Microsoft in Asia who quit his position to focus on a different goal -- to change the world by giving 10 million disadvantaged children the lifelong gift of education.
Venture capitalist and founder of the Draper Richards Foundation, William Draper, comments on Room to Read's accomplishments, "Andrew Carnegie built libraries all over the United States. By creating Room to Read, John Wood is off to a fast start in doing this for the developing world." John Wood has been awarded with the Draper Richards three-year fellowship, the largest grant to social entrepreneurs in the United States.
John sees the 1000th library as an accomplishment, but at the same time, a small stepping-stone in reaching his goal of building 25,000 schools and libraries. "Access to books, to basic education goes way beyond the individual benefit - it's the foundation for economically, politically stable countries," says John. "Those of us who have the resources to facilitate change simply can't afford to overlook this root problem anymore. We're staying completely focused on the next 1,000, then the next, then the next."
Room to Read's rapid successes and effective nonprofit management (only 5% of Room to Read's budget goes to overhead costs) has not gone unnoticed. John was recently awarded with Fast Company magazine's 2004 "Top 20" Social Capitalist Award.