November 20, 2005
Room to Read, an international nonprofit organization devoted to providing educational opportunities to under-privileged children in the developing world, will celebrate the donation of its millionth book on Friday, November 25, in Nepal.
In celebration of this milestone, the organization will open 30 new school libraries, at the same hour on the same day, bringing access to books to nearly 10,000 children in just one day.
The millionth book milestone will be celebrated at numerous schools across Nepal. John Wood, founder and CEO of Room to Read, and Dinesh Shrestha, the Nepal Country Director, will attend one of the library openings and announce a plan to put "The Next Million" books into the hands of students around the world by the end of 2006. Wood and Shrestha started the organization, which has grown to more than 2,200 libraries and 140 schools in six countries across Asia.
"After my first experience in Nepal, I decided to leave the corporate world of Microsoft and devote my life to bringing literacy and education to children in the developing world. For our millionth book donation, I chose to return to Nepal to complete the circle of the journey that began here and has since expanded our work to other countries where children lack educational opportunities," Wood said.
Room to Read brings hope to the children of the developing world by partnering with communities to build schools, libraries, computer and language labs, and providing long-term scholarships for girls. The organization is currently active in Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam - countries that lack sufficient resources to educate all of their children.
Before founding Room to Read, Wood rose to the upper ranks of Microsoft as Director of Business Development for the Greater China region. Realizing that many impoverished rural villages throughout Asia did not have books for their children, he organized an overwhelmingly successful book drive among family and friends. Based upon the results, he ultimately left the company in 1999 to "devote the next chapter of my adult life" to education via the formation of Room to Read.
Numerous experts throughout the world point to education as the means to help end the cycle of poverty. "Literacy and education will help provide a brighter future and a foundation for peace and prosperity for these children and their communities," Wood said.
Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and chairman and co-founder of Opsware Inc., made a generous donation to Room to Read's millionth book effort and has pledged significant support toward the second million.
"It's extremely gratifying to me to work with Room to Read. I applaud the worldwide team of employees and volunteers for establishing more than 2,000 libraries and donating a million books. I hope others will join in and help us reach the next goal of an additional million books for these children," Andreessen said.
In addition to these milestones, this year Room to Read will open its 200th school and will provide long-term scholarships for over 1,700 girls. In response to the December 2004 tsunami, Room to Read raised over US$2.0 million to rebuild schools and establish libraries in Sri Lanka. Eighteen schools have already been reopened in villages affected by the tragedy.
The organization's education programs have reached more than 750,000 children to date. Wood credits Room to Read's success to the active participation of the villages, which provide labor and other resources under a "Challenge Grant" model.
Room to Read has twice received the Social Capitalist Award from Fast Company magazine and the Monitor Group, which recognizes 25 world class entrepreneurial charities. The organization's success in reaching children with the lifelong gift of education was also recognized with Time Asia's 2004 "Asian Heroes" award.