August 30, 2005
Room to Read, an international nonprofit organization devoted to providing educational opportunities to poor children in the developing world, will open its 2,000th bilingual library on Friday, September 2. This major milestone will be celebrated at the Samdech Euv High School in the village of Thnal in northwestern Cambodia. Cambodia's Secretary of State for Education, Youth and Sport, Mr. Pok Than, and the Provincial Governor of Siem Reap province, Mr. Sim Son, will serve as the ceremony's chairmen.
"This library represents the hope that Room to Read brings to the children of the developing world," said John Wood, Founder and CEO of Room to Read. "Through education, we can provide a brighter future, an opportunity to end the cycle of poverty, and a foundation for peace and prosperity."
Room to Read helps communities to build schools, libraries, computer and language labs, and provides 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.
This year Room to Read will open its 2,000th library and its 200th school, and provide long-term scholarships for over 1,500 girls. In response to the December 2004 tsunami, Room to Read raised US$1.5 million to rebuild schools in Sri Lanka and has already reopened 12 schools in villages affected by the tragedy.
The organization's education programs have reached more than 600,000 children to date, according to Wood, who credits Room to Read's success to the active participation of the villages, which provide labor and other resources under a "Challenge Grant" model.
Before founding Room to Read, Wood rose to the upper ranks of Microsoft. His last position with the company was 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.
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.