Room to Read
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Room to Read was founded on the belief that education is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty and taking control of one's life. Partnering with communities throughout the developing world, Room to Read establishes schools, libraries, and other educational infrastructure. We seek to intervene early in the lives of children and provide a lifelong gift of education that empowers people to improve socioeconomic conditions for their families, communities, countries, and future generations regardless of financial status. Efforts are currently focused on Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam -- all countries with a desperate lack of resources to adequately educate their children.
John Wood, founder and CEO, launched Room to Read after a trek through Nepal. He visited several local schools and was amazed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the students and teachers, but also saddened by the shocking lack of resources. Driven to help, John quit his senior executive position with Microsoft and built a global team to work with rural villages to build sustainable solutions to their educational challenges.
Founding Room to Read, John wove proven corporate business practices with his inspiring vision to provide educational access to 10 million children in the developing world by 2020. His novel approach to non-profit management called for:
- Scalable, measured, sustainable results
- Low-overhead, allowing maximum investment in educational infrastructure
- Challenge grants fostering community ownership and sustainability
- Strong local staff and partnerships creating culturally relevant programs
Utilizing this business model, Room to Read has developed a holistic, multi-pronged formula to help children in the developing world gain the lifelong gift of education. The approach includes work in the following programmatic areas:
- Partnering with villages to build schools utilizing active community challenge grants;
- Establishing libraries and filling them with donated English books and local language books published by Room to Read;
- Providing computer and language labs to improve vocational skills and employment access;
- Publishing high-quality local language children's books for distribution throughout our network of schools and libraries, sourcing culturally relevant content from local writers and illustrators; and
- Providing long-term scholarships for young girls whose families cannot afford school fees and who would otherwise not have access to an education.
To increase the likelihood for success and long-term sustainability, Room to Read enlists community involvement and co-investment. Our Challenge Grants require villages to raise a significant portion of the overall expenditure for building a new school, allowing our cash donations to go further. We also establish libraries, computer labs and language labs in conjunction with schools whose co-investment provides shelves, desks, chairs and small amounts of cash. Our challenge grants act as catalysts for community building while also maximizing the local participation and expertise brought to our programs to ensure they are run efficiently and effectively.
Room to Read is a dynamic, results-oriented organization. As a four-time winner of Fast Company's Social Capitalist award and a recipient of the Skoll Foundation's Award for Social Entrepreneurship, Room to Read has been repeatedly recognized for its innovative and effective approaches to resolving critical social issues. Our long-term goal is to build 20,000 schools and libraries by 2020, educating 10 million children in the developing world. Since our inception in 2000, Room to Read has focused on delivering results. We have impacted the lives of over 1,135,000 children by accomplishing the following:
- Building 221 schools;
- Establishing over 3,374 libraries;
- Publishing 99 new local language children's books titles representing over 930,500 books;
- Donating over 1.2 million English language children's books;
- Establishing 108 computer and language labs; and
- Funding more than 2,344 long-term girls' scholarships.
Last year, Room to Read worked with over 1,000 villages in six countries to help their children gain access to new and enhanced educational facilities. Every week, on average, 20 communities in the developing world held ribbon cutting ceremonies to celebrate the fact that their children were gaining an education. This year, Room to Read launches its programs in Africa and welcomes the opportunity provide educational opportunity to children on another continent. As a young organization, Room to Read has had a bold start and intends to pursue an even bolder future. A better life for millions of children is within reach. It is up to all of us to dream big and inspire change. Millions of children are waiting. Let's not keep them waiting much longer.