April 30, 2010
Room to Read, an award-winning international nonprofit organization focused on literacy and gender equality in education, today celebrated its 10 year anniversary with the opening of its 10,000th library in Nepal. This milestone was attended by founder and board chair John Wood, along with select Room to Read investors who have been participating in a commemorative trek that has taken them to the first Room to Read library that Wood first helped in 2000, and arriving at its 10,000th library today.
Over the last decade, Room to Read has scaled exponentially to impact over four million children in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia through its worldwide network of more than 1,000 schools and 10,000 libraries filled with over seven million children’s books. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, Room to Read has empowered children with increased access to high-quality educational opportunities – including 10,000 girls this year who are attending school on scholarship and receiving critical life skills education.
Founded in 2000, Room to Read is the unlikely success story of social entrepreneur John Wood, a former Microsoft executive who left the corporate world after a vacation in Nepal allowed him to witness first-hand the country’s dearth of educational resources. Motivated to help, Wood launched a book drive for one school and, together with co-founders Erin Ganju and Dinesh Shrestha, turned that one-time act of kindness into the basis of inspiration for a global education movement led by Room to Read. The organization’s founding story was documented in Wood’s highly-acclaimed book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.
“It’s a momentous occasion for us when you consider that just ten years ago we began our work with a simple desire to bring books to the children of Nepal,” said John Wood. “It gives me great pleasure to return to Nepal to open our 10,000th library and watch hundreds of children enter it and be surrounded by brand new local language children’s books that Room to Read has published. It gives me even more pleasure realizing that our strong global team is now opening, on average, six new Reading Rooms per day in the nine countries where we now operate. This means that over 3,000 children gain access to new libraries every day.”
“Marrying the best business practices John and I learned from the private sector with those from the nonprofit sector has allowed us to scale to the degree that we have with maximum efficiency and quality,” said Erin Ganju, Room to Read Co-Founder and CEO. “We are proud of our worldwide team, mostly comprised of local staff members who work tirelessly each day within their home countries to bring education and literacy to more children. The 10,000th library is a milestone for us, but just one example of the countless educational resources Room to Read has been able to provide to millions of children.”
In honor of the organization’s anniversary, Wood led a week-long “Trek to 10,000” – an expedition through the Himalayan highlands of Nepal. The tour included a visit to the birthplace of Room to Read, Shree Chandradoya HS school in Bahundanda – where Wood first delivered 3,000 donated books via a convoy of donkeys – and concluded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site of Room to Read’s 10,000th library at the Shree Janakalyan Secondary School near Pokhara, Nepal. The journey has been documented via Twitter feeds @roomtoread and @JohnWoodRtR.