Room to Read is an amazing nonprofit organization founded by John Wood, a former executive at Microsoft who had his life flipped upside down after traveling to Nepal. On this trip Wood realized that books are very scarce in many corners of the world, and while at a local school a man commented that maybe Wood might return some day with books. This simple comment stayed with him, and indeed he did return, not just once, but repeatedly, and with books, lots of them.
Today this simple idea of bringing books to people who need them has become a major organization dedicated to bringing not only libraries, but educational opportunities to people in need. Room to Read began in Nepal, but has expanded into Cambodia, India, Laos, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and South Africa. Room to Read has also started granting scholarships for girls to attend school, creating opportunities for young girls who might otherwise never have gotten a chance to attend school. The organization has also branched into publishing, printing books with local, relevant stories and in bilingual editions. They are also working on creating computer & language labs. The idea is to narrow the digital divide, and to help children become world players by being able to engage the world both in their native language as well as in English.
Room to Reads success has likely come from Wood’s endless dedication to this mission, as much as to the fact that he has surrounded himself with highly motivated people and has worked hard to keep the organization’s overhead costs as low as possible. In the coming years they hope to begin working in Latin America, and continue expanding in Asia.
John Wood has written a book recounting his story of how this organization came to be; “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.”