"The headmaster said something to me that would really change my life forever. He said, 'We are too poor to afford education, but until we have education we'll always be poor.' And I think that really sums up the situation for the poorest people in the world. What a terrible conundrum to be in: too poor to afford education, but knowing that if your kids don't get educated, they're going to inherit the same poverty that their parents and grandparents have known. So that statement was really sad, but then he said something that was very hopeful. This headmaster said to me, 'Perhaps, Sir, you will someday come back with books.'"
-- John Wood, founder, Room to Read
author, "Leaving Microsoft to Save the World"
On vacation in the mountains of Nepal at age thirty-five, successful Microsoft executive John Wood happened to encounter a local schoolmaster. The impoverished conditions Wood witnessed motivated him to leave his profitable career for a life of nonprofit service. He shortly founded Room to Read. Its goal is to establish public libraries and schools in developing nations in Asia and Africa. His book, "Leaving Microsoft to Save the World" tells the inspiring story of how Wood built the group from a germ of a good idea to a viable resource that has touched -- and uplifted -- the lives of millions of children. Share this story with friends and loved ones. Said former President Bill Clinton of John Wood: "Just think of what would happen if a couple of hundred people followed his example."
Press Release from Room to Read:
SAN FRANCISCO, 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.
Total time: 29 Minutes