I just finished reading a very moving and motivating book about an international marketing executive who takes a vacation for the first time in nine years and has a life-changing experience. He intentionally goes to the other side of the world to climb in the Himalayas so that he’s outdoors, physically challenged, and can’t be reached by cell phone. A visit to a poor rural school in Nepal shocks him when he sees they have less than a dozen books, left-behinds from mountain climbers, locked away as too valuable for the kids to handle. He promises to return with kids’ books the next year. As a boy, he spent countless hours in the library and can’t imagine these kids not having anything to read. Their future is bleak, just as it has been for their parents.
Email to friends and family in Australia and U.S. requesting used kids’ books sets in motion a tremendous outpouring of support for his vision to bring books to this and other poor schools. That’s just the beginning. He quits his lucrative, high-level job with Microsoft. Splits with his girlfriend (she prefers their life filled with business perks, not donating time and money to help poor kids in rural third-world countries learn to read). Moves on with his dream, creating a highly respected non-profit, “Room to Read,” that donates books and raises funds to open schools in the poorest areas of Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka (after the devastating tsunami) and Africa. John Wood travels the globe with his passion to improve the lives of poor children. Donors believe in his mission because a high percentage of donations goes directly to the schools and scholarships. Scholarships for girls is a key ingredient because he sees first hand that girls are not valued in poor countries, yet they will change the future through their mothering if they are educated.
I’m glad a friend lent me “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” by John Wood. It reinforces my belief that each of us can make a difference if we want to. It doesn’t have to be this big….what is your Room to Read?