There are good people in this world, who are committed to improving the lives of other people. John Wood is such a man, and reading the book affirms this statement. Imagine someone leaving a lucrative career at Microsoft to “change the world.” Now this was not an almost retirement age man but a 35 year old man with plenty of years ahead of him.
Creating Room to read is the amazing story of how Room to Read, the organisation whose contribution to global literacy can only be mentioned in the same breath as the Carnegie foundation which built thousands of Libraries across the world. As someone running a library its only normal that this book is a must on my reading list. I picked up the book and was hooked. John Wood traveled to Nepal and came across a school without books and months later returned with thousands of books to fill the school’s first library.
The book chronicles the growth of Room to Read, the challenges the organisation faced and how they overcame them. I found myself relating to some of the issues. The book does not only give the business model which John Wood used but also shares powerful stories of people whose lives were changed by the work of Room to read. I found myself journeying with Wood to the rural villages of Nepal, South Africa and Zambia. I of course wondered why he did not come to Zimbabwe.
I loved the model of working with the communities, which highlights a difference from the usual International Organisation model where they come with everything and shoves on the hapless African/Asian. John’s model maintains that the community has to also contribute as “…parents everywhere desire a better life for their children. It’s a near constant: They understand the importance of education and crave it for their children, even as they are well aware of the sacrifice they will have to make.” We can all learn a lot on how to build literacy organisations. However, there is still a need to think of a self-sustaining library model, in the absence of grants (donors or government) and where the community struggles to pay the usual subscriptions fees.