I will always think of 2007 as the year that changed my life. I was 25 years old, a two-time college drop-out, and in a mentally and emotionally controlling relationship. I partied a lot, barely saw my friends or my family and had completely lost focus of who I was and what I wanted to achieve in life. I went to work and I went home. I was lost in a spiral of depression I didn’t know how to climb out of, that is assuming, of course, that I could even figure out where to begin. I had completely lost sight of who I was and what I wanted from my life. The only time I ever felt any escape from the dark hole I had dug for myself was when I picked up a book and began to read. No matter what was going on in my life I always had an escape and to this day I swear that reading is what saved my sanity.
Through my books I walked the battlefield at Gettysburg, fought in the Battle at Bull Run, and explored the Pyramids in Egypt. I also learned about various cultures, sub-cultures, philosophies, religions and theories. I had this aching knowledge that there was so much more to life than what I was doing and how I was living but I couldn’t figure out how to be a part of it. I didn’t know what to do and my depression didn’t help motivate me to figure it out. Then, one day in the Fall of 2007 I was in a used book resale shop and I picked up a book by John Wood called ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.” It changed my life.
In 1998, John Wood was an executive at Microsoft with a big future ahead in the company and walked away from it all after a vacation to Nepal. In interviews he says that his vacation became a “spiritual journey” after he met a Nepalese “Education Resource Officer” on a hiking trip and was invited to visit a school in nearby village. This school, in a shack that would be considered a condemned building by US standards, had only 5 books in their library. One book was a Danielle Steele romance, one was a travel guide to Mongolia, and a few other miscellaneous cast-offs. In an effort to protect the few literary resources they had the books were kept under secure lock and key. When John went to leave the Nepalese Education Resource Officer said to him, “Perhaps, Sir, you will someday come back with books?” John returned home on a mission. He immediately contacted friends and associates and within two months had raised over 3,000 books to support his mission to change the world “one book and one child” at a time. He returned to Nepal with eight donkeys loaded with books and helped create their first true library. In 1999 John Wood resigned from Microsoft and founded Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org).
Since 1999 Room to Read has benefited over 6 million children by building 13,599 libraries and 1,566 schools. They have also published 707 books in the native languages for Nepal, Cambodia, Tanzania, Zambia (see a full list of where they work) and distributed over 11 million books to promote literacy worldwide. In addition to building libraries and schools, distributing books, publishing books and educating the world Room to Read also funds the education for impoverished girls. Girl’s education is the program I have chosen to support in 2012. In the developing world 42% of girls do not have access to education.
Of the 793 million illiterate people in the world over 67% are female. This has to change and $250 will fund the education expenses for one girl for one year. In 2012 I have set a goal to raise $1,250 to fund the education for five girls. You can read more about my fundraiser on my website, Closed the Cover.
After reading John Wood’s book in 2007 I found a renewed sense of myself and I reconnected with my own goals and desires and beliefs about faith and life. Since then I have re-enrolled in college and graduated with my first degree, ended that relationship, quit partying and drinking and reconnected with my own sense of purpose. I know the joys of reading because I live in a place where I am lucky enough to have access to books and education however there are others who are not so lucky. I can’t quit my job and travel to Nepal with eight donkeys loaded with bags of books but I can make a donation to help support the people that run the programs that can. Everyone should have access to education. As one Nepalese Headmaster said, “We are too poor to afford education; but without education, we will always be poor.” They need help and I try to help them as much as I can.
Anyone interested in making a donation can visit: ROOM TO READ
**Thank you Andrew for allowing me to share my program with your readers.