We're thrilled to partner with Room to Read, a nonprofit that works in the developing world to build lifelong learning through children’s literacy and gender equality in education. To support Room to Read’s mission, Restorsea will donate 5% of sales from every product to the organization’s Girls' Education program, empowering girls to complete secondary schooling and succeed beyond school. Our goal is to educate 100,000 girls by 2025. Room to Read founder John Wood recently provided us further insights into the organization's mission and his passion for education:
What inspired you to start Room to Read?
As a global marketing executive responsible for significant sectors of Microsoft’s international business in 1998, I was constantly traveling and lived abroad for long stretches of time; I loved my job but was burnt out. I took a three week vacation, the first in nine years, trekking through the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal. One morning, I met a man who was a resource director for several schools and he invited me along to visit a local Nepalese school. Once there I was shocked to see the students had no books, only a handful of old paperbacks left behind by travelers, and even these were kept under lock and key. After noticing my surprise the headmaster turned and uttered a sentence that would change my life forever, “Perhaps Sir, you will someday come back with books”. At that moment the seeds were planted for Room to Read. Initially I was inspired to organize a book drive, which resulted in me and my father hauling thousands of books up the mountains to the same school a year later, but it soon became something much more substantial. It became a personal mission to bring about sustainable change in these remote areas of the world.
How did your career at Microsoft influence the creation of Room to Read?
I took a lot of the principals I learned at Microsoft into the nonprofit sector— being results-driven, thinking big, keeping overhead low and scaling with quality. I decided early on that one way I could differentiate Room to Read was by frequently updating our results and I have taught our teams all over the world that we are accountable for outcomes. I also took the practice from Microsoft of being a data-driven organization. It’s not enough to know your numbers on a daily basis - you have to know how they compared to last year. Also, we have never referred to Room to Read as a “charity”, from day one it was referred to as an organization. We don’t give a hand-out, we give a hand-up and we only work with motivated communities.
How did you develop such a passion for gender equality in education?
I owe my love of reading to three strong female role models in my life—my grandmother, my mother and my older sister—and have seen the positive ripple effect of educated, empowered women on communities around the world. In a world in which tens of millions of girls woke up this morning and did not go to school, it is incumbent on all of us to be part of the solution to this social injustice.
You also teach graduate and business students. What do you most hope to impart to them?
I talk about how bold goals attract bold people, and how we need to make sure that is true in the philanthropy arena, as well as business. Also that the world today is more connected than ever, so while business globalizes, so should our philanthropic footprints. Finally, I try to remind them that we’re amongst the luckiest people on earth because we have all gained great educations. The moral challenge is quite simple – will we use our wealth and our business skills to help others to climb that same ladder?
Tell us about how Room to Read and Restorsea connected and the future impact the relationship will make.
I was introduced to Patti Pao by a very close mutual friend, and we hit it off instantly as we both began talking about the importance of education in our own lives, and the role it played in our success in the business world. Patti instantly began talking about how she wanted it to be built into Restorsea’s business model that each and every sale would help girls across the developing world to gain the lifelong gift of education. Talk about instant synergy – she had me at that point.
From that quick “hand-shake deal”, our teams began to iron out the details. I am thrilled and honored that Restorsea is committed to donating 5% of its sales every year to support Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program, which ensures girls will succeed in secondary school and beyond through financial assistance, tutoring, mentoring and life skills training. Restorsea’s vision, with the support of its loyal consumers, is to help Room to Read educate 100,000 girls by 2025.
How can people get involved with Room to Read?
We are always looking for passionate individuals to join our movement – this is definitely a team sport! More information on joining our volunteer chapter network can be found on our website www.roomtoread.org. We also have tools available to create personalized fundraising campaigns or host events to support our work. We’ve seen many supporters turn their passions—long distance running, baking, even wine tasting—into channels to change the world through Room to Read.
Also, we hope that companies like Restorsea who are looking to align their corporate values and culture with a cause that is making an impact on communities and the world, can join forces with us to establish programs to meet that need such as employee giving plans, cause marketing initiatives or staff led fundraising events—a great way to inspire philanthropic action in the workplace. Room to Read is proud to have attracted an army of talented individuals who are passionate and action oriented, but we need to grow that team further, since every day we lose in the battle for global literacy is a day we can’t get back.
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