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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Feb 28, 2013

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KGNU's Claudia Cragg talks here with former Microsoft executive, the brains behind the 'Room To Read' organization which, he says, all started with a case of job burnout. John Wood escaped to Nepal for a much-needed backpacking getaway and while hiking in the Himalayas, met a Nepalese “Education Resource Officer” who invited him to visit a school in a neighboring village. Little did John know that this short detour would change his life forever. At the school, John saw the harsh reality confronting not only this village, but millions of Nepalese children–a dilapidated schoolroom and a severe shortage of books. John was stunned to discover that the few books this school had had–a Danielle Steele romance, the Lonely Planet Guide to Mongolia, and a few other backpacker castoffs–were so precious that they were kept under lock and protect them from the children.

As John left the village, the headmaster made a simple request: "Perhaps, Sir, you will someday come back with books." His request would not go unheard. John emailed friends asking for help collecting children's books, and within two months had collected over 3,000 books. The following year, John and his father, accompanied by a train of eight book-bearing donkeys, returned to the village in Nepal. Seeing the faces of the children with the books convinced John to leave the corporate world and devote himself to becoming the Andrew Carnegie of the developing world. In late 1999, John quit his executive position with Microsoft and started Room to Read. Beginning in Nepal, John and his Nepali co-founder, Dinesh Shrestha, started by working with rural communities to build schools (School Room) and to establish libraries (Reading Room).