Nicholas Kristof often writes about subjects so depressing I can’t bring myself to read the whole column, but in Sunday’s NY Times he has an inspiring piece about John Wood, whose charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools:
It all began in 1998 when Wood, then a Microsoft marketing director, chanced upon a remote school in Nepal serving 450 children. Only one problem: It had no books to speak of.
Wood blithely offered to help and eventually delivered a mountain of books by a caravan of donkeys. The local children were deliriously happy, and Wood said he felt such exhilaration that he quit Microsoft, left his live-in girlfriend (who pretty much thought he had gone insane), and founded Room to Read in 2000.[...]
“I get frustrated that there are 793 million illiterate people, when the solution is so inexpensive,” Wood told me outside one of his libraries in the Mekong. “If we provide this, it’s no guarantee that every child will take advantage of it. But if we don’t provide it, we pretty much guarantee that we perpetuate poverty.”
“In 20 years,” Wood told me, “I’d like to have 100,000 libraries, reaching 50 million kids. Our 50-year goal is to reverse the notion that any child can be told ‘you were born in the wrong place at the wrong time and so you will not get educated.’ That idea belongs on the scrapheap of human history.”
Now, there’s a guy who can say “I spent my time on earth well.” (Thanks, Bonnie!)