Monday, January 7, 2013

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood

In the late-1990s, John Wood was an executive in Microsoft when he decided to take a well-deserved vacation in the Himalayas. While travelling in Nepal, he visited a remote school, where he discovered that the students had almost no books in their school library. An avid reader who was blessed with a solid education, he decided to do something to help these children. This experience led to a life altering decision, in which he decided to quit his lucrative position in Microsoft and start Room to Read, a charity dedicated to building schools and libraries in third-word countries.

Today, Room to Read operates in 10 countries in Asia and Africa. In addition to helping build libraries and construct classrooms, the organization promotes gender equality in education by giving scholarships to young girls, promotes reading in youth by publishing local-language children's books, and trains educators. One of the key principles of the group is to co-invest with local populations whenever engaging in a project. This leads to a strong relationship in which locals help to build schools, deliver books and teach the young students, so they can acquire a sense of ownership.

This autobiography is an inspiring tale. At several points in the book I had to wipe away tears as I read about the immense impact that this charity has had. To illustrate how successful Room to Read has been, below is a chart that I took from their web site that indicates what they have done to date:

Books Published723
Books Distributed12.1 million
Girls' Education Participants19,622
Children Benefited7.8 million

John Wood is a great role model who has inspired me to become more involved in charitable work. This wonderful story provides a practical example for how to make a difference in the world. An excellent, excellent book that is not only worth reading, but also acts as a catalyst for change.

5 out of 5 stars