Click to Watch Video: John Wood's Room to Read

When I started adopting education projects in Asia, I did not stop to think through the long-term implications. I was driven by an immediate desire to do something to help children who did not have access to education….Everything that has come since then has grown out of that first day in the Annapurna range when Pasupathi invited me to visit a school and I said "yes" to the headmaster's request for books….

I gave myself a 40th birthday present—I decided to devote what will probably be the most productive decade of my adult life to the quest for universal education. I have abandoned all thoughts of returning to the field of technology. Having discovered my true life path, I am more ready than ever to embrace it. I feel lucky to know who I am, what I want to focus on, and the yardsticks by which I will measure myself.

I think of Vu, the first student I ever helped. Starting with a $20 scholarship in 1997, we have continued a symbiotic relationship that has allowed him to become fluent in three languages while studying in university and then to pursue a graduate degree in software engineering....

I try to imagine all the other students who are still in the early years of being helped by Room to Read. If Vu could make this much progress in eight years, what might become of the nearly 1 million other students now attending our schools and eagerly devouring books in our libraries?

Goethe once wrote about Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, "If all the musicians in the world played this piece simultaneously, the planet would go off its axis."

That's how I feel about education for the children of the developing world.


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