09 December 2011

What Pakcik Received ( Pt 2 ) - Room to Read

In September this year ( click HERE) Pakcik decided to introduce this ‘What Pakcik Received’ series primarily meant to extend to my readers certain articles of interest sent to me by friends. Recently, one in Thailand emailed an article by Nicholas D Kristof, a well-known columnist of New York Times.

Subject: Room to Read

ONE of the legendary triumphs of philanthropy was Andrew Carnegie's
construction of more than 2,500 libraries around the world. It's renowned as
a stimulus to learning that can never be matched - except that, numerically,
it has already been surpassed several times over by an American man you've
probably never heard of.

I came here to
Vietnam to see John Wood hand out his 10 millionth book at a
library that his team founded in this village in the Mekong Delta - as
hundreds of local children cheered and embraced the books he brought as if
they were the rarest of treasures. Wood's charity, Room to Read, has opened
12,000 of these libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools.

Yes, you read that right. He has opened nearly five times as many libraries
as Carnegie, even if his are mostly single-room affairs that look nothing
like the grand Carnegie libraries. Room to Read is one of
fastest-growing charities and is now opening new libraries at an astonishing
clip of six a day. In contrast, McDonald's opens one new outlet every 1.08

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.

He faced one challenge after another, not only in opening libraries but also
in filling them with books that kids would want to read.

"There are no books for kids in some languages, so we had to become a
self-publisher," Wood explains. "We're trying to find the Dr. Seuss of
Cambodia." Room to Read has, so far, published 591 titles in languages
including Khmer, Nepalese, Zulu, Lao, Xhosa, Chhattisgarhi, Tharu, Tsonga,
Garhwali and Bundeli.

It also supports 13,500 impoverished girls who might otherwise drop out of
school. In a remote nook of the Mekong Delta, reachable only by boat, I met
one of these girls, a 10th grader named Le Thi My Duyen. Her family,
displaced by flooding, lives in a shabby tent on a dike.

When Duyen was in seventh grade, she dropped out of school to help her
family out. "I thought education was not so necessary for girls," Duyen

Room to Read's outreach workers trekked to her home and cajoled the family
to send her back to class. They paid her school fees, bought her school
uniforms and offered to put her up in a dormitory so that she wouldn't have
to commute two hours each way to school by boat and bicycle.

Now Duyen is back, a star in her class - and aiming for the moon.

"I would like to go to university," she confessed, shyly.

The cost per girl for this program is $250 annually. To provide perspective,
Kim Kardashian's wedding is said to have cost $10 million; that sum could
have supported an additional 40,000 girls in Room to Read.

So many American efforts to influence foreign countries have misfired - not
least here in
Vietnam a generation ago. We launch missiles, dispatch troops,
rent foreign puppets and spend billions without accomplishing much. In
contrast, schooling is cheap and revolutionary. The more money we spend on
schools today, the less we'll have to spend on missiles tomorrow.

Wood, 47, is tireless, enthusiastic and emotional: a motivational speaker
with no off button. He teared up as girls described how Room to Read had
transformed their lives.

"If you can change a girl's life forever, and the cost is so low, then why
are there so many girls still out of school?" he mused.

The humanitarian world is mostly awful at messaging, and Room to Read's
success is partly a result of his professional background in marketing. Wood
wrote a terrific book, "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World," to spread
the word, and Room to Read now has fund-raising chapters in 53 cities around
the world.

He also runs Room to Read with an aggressive businesslike efficiency that he
learned at Microsoft, attacking illiteracy as if it were Netscape. He tells
supporters that they aren't donating to charity but making an investment:
Where can you get more bang for the buck than starting a library for $5,000?

"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
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


There are among us bloggers who spend a lot of their time and effort, not necessarily their own money, to help the needy, the aged, the sick, the poor children etc. Let us salute them and try to do our bits.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


kotastar said...

May I be the first to set fire to yr latest write up. I have to fire away at this wee hr seeing that sleep does not come my way. maybe busy chasing info to read while doing some home works too. Then again we will be driving south again in an hour or two from now. That's the intro.

Now back to what you received. Yes a library is great. Our homes should have one too. We have MANY books all over the place, magazines too. What do you do with them? Piles of newspaper too. How many in the family take a look? How many even refers to the dictionary? as an example. What I mean is books identify our craze for reading and reference. But for how long? So why can't we gather them and put them in a place where others who need them will benefit? I salute the donor for his action. I am sure Al Manar too requires books.I knew of a family who burnt or gave off books that belonged to the old man after his passing. I managed to salvage some. It was a crying shame for their action. Thank you for highlighting the good deeds. May we too get set to emulate the example. Maaf kalau confusing you . Apa boleh buatpada pagi-pagi seperti ini? Salam

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
I'm moved! Touching and penetrating insight to what one man can do. His resolve focused on one discovered need would just go on and on even without him later. He has a book written to make it self sustaining. Thanks for sharing which in itself is a noble thing to do.


Al-Manar said...


You beat the gong, my friend.

I find the wee hour the best time to think and write. Sometimes my posting is delayed for me to edit at such hours when I find myself at my best - by my humble standard. Your comments are as clear as they can be.

We all have problems with books. I am a 'keeper', not a 'thrower' ( I recall one blogger writing on this topic; if he happens to visit us he must know that I read and I digest what I like.)

My small library is now packed with books. But I am pleased to see four of my grandchildren (form 2 and 4)picking out books from there to browse through. It is such a gratifying sight.

Yesterday I decided to peep through one of two huge 'storage boxes' containing what my father-in-law left. Among other many things he kept draft essays of his students at Kirkby way back around 1953! I never met him but I know enough of him from what he left for which reason he has been in my prayers. Does this not tell us the value of keeping something that we value today?

Thank you for your inspiring wee-hour thoughts.

Al-Manar said...


I am glad to have shared that piece of article. It can indeed touch us. I have got the e-mail add. You can expect a note some time. Thank you.

sintaicharles said...

What a man, working so hard for poor children. Shame to the Kardashan for being so wasteful.

I have a fairly large collection of books. Maybe I can donate them to poor children before I die.

Fadhil said...

Salam Pakcik,

I am being mentioned in passing, it seems :-)

Just to digress a bit, does Sdra Kotastar have a daughter who once studied in MRSM Seremban? I seem to recall reading a blogpost about a house restored in the old kampung style somewhere in Kedah.

I have been thinking of giving away some of my books by sharing it via the Bookcrossing website. I'm not in the league of John Wood, but as Pakcik mentioned in his last paragraph, every little bit helps.

Al-Manar said...


Is there any way to turn a room in your house into a kind of library? Select a few of your favourite pupils of poor background to use the room, with you giving occasional guidance. Something good will come out of it, I am sure. And do not talk of dying yet, my friend. God has a lot in store for you - only if you know how get it

ninotaziz said...

Didn't our good man Dr Bubbles translate this book Leaving Microsoft ... to Bahasa recently? Dr Bubbles is doing a marvelous job himself.

I admit I was thinking of opening my house to the neighbourhood children to read books. Every room has book shelves full of books especially for children. I do give away books and magazines to the many nurseries around the block.

Maybe your article will spur me on. I am always worried what the other parents would say. Without Bik around, I guess I can open it during the weekends.

Pustaka Alm Nusantara - the neighbourhood library?

Al-Manar said...


Of course I was referring to your posting, letting you know that I remembered what I read, and drawing to drop over!

I have to request Kotastar to answer your question about the girl at MRSM Seremban.

Is there a Bookcrossing website? I would to know.

I am glad if I can be a kind of catalyst that each one of us should do something for the community. Accumulation of books appears to be a common problem with many. Sintaicharles said so above, and below we have Ninotaziz. I truly believe in providing room for books somewhere for our neighbouring children.

Al-Manar said...


I feel that I am among bloggers who are ready to contribute something to the community.

You mentioned Dr Bubbles. Yes there are others who involve themselves in caring for those with terminal deceases, doctors volunteering extra hours of duty on compassionate grounds, teachers offering tuition on their blogs, and so on. We must not forget the professional work organised by the Cats. We need to raise awareness that each of us in actual fact has something that we can do in a small individual way.

As I said in response to comments by Sintaicharles and Oldstock above, room for reading is a worthwhile personal project that we can do. In fact if we can get one or two neighbours interested we will land up with a mini community library with individuals volunteering to stand by.

Good luck to you, dear Ninot.

kotastar said...

Sdr Al Manar,

Pl do something with the essays you found in Aruah's collection book. They are collection pieces and who knows there must even be a special person among those essay writers.
Re'oldstock' query he is right. I will connect with him.
Thanks both of you. Salam sejahtera.

p.s Tuesday 13 Dec 2011 Raja berangkat ke Kuala Lumpur untuk pertabalan Agong ke XIV.Sejarah pula tu bagi Sultan Kedah kerana 2 kali jadi Agong. Definite story to blog about.

Ismail aka Pak Mail said...


Adalah suatu usaha yang murni apabila dapat dan berjaya mengadakan suatu bentuk 'tempat bacaan' untuk manfaat orang ramai.

Namun saya dapati TIDAK BANYAK (bukan bererti tidak ada) usaha yang dilakukan oleh organisasi kecil seperti surau, masjid atau dewan orang ramai membuka 'perpustakaan'. Alangkah baiknya jika organisasi kecil seperti ini dapat mengadakannya, justeru dapat membantu untuk menjadikan rakyat Malaysia berbudaya membaca.

Al-Manar said...


You are a loyal 'rakyat Kedah'. Regretfully I have no inkling of dates of 'pertabalan' etc. I suppose you will join the celebration, or be invited to attend. Look forward to reading your posting.

Al-Manar said...


Kita memang dah ada wakil raayat, ketua kampong dann sebaginya. Kalau nak dikatakan, duit pun bertimbun. Sayangnya hala arah masyarakat bkita tidak menghjala kepada pendidikan gemnerasi kanak kanak. Kalau ada pun pusat computer.

Sebenarnya, ditempat saya Pistaka Bergerak pun ada. Tapi tak ada yang memerangsangkan anakm anak mengambil faedah. Kalau nama computer semua mata celik. Pada hal terlampau banyak salah guna computer di ndaerah saya. Amat membinbangtkan.

Iskandar aka DR Bubbles said...

Suka saya membaca entri Pakcik hari ini.

Benar kata Puan Ninot, saya sudah menterjemah buku Leaving Microsoft to Change The World ke dalam Bahasa Melayu.

Pakcik boleh melihat buku itu di sini: http://pts.com.my/index.php/buku/leaving-microsoft-to-change-the-world/

Atau Fanpage di Facebooknya:


Ahad depan, saya akan tubuhkan sebuah lagi perpustakaan dan ia mungkin yang terakhir, di Teratak Rahmat, Mata Ayer Perlis. Selepas ini saya akan tumpukan usaha pendanaan Persatuan Red Bubbles, bagi menghibur pesakit kanak-kanak di hospital melalui seni clowning. :-)

Cheqna said...

Assalamualaikum Pak Cik,

Reading your post, the comments and glancing through "blowing bubbles" site, I'm moved and at the same time make me feel small - what's my contribution to the society?

I join you in saluting them, one day may be I can emulate the work like you and others are doing, InsyaAllah.

btw, I read about Bookcrossing and its quite interesting :


Cat-from-Sydney said...

Aaahhh...books....one of the reasons I miss Sydney so much. Books are expensive in this country, the price of a good fiction or non-fiction can feed a family for several days....We brought back 14 boxes of books in the ship from Sydney. Unfortunately, that one box we mailed to you went AWOL. Seven million curses from seven million cats for the thief. Take heart, Pakcik, I heard Mama making arrangements with expats returning to Malaysia end of this year for more books. Our library is already packed to the roof. Need a bigger house. purrr...meow!

Al-Manar said...


Thank you for the information about PTS which I had not known until then.

What you have been doing is exceptional and I congratulate you. Your next venture is something I have not heard of in practice. I can only hope you will get enthusiastic volunteers. I know, from my experience, how hard it is to get personal involvement in voluntary work.

Let us do what we believe is good and hope it sets a good example.

Al-Manar said...


I am grateful to my visitors, including yourself for giving me information on what I had not known - the PTS, Bookcrossing etc.

There is no need to 'feel small', Cheqna. We all started with many things to learn in life. What is important is the society we belong to; not sidelining those who can set good examples which we all need. Losong can do with knowledgeable and experienced people. One day you will return, to contribute - my hope and prayers.

Al-Manar said...


14 boxes of books!

And 2 X 7 million curses from me for the culprit. Well, let's not cry over that. Rezeki kita banyak.

I agree about the price of books here. I enjoyed visiting bookshops in London. There were invariably masses of books of varied subjects at give-away prices.

Hope your Qurban season went well. I would love to hear about it. Please post something on this. I keep visiting your sites, hoping to see news on that activity.

Wan Sharif said...

I learnt (and teared also) a lot from reading this posting and the related comments.. sorry for not stopping buy recently..

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wang,

Somethng told me that you had been very occupied with a serious matter - that project, perhaps. I hope things are getting better on your side.

This morning I went to JPJ to make a new car registration card that I have misplaced. As a result I was running a car two months without valid road tax! Now an officer was highly accommodating and had a new card issued. He is from P Duyong. At the end of it he found out that I teach English. Orang diwasa boleh? He asked. Of course I would help if he could find a small group. He seemed elated and will get a car-load of friends to come o Almanar. So if it goes through I will have a small adult class. How about that Ayah Wang?

Wan Sharif said...

Can I have a short private tutorial from you.. I really need the methodology to make people understand me better when I spoke to them.. Honestly I believed that was the reason why I was not 'chosen' to be a teacher even though I wanted and equipped myself to be one.. I tend to confuse my audience better than I manage to impart whatever little I have;(((
Ps I would not mind attending your kelas dewasa.. Only if I am not allowed to open my big mouth.. Sometime I talk too muuuuuuuch ;))

Rahmah said...

assallam pakcik,

how are you? it's been some time since i visited your blog. hope you're in good health :)

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wang,

You would be a super adult class teacher yourself. You were not selected to be a teacher because they were to know that Education Dept would never be able to satisfy your career development. You are meant for greater and more challenging things, drilling oil and gas wells and such like.

Al-Manar said...

Cukgu Rahmah,

Thank you for your concern. We are in the midst of a very wet 'winter'. It is frightening to see the rough sea from the back of our house.

I notice you have closed shop early this year. I thought this long holidays would give you the time to write about some of the light-hearted incidences in class.