Asia's Most Influential: John Wood, Founder Of Room To Read
There are 775 million people in the world who are illiterate, or roughly 100 times the population of Hong Kong. Two-thirds of them are women. “If you want to talk about women’s empowerment, you have to start with education,” says John Wood, founder of Room to Read, a Hong Kong organisation that works to improve literacy and gender equality in education in developing countries.
This year marks Room to Read’s 20th anniversary, and while there is plenty to celebrate, there is still more work to be done. “We had a goal to reach 10 million students in our first 20 years. We’ve been able to double that,” says Wood. “We hope to make that 40 million students by 2025.”
Room to Read currently operates in 15 countries throughout Africa and Asia, where it has helped build libraries, donate books, train teachers and implement educational programmes. Literacy is about “the ability to read roadmaps, street signs, medication bottles, instructions on how to vote”, says Wood.
Room to Read’s mission is simple: “Philanthropy has become overly complicated. If you want to change the world, do it in a sustainable and long-lasting way,” says Wood. “Providing access to education means improving quality of life for generations to come and freeing them from the need to rely on charity to make it in life.”
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