Tammie Nelson is our Controller and leads the Accounting team at Better World Books and is currently on our 2012 Literacy Trip. She sent in this update after a visit with our nonprofit literacy partner Room to Read. Over the next week or two we’ll be posting more updates from the trip.
Working at BWB, I thought that I understood the importance of promoting literacy. This year, I am honored to be visiting our literacy partners in Vietnam and Cambodia. One day into the trip and I know it is a serious reality check for me. I was so fortunate to be raised by parents that placed a high value on education. There was never any doubt in my mind about going to college. My dad knew where I was going (Penn State) and what I would be studying (Accounting) when I was a young child. I’m glad he was right.
July 4th was our first meeting with our literacy partner, Room to Read. At the RtR offices in Ho Chi Minh City, we met with the Communications Officer and the Vietnam Program Directors. These ladies have such passion for their work. When we asked why they do what they do, one said that after 35 years of working, she finally feels like she is making a difference. Funny, I feel the same way about my work at BWB. Although I am the Controller and am doing the same type of work I have done for many years, it seems different now. Another’s eyes welled up with tears and she was choked up as she talked about her girls.
The Girls Education Program works with girls at schools in poor districts. This program has evolved from hand selecting a limited number of students to working directly with classes of students in the schools instead. So many children leave school after the primary years because they need to work and help support the family. School means tuition, uniforms, transportation, and time. These require money and time that the family cannot spare. RtR helps with these issues. Students in this program require the help of the whole community. When a student enters the program, it is a commitment from their family and community for change. The students, the schools and the parents must recommit every year that they will allow time to study. I was surprised to learn that the student and the parents have a contract with RtR showing that they are committed to change.
It’s only day one and I already know that I will never forget what I am seeing and learning in Southeast Asia.