Posted by Eddie on 07.18.2012 at 3:19 pm
The trip is over. As I sit down on the 14 hour flight back to Atlanta for seemingly the first time in weeks, I’m overcome with emotions. I feel fortunate, proud, a bit sad, and inspired. You see, I work at a desk; at any given point in the day, I am staring at a spreadsheet on a computer screen, on a conference call or both. My goals and objectives are based on revenue and profitability. Most would say my job is fairly normal. Except it isn’t at all. Read more…
2 Comments » | Tagged Literacy Trips, cambodia, literacy trip, pepy, room to read, vietnam
Posted by Better World Books on 07.09.2012 at 2:29 pm
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.
2 Comments » | Tagged Impact, bwbimpact, literacy, literacy trip, nonprofit partners, room to read, vietnam
Posted by admin on 07.22.2010 at 4:42 pm
After our last stop, we sat in at a panel discussion at the University of the Western Cape. The topic was “Universities, Schools and Business Collaborations To Improve Literacy In Africa”. The panel included Patrick Plonski from Books From Africa, Gary Zelko from Merck, Prof Genevieve Hart from the university, and our own Paco Miller!
Before the discussion started, there was a short presentation by Professor Hart regarding libraries in South Africa, their importance, companies that help build libraries, library use, access and the book famine in South Africa.
Posted by admin on 07.16.2010 at 12:57 pm
The trip is going well. Uganda was as emotionally stirring as South Africa is beautiful. I was not aware of how beautiful a country South Africa is nor was I as prepared to be as touched by the people of Uganda as I was. Keep in mind that Uganda is basically a country that has been upset by war. A violent conflict that has taken its toll on the people of the country. Imagine having to leave your home just to be safe and then not be able to return once the war is over because you no longer have title to the land as it was handed down from your father’s father? This has happened to many. If you were widowed while in the camps that were built to house you to keep you safe, you cannot return home because it is your husband’s family that owns the home you once knew. So what happens then and where do you go? There are way too many here trying to figure that out.
The people of Uganda have been through so much I find it so unbelievable that they are as open and friendly as they are. They have to be one of the warmest people I have met in my life. They welcome strangers into their homes, feed them, and pray for them upon departure. They were honest and open when talking to us. The people we were meeting through the Legacy Scholarship Program offered by Invisible Children were the proud parents and it was clear that they just want the best for their children.
The folks of South Africa have been as warm. The students or Learners as they are called here have sung and danced for us at each location. The teachers and other students have given speeches to thank us for our work. I must say I have met some very poised 7th graders that are able to speak to a crowd of people in a stirring way! Most of the libraries have been set up and are in good shape but could always use more space and books. They serve an incredible amount of food to share with us and it is an outright celebration that we have come to visit. Next time I visit home the family is really going to have to do some things differently because a person could get use to this type of treatment!
Posted by admin on 07.13.2010 at 8:00 pm
Hello Again! Our itinerary has kept us quite busy, and will continue to for the next week until we fly back to the States. We are now in South Africa and looking forward to visiting our Room to Read and Books for Africa partners.
Our last few days in Uganda were very memorable. We all had the opportunity to travel for one day with Invisible Children mentors as they made visits to families and students. Invisible Children sponsors a scholarship program for nearly 700 students in the Gulu, Uganda area. These students not only have their education paid for, but are partnered with a mentor who helps the student to focus on their studies. Many of the students attend boarding schools as well and the mentors communicate between the students and families so news from home makes it to school and back again.
The main mode of transportation for the mentors is cheap, fast and easy to maneuver in the busy Gulu streets: motorbikes! A number of us even cruised a little way out of town and into the bush, where the countryside is green, lush and covered in a mixture of tall grass, tasseling maize, and palm trees. I stopped at five different homes over the course of the day (which included a break at lunch for the local high school volleyball tournament) with Jefferey, who mentors 32 students in all. The conversations were in the local language, and usually centered around the health of the family members and other happenings at home. It was a fascinating and humbling experience to be invited into homes, offered maize (like sweet corn, without the sweet, butter or salt!) and soda and hear the conversations translated from my mentor. What an incredible look into the real day-to-day experiences of a wonderfully hospitable and open culture.
So much of our trip has been enlightening and terrific. However, I feel it is only right to share some of our more anecdotal experiences as well. In preparation for a cruise on the Nile which was planned for our time at Murchison Falls National Park (see Jason’s upcoming post), one of our members visited the Pharmacy asking for a motion sickness remedy. Upon leaving, walking to our restaurant and opening the box and reading the details, we found it was actually a remedy for morning sickness. This person was able to return the purchase for a full refund.
Ugandan vehicles have to be built to survive hard and bumpy roads in the dry season and large mud puddles and slicks in the wet season. Our vehicle was from the Invisible Children office, and held up wonderfully for our long hours on the road. One afternoon, as we were about halfway through a five our trek, we stopped to stretch. As soon as everyone was out of the car, we heard a hissing and looked; our rear tire was losing air, and quickly went completely flat. Luckily we had a spare with us, but the jack we had wasn’t tall enough to get the vehicle far enough off the ground! The next hour (maybe more) was spent trying to place the tire in the perfect pothole, while keeping the axel on high ground so we would be able to get the tire off. The truly ironic part was that this was one of the smoothest gravel roads we had been on in days…
More stories to come!
P.S. Wanna see how the whole thing started? Check out the earlier Africa trip posts:
Posted by Abbey on 07.10.2010 at 8:43 am
The Lilith tour recently stopped in San Francisco for a great concert. What do you know! One of our non-profit literacy partners, Room to Read, is based in San Fran. I had a chance to sit down on camera for a chat with Sonia Torres from Room to Read right in the i4c Campaign tent. (Please pardon the background noise, our tent was *packed*)
Posted by admin on 06.16.2009 at 1:24 pm
Great news! As you probably already know, promoting literacy has always been woven into the fabric of our business. Now we’re delighted to announce we’ve given an ownership stake to our non-profit literacy partners. Yup…we’ve granted Incentive Stock Options to these partners – as far as we know, a first for social enterprise.
The purpose of the plan, put together with the help of our primary investor, Good Capital, is to ensure that our literacy partners can have a stake in and share in our financial success.
We’ve put aside roughly 5% of the company for use in stock option grants to an initial group of five literacy partners (with potential to add others in the future): Books for Africa, Invisible Children, Room To Read, WorldFund and the National Center for Family Literacy.
One of our fearless leaders Xavier Helgesen puts it best: “We created Better World Books to show that it is possible to do good while at the same time run a successful company. Our literacy partners are essential to our mission, and we want them to flourish. Today’s announcement ensures that as our company grows, our partners will too.”
Posted by Dana on 05.07.2009 at 12:31 pm
With your help, Books for Africa, Invisible Children, Worldfund, Room to Read and the National Center for Family Literacy are doing amazing things to increase literacy around the world!
Thanks! And please keep spreading the word!
Posted by admin on 03.27.2008 at 10:45 am
Niko [Tomlinson, Midwest Senior Director] and I got to meet up with Dustin [Holland, Head of Acquisitions] and LPTZ (the Library Division) yesterday to see John Wood speak here in Minneapolis. It was really awesome. John Wood is a FUNNY guy, and handsome as heck, and he started Room to Read – very cool cat. Very sincere cat. He really believes in the mission of RTR. He was discussing the ultimate dreams of the organization and said that anywhere there is illiteracy is where Room to Read eventually wants to be. They are planning to expand farther into Africa this year and eventually, who knows, perhaps the whole globe will have RTR schools and libraries available.
Anyhoo, he gave a bunch of new RTR numbers that I thought I’d pass on. I think a lot of this is available through their website, but why fish in a lake when you can aim in a barrel?* Exactly.
-110,000,000 kids aged 4-10 are not enrolled in school. (interesting point, if you lined all of these kids up and spaced them 1ft apart, they would stretch from Mpls, eastward across the Atlantic, across Europe, across Asia, across the Pacific, and all the way to California.
-800,000,000 people worldwide cannot read or write (that is ~1/7 of the population of the earth!)
-2/3 of both of the above categories are women (ouch, this sexist planet – John Wood, btw, is not sexist, he had a 2 minute rage on about the educational oppression of women and that so many women and men who live in a far more egalitarian society take it all for granted … I <3 him)
-In Cambodia, the ratio of boys to girls enrolled in secondary school is 3:1
When the 2005 tsunami hit Sri Lanka, Room To Read had no team set up in the country. The tsunami destroyed 250 schools in Sri Lanka alone. John Wood and the RTR board had an emergency meeting, hired a team ASAP and within one year had rebuilt 39 new schools. Awesome. Within two years, the number had shot to 89 since the tsunami.
So, RTR has a 12% overhead. They keep their overhead so low by setting up fundraising posts all over the globe. Volunteers in cities throughout the US, Europe and parts of Asia are constantly fundraising through word-of-mouth initiatives. I believe he said that this accounts for 1/3 of the funding that Room To Read receives. Neat!
-5,000 libraries built (in 2007, they opened 1,600 libraries!)
-444 schools built (and they’re planning to construct 250 more in 2008!)
-250 original children’s book titles published (To write these books, they find authors, illustrators, and editors in the country. The first books were for Nepal, and when RTR began searching for authors they were told by numerous sources that they most likely wouldn’t find any, as children’s lit had never been present in the culture. Soon after this, though, they found a group, the Nepal Children’s Literacy Initiative … or something like that, and within one month of touching base with this group they received more than 30 children’s books manuscripts! Ha! Now, many of the titles have been written and illustrated by children who attend the RTR schools (cute!))
-As of 2007, 4000 girls were receiving full scholarships to school. In 2008, they want to see this number grow to 7000. (The scholarships, FYI, provide a full ride so long as the girl continues to pass her classes. Each year that she passes, the scholarship is renewed.
And finally, the Dream Big Goals:
20,000 libraries opened.
10,000,000 children helped by RTR programs.
And that’s all of it! I could probably write another 6 pages just on how awesome a speaker and man I think John Wood is. Perhaps a new personal hero.
Have a great day guys!!
*Side note from Aaron King, Director
Abby, funny that you reference shooting fish in a barrel: I watched Mythbusters last night, and they were investigating the origin of the phrase and actually ease of shooting fish in a barrel. Their initial attempts showed that it is actually very difficult to hit a fish swimming in a barrel (they used a fake fish)… but they did some additional research and discovered that you don’t have to hit a fish, but simply firing a gun into a barrel of water creates such a disruption of the water pressure that any fish in the barrel would be killed instantly… that’s what makes shooting fish in a barrel so easy! And don’t worry, they did not use any live fish, they came to all these conclusions through science and data.
Great stuff about Room to Read!
Posted by King on 03.14.2008 at 12:23 pm
[This is Part Six of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part Five and this is the final installment!]
Friday January 4, 2008
I think it can go without saying that we began our day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop today was to visit a couple of floating schools; schools actually on large boats in the river. Apparently as the seasons change, and the fishing areas change, and the level of the river changes, this school can be in several areas up and down the river. We were told that one challenge is that sometimes during the rainy season, some families will leave the village, and the students are unable to attend school.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by all the children and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. On the floating school we saw first hand a library that RTR had created. We were able to ask the students and teachers what it was like before this library, and it was as we expected: without fun books to read, the students had no real passion for reading. But in the middle of this library filled with children’s books, there was genuine joy and excitement amongst the children, their passion for learning was being fueled by this library.
We got a chance to speak to some of the school children, and again we were all infused with a great respect and love for the people there.
We got to go on another beautiful boat ride along the river before returning to town for lunch, this time not at a buffet. Our food was really good.
In the afternoon, we concluded our school visits with a trip to a large school in the heart of the city, 6000 students we were told. RTR was able to give this school a computer lab, a language room and a library, which all seemed to be huge helps to the school.
In the library, we saw the same exuberance in the children as we had seen in the library on the boat. The kids are so much more inclined to love reading and learning when they have books to enjoy! A couple of the girls here actually knew some English, and we were able to have some candid conversations for the first time without our translator. Speaking to these young girls in English, knowing how difficult their lives are was a uniquely exhilarating experience.
We concluded the afternoon with some Q and A with some teachers and administrators at this school, and then we were off to a dinner.
This time they had selected a fancy restaurant in downtown for us, and we again narrowly avoided international incident as we ordered our vegetarian specialties, deviating from their standard meal. I believe the waitress said to me “sure, I can make that without fish, but I don’t think it will be any good”
We had some good final conversations with the RTR staff, and then went off to relax and enjoy our final night in Cambodia, hoping beyond hope that everything great we had experienced could truly sink in. It was sad to leave at the time, and it is sad still to remember, but I have a sense of renewed vigor to work harder, better, faster stronger, and hopefully provide even more support for our non profit literacy friends, and count down the days until the next big adventure.
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