Imagine living in a faraway, mountainous community in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Despite its unbelievable beauty, most people live in rugged, remote communities with poor infrastructure, difficult lives and few educational or economic opportunities. In fact, Bhutan has one of the lowest literacy rates in Asia meaning countless children and adults are left behind, trapped in an unescapable cycle of poverty.
In 2008, READ (Rural Education and Development) Global, a not-for-profit organization based in San Francisco, changed the future by opening their first READ Center, a community library and resource center that teaches people to read. Before READ began working in Bhutan, the country had only one public lending library in the entire country. Today, there are five READ centers reaching over 37,000 rural villagers creating a culture of reading and providing access to information and resources to help farmers, children and women’s empowerment.
I learned about READ Global’s work before I went to Nepal in 2010. I had wanted to give back to the community and through research on different non-profit organizations, I found READ Nepal, a part of READ Global that works to provide literacy services in Nepal. I fundraised enough money to donate $4,000 before I left and was thrilled the money would go towards such an important cause. (I have written about it here). Experiencing the rugged remoteness of Nepal during a two-trek in the Annapurnas made me see firsthand how incredibly difficult it is for children to learn. Schools are far and few between. I wondered what life would be like if I couldn’t read or write. It was unimaginable.
The statistics regarding illiteracy are heartbreaking:
- 773.5 million adults are still illiterate around the world.
- 17% of children in the developing world will not enroll in primary school
- 39% of South Asia is illiterate.
- 50% of women in South Asia are illiterate.
- On average, kids only go through 4.7 years of schooling in South Asia.