Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

By John Wood

WARNING: If you are not willing to be challenged or motivated to act, do not read John Wood’s new book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.

In the late 1990’s Microsoft Marketing Director John Wood took a three week vacation in order to go trekking in the Himalayas. At the time Wood had no idea that the 200 mile walk would be the beginning of a radical change, not only in his thinking but in his very way of life.

On his first day of trekking, Wood meets a middle-aged Nepali named Pasupathi, the man responsible for finding resources for 17 schools in the rural Lamjung Province. Invited to join him, Wood soon found himself greeting students in an overcrowded Nepali school. Not only were the students crammed on long benches, they lacked desks, an accurate world map, and most striking, a lack of books in their small library. Four hundred and fifty students were without something as simple and important as books. The headmaster of the school then issued to Wood a challenge that would forever change his life: “Perhaps, sir, you will someday come back with books.”

On completion of the three week trek, Wood sent out a challenge to over 100 people asking them to help the children of Nepal by donating books. Expecting a couple hundred books to be donated, Wood was overwhelmed to find that over 3,000 books were donated as a result of this single mailing.

Back to work at Microsoft, Wood realized a lack of fulfillment in his work. Statistics of illiteracy haunted him. After a second trip to Nepal, Wood knew what he had to do and wondered if he would have the courage to do it. He planned and implemented a radical shift in his life: that of moving from being a well paid corporate executive to an unpaid CEO of a nonprofit company who set up libraries in developing countries.

As a result of John Wood’s courageous decision, the nonprofit organization, Room To Read, has now established over 5,000 libraries, built more than 400 schools and has awarded long-term scholarships to over 3,000 girls enabling them to continue their education. Partnered with the local villages, Room to Read has by donations funded schools in libraries in Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka and India.

It is said that education is the key to escaping the cycle of poverty. The mission of Room to Read is to “provide under-privileged children with an opportunity to gain the lifelong gift of education.” This book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, encourages its readers to reflect on the impact education has made on their lives, dares them to imagine a life without books, and challenges them to make a difference in the life of a child.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children

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