Making Room to Read

Since June of last year, Toyama AJET has paired with the non-profit Room to Read to build a library in Cambodia.  While AJET’s official involvement with Room to Read is relatively new, I am told that in past years, several ALTs have worked individually on projects with the non-profit.

According to Room to Read’s Website, the organization’s mission is to “transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education.”  Since 2000, Room to Read has helped build libraries and schools in Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Laos, South Africa, Zambia and Bangladesh.

About two weeks ago, I attended my first charity event to benefit the library AJET hopes to build.  In reading a handout provided by fellow JET Sherilee Kahui, who coordinated the charity auction, I was really struck by the organization’s mission, especially its Girls’ Education program.  This program focuses on providing “long-term, holistic support enabling girls to pursue and complete their secondary education.”  In a world where girls and women are still considered second-class citizens in many countries, that is a noble and lofty ambition that I whole-heartily support.  According to one statistic provided by Room to Read, 42 percent of girls in developing countries are not enrolled in schools, and yet higher education levels often correlate to  lower infant mortality rates and higher wages, as Room to Read notes.

And, as journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue in this wonderful New York Times piece:

In the 19th Century, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape…There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

The charity auction Kahui organized was held at Peace Street Kitchen (富山市総曲輪4丁目10-9), a really wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Toyama City.  In an e-mail, Kahui told me that JETs raised about 25,000 円 (about $306) at the auction. Kahui added that libraries cost around $19,000 (about 1,533,000 円) to build.  Kahui is also organizing a charity pub quiz with two other JETs that will be held at the Brazilian restaurant in Takaoka on November 27.

Author: Sheila Burt


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