Zak the Yak with books on his back
Only a small percentage of the world’s one billion Muslims are radical, but Islamic Jihadists are establishing schools at an alarming rate. Approximately 20,000 madrasas across Pakistan educate boys to hate Americans and train them to become suicide bombers.
Pakistan has five million children out of school. UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown recently presented President Asif Ali Zardari with more than one million signatures calling for a plan to educate them. Brown is recruiting support to ensure that all children have access to quality education.
The resources necessary to provide education for all the children on the planet are available, but the commitment to accomplish this is lacking. Global education is a strong social investment philanthropists can make to create a positive cycle of development. Educated people earn more thus contributing more to society and their children.
Nov. 10 was declared “Malala Day” as people around the globe celebrated the bravery and activism of a Pakistani girl who attended school knowing that the Taliban objected to her becoming educated.
When Taliban terrorists boarded Malala’s bus and shot her in the head, the world reacted strongly against their violence. Malala has become a global icon of the importance of gender-equitable education. Over 100 million girls across the developing world wake up each morning and do not go to school.
John Wood’s organization, Room to Read, is offering education that is not paid for by militants. In the past dozen years, his organization has established more than 12,000 libraries and 1,500 schools in poverty-stricken villages in third-world countries to fight illiteracy and to educate girls.
A peaceful planet requires that more schools teach reading and writing that doesn’t use hateful militant examples. Wood is providing the lifelong gift of reading to children in developing countries one book at a time. Room to Read has already delivered 11 million books.
Room to Read currently operates in ten countries including Nepal, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Laos and Cambodia. They expanded from Asia to Africa with the addition of Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. Local people are employed that speak the language, know the customs and can successfully implement literacy programs.
John is part of a new kind of social engineering that melds the best practices of the business world with the social focus of the charitable sector. His book — “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” — is an inspirational story about his journey of giving back.
Villages receiving funding from his organization are required to match funds or provide the equivalent in labor. Afterwards local governments sustain the schools by hiring teachers.
Wood believes that educating girls has the power to lift families out of poverty. Women who finish secondary school earn more money, raise smaller families and educate their children, which breaks the cycle of illiteracy in one generation.
Giving to sustainable projects such as Room to Read produces tangible results. They’re now publishing new literary talent in the developing world by printing more than 400 original books in 22 languages.
Watching the violence and despair on the nightly news in war-torn countries is depressing.
Reading both the adult and children’s books by social engineer John Wood is inspiring.
Through the use of rhythmic prose, Wood tells the story of a strong, determined yak that brings books to children high in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. Zak treks through the capital city, Kathmandu, with his sidekicks, Arul and Manju, learning the value of education, and the need to take action in order to bring about change.
Wood’s picture book, “Zak the Yak with Books on His Back,” helps spread his message to children.
“Who is Zak?” you may cry
With ear-piercing clatter.
“And what is a yak?”
“And why do they matter?”
As for Zak, well this yak
He is one of a kind,
With a big friendly smile,
And a razor-sharp mind.
Check out www.roomtoread.org if you’d like to learn how you, like John and Zak, can help break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long-time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at email@example.com.