I’m currently spending the Chinese New Year holiday in India. I love this country more every time I visit! This time, my main reason for coming was to visit one of the many Room to Read projects that our Year Four students have funded over the years (to read more about our partnership and fundraising efforts, click here). Considering how much money our students raise every year, it’s important to see where the money goes and what impact it is having. Room to Read helpfully keeps us updated and the detailed progress reports are appreciated, but nothing compares to seeing the impact for myself! This week, I had the privilege of visiting a school in Telangana that was funded by our students and established in 2017.
For some context, the state of Telangana has a population of 35.3 million. The average literacy rate is 66%, which is lower than the national average of India. In some Telangana districts, it drops to around 55%. It is also noteworthy that there is a dramatic difference in literacy rates between males and females.
As you read this, keep in mind that this is just one project. Our students raise enough to fund two or three projects like this every year! And then consider the countless Room to Read projects across the globe. What a difference they are making to children, families and communities!
As we approached the school, I was greeted by these smiling students, this lovely banner and a small bunch of flowers. Right from the start, the visit exceeded my expectations because I felt truly appreciated and warmly welcomed. As I entered the Room to Read library, I noticed something very cool. I had seen several of these in photos but never with my own eyes:
In case you can’t see clearly, I’m pointing to this dedication:
“…It is dedicated to Victoria Shanghai Academy in honor of their fundraising efforts and their dedication to reading and education.”
This made it very real! I have flown across the world and been driven to a remote village in Telangana, and our Hong Kong school is honoured and celebrated in the school library! It’s mind-boggling to think about the global reach of our fundraising.
I was then treated to a lesson observation in the library. The children were highly engaged and it was clear to see that they value their education. Room to Read invests a lot in the professional development of teachers and this was evident. I was impressed by the lesson and the modern approaches that the teacher used to teach reading comprehension. Educators at the school are highly trained professionals with a good understanding of pedagogy. It was also pleasing to see that the school is promoting student leadership. I learnt that the library is monitored and maintained by the Children’s Library Management Committee (CLMC). These children take great pride in their responsibility to look after the prized library.
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the visit was when students were invited to read to the class. Firstly, it was great to see how many students wanted to read to the class! The chosen students read with confidence and fluency to the enjoyment of their classmates. It was clear from the colour-coded books that this opportunity was not just afforded to the high-ability readers. This part, in particular, left an impression on me. Seeing students read is one thing, but seeing how much they love reading is very special. That’s what it’s all about.
During the visit, one thing stood out above all else: the books (published and provided by Room to Read) are absolutely adored by the students. For whatever reason, I didn’t expect this. I suppose I’m used to libraries that are appreciated, yet taken for granted. The children here treasure them! It was also pleasing to see the range of books that had been provided (colour-coded according to the level of difficulty). Crucially, Room to Read publishes books in local languages (in this case, Telugu). This is important because I have seen books donated to other causes (with good intentions) that are left to gather dust because the children can’t access them. With Room to Read, I’m thrilled to confirm that these books are well loved! Consider this: it costs Room to Read approximately US$1 to publish each of these highly-valued books. That’s why even small, seemingly insignificant donations go a long way.
I learnt how Room to Read continues to monitor and support schools years after their establishments. For example, they monitor teaching, the growth of the schools and how the books are being used. Where appropriate, they continue to provide resources and professional development. Room to Read’s ongoing connection with the school was evident because the teachers and students clearly had strong relationships with the Room to Read staff. With Room to Read’s ongoing involvement, the schools continue to improve for the benefit of the students.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this school and I would strongly recommend a site visit to anyone who supports Room to Read. I already knew that Room to Read is a wonderful organisation but I’m now more convinced than ever! To see the impact first hand was a very special experience. Room to Read is doing amazing work around the world to provide the precious gift of education to millions of children. It was a pleasure to see it for myself and I can’t wait to share the experience with my school community. I would like to thank the lovely staff at both Room to Read Hong Kong and Room to Read India for their help and support before, during and after this visit.
On a separate but related note, this blog supports Room to Read Tanzania. Click here to read more about this initiative or head over to my donation page to contribute. Remember, just US$1 can be used to publish a book that will be cherished.
If you have any questions about my visit, please leave a comment below, email or reach out on social media. I’d be happy to help.
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