1. Tell us about your mission.
READ Global believes empowering rural communities is critical to solving the problem of global poverty. We envision a world where individuals, families, and entire communities have access to the knowledge, resources, and opportunities necessary to build more prosperous futures.
We partner with communities in rural South Asia to create vibrant places to live and thrive. Our proven and replicable model focuses on Community Library and Resource Centers (READ Centers) as a vehicle for sustainable social and economic transformation. This is what we call the READ Effect: when rural communities engage and invest in READ Centers, they are empowered with access to information, education, and skills training, ultimately experiencing positive social transformation and increased economic opportunity.
2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?
The West Foundation has been a crucial long-time partner for READ. With its support, READ has been able to continue to support its offices in South Asia where 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. READ Centers become the means to reduce dependency on external aid, amplify local solutions, and empower individuals with the knowledge to thrive and inspire rural prosperity in their own communities.
With support from The West Foundation, we have been able to continue to cultivate a network of support and sharing among READ Global, its country offices and its local READ Centers. READ’s community-led development approach is founded on the idea that those closest to a problem are best placed to identify innovative and lasting solutions to address it. This close collaboration among offices and with our grassroots partners ensures our programming is addressing the most pressing problems with the greatest impact. While we believe that approaches should be tailored to meet the needs of each individual community, we also frequently see how the efforts of one community or team can inspire others in different communities and countries to identify new ways to solve complicated problems.
3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is The West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?
The West Foundation has been a generous supporter of READ since 2012. This support has allowed us the flexibility to support initiatives that we feel strongly about and to support READ Centers in their local resource mobilization. This network of strong READ Centers supported by peer organizations, READ Country offices and the READ Global team allows us to be nimble and responsive to pressing issues.
For example, when the COVID pandemic hit, READ Centers quickly sprang to action. They contacted more than 27,500 community members to gauge their needs and inform them of steps they can take to keep their families as safe as possible and distributed emergency food and hygiene supplies to more than 10,000 people. Centers are now helping their communities build a better future offering mobile libraries and learning opportunities for children whose schooling has been disrupted, providing emergency small loans to families in need, and collecting and amplifying personal stories that are often overlooked.
In all our work we make constant efforts to make sure the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable are heard and amplified. As part of this effort, READ Centers are implementing exciting holistic leadership programs for young women to help them take their place as community leaders and drive local development, helping identify and meet the needs of informal economy workers and other vulnerable groups, and expanding offerings accessible to people with disabilities.
4. How are you realizing your potential?
Next year, we’ll be celebrating 30 years of READ. In this time we’ve launched 112 locally sustained community libraries which are driving local development, one country office which is able to independently sustain its operations, and two that are in the process of working toward it. In our work we have learned profound lessons on how we work to empower and encourage communities to discover innovative solutions to local challenges.
To drive our vision forward into this new decade, READ holds two important considerations: inclusion, elevating local expertise and expansion. We value thoroughly inclusive, resilient, and more equitable processes and programs to develop prosperous communities. Meaningful community engagement is the crux of our work — without it, no development can be achieved. We also value and uphold local knowledge within and across our network of READ Centers and READ Country Offices. We believe that local communities know best what their needs are, and with their actions they pave the way to their development.
5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?
The communities we serve guide us in all the work we do. Our model of investing in their leadership and resilience gives us the ability to be flexible and responsive.
With the current pandemic, the negative impact falls disproportionally on those who have traditionally struggled to overcome extreme poverty, vulnerability, marginalization, and powerlessness. For them, READ Global’s work is more important than ever.
6. How can people reading this help you?
Sadly, the COVID crisis is only intensifies inequalities that are already prevalent in society. Our READ Centers will continue their work as local lifelines but they need your support. If you’re able to help, go to donatenow.networkforgood.org/readglobal to make a donation or learn more about our work.