Milly Unwin, a volunteer for Room to Read, shares her experiences with us in episode 35 of the Good News Shared podcast. Hear the interview below:
Below is an extract from the interview. To learn more about Room to Read and Milly’s time with the charity please listen to the interview either above or in iTunes.
Q: Please can you tell us about Room to Read?
Room to Read is a global literacy charity working in ten countries in the developing world. It does a whole range of things. Originally it was supplying books to libraries and then it developed into library construction, and now it publishes books in local languages using local illustrators and local artists and authors, as well as training teaches, building schools, distributing books, and in some countries the charity influences the syllabus and the curriculum. One massive thing the charity does is focus on gender equality so it has a girls education programme that aims to give girls key life skills.
Q: You’ve been involved with Room to Read in two different cities, what’s been your favourite memories from your time volunteering with the charity so far?
In Paris we launched Booktober – at Shakespeare and Company throughout the month of October we sold tote bags and postcards and all the profits went to Room to Read. We launched this on the first of October and all the chapter members made food and drink from the countries where Room to Read works so we had Vietnamese cakes and Nepalese tea and South African biscuits, as well as a few other countries represented. We had poetry by authors from those countries and it was a really great event. We decorated the whole place and it was really lovely. It got a lot of people really interested in the charity and it also made a bit of money which was a bonus.
Q: Have you experienced any challenges while volunteering for Room to Read?
Generally, it’s been great and easy and lovely. I think one challenge we had definitely in France and a bit here (England) is that people I think tend to maybe be inclined to give to causes – if they are going to give to charity – much closer to home, like homelessness in London or literacy in Paris rather than global education. In France there are restrictions where businesses can only support charities working in France whereas for Room to Read all the money goes to the countries in Africa and Asia. So that’s a challenge on the corporate fundraising side. Otherwise I guess the challenge is always whenever you have got to get people together in one place in London with everyone being so busy it’s occasionally been difficult but luckily we have managed to come up with some events that are not arduous to attend, the focus of them is that they will be fun and a nice evening and the fact that the money you spend on it goes to charity is kind of a bonus rather than it being the only point of the evening.
Q: What’s the one thing you wish more people knew about Room to Read? It’s a charity I only heard of through my work with Good News Shared..
I really wish more people did know about it (Room to Read).. it’s the same with my family, I’m always going on about how great Room to Read is and they hadn’t really heard of it, but I wish people knew the impact it has because in terms of numbers.. last year it reached it’s 10 millionth child so if you think about over ten countries 10 million children have now have the gift of education and can now read and have a much better start in life and to me that’s just so incredible. Room to Read have also established 17,500 libraries and distributed 15 million books to children – those numbers are not to be taken lightly I think and I wish more people knew about Room to Read and the great work it’s doing across the world.
Watch ‘Do Not Read This’ – an incredible video Milly tells us about in the interview below:
Q: Do you have some good news from Room to Read you can share with us?
Yes.. I’ve already shared my best piece of news but I’m going to say it again because it was such a big moment for the charity, which was that at the end of last year (2015) we reached our 10 millionth child so we have positively impacted the lives of more than 10 million children now with a goal to reach 20 million by the end of 2020. If you think of each of those children across the world who can now read and have been equipped with life skills that will change the shape of their future and and the lives of their family – that’s such a huge staggering statistic for me and my positive news to end on.
Q: If people want to volunteer for Room to Read or support the charity in other ways what’s the best way for them to find out more?
Our website – www.roomtoread.org plus each chapter has a Facebook group so take a look for that too. It’s so worth getting involved in a chapter it’s given me a whole new network of friends and experiences that I would never have come across otherwise so I really recommend it to anyone. There are people from all over, not just people who work in books and publishing but people from all walks of life. It’s really broadening my experience of living in London as it did in Paris, so if someone is looking for something to do.. the whole time you are doing it with the end goal of changing the world, that’s Room to Read’s motto – World Change Starts With Educated Children – so it’s really having that at the back of your mind when you are meeting for a fun evening with new people.