READ Global was inspired by a simple wish from a Nepalese trekking guide: to have a library for his village. Listening to the request of her travel companion twenty years ago, Dr. Antonia “Toni” Neubauer, a former language teacher and education researcher, understood the incredible value access to books and information could offer a community. She had traveled throughout Asia for decades with her adventure travel company Myths and Mountains, acclaimed by National Geographic Adventure and Travel & Leisure. Embracing the opportunity to give back to a part of the world that had filled her with so much joy during three decades of traveling to rural Asia, Toni harnessed her resources and founded Rural Education and Development (READ) in 1991 in Nepal.
From the beginning, READ aimed to not only work in communities but also to partner with them. It was clear villagers should be in control of their own destinies, as they were in the best position to assess and communicate their needs – READ looked to each community to decide if they wanted a library. READ’s role was clear: serving as a catalyst to help villages achieve their educational and economic goals.
Insistent on making an impact that would span generations, READ’s strategy centered on long-term sustainability of the READ Community Library and Resource Centers. With a keen focus on community ownership and enterprise, READ Global pioneered a model that ensured that each Center could sustain itself over the long run without becoming dependent on foreign aid.
Today, self-sustaining, community-owned READ Centers are transforming communities in Bhutan, India and Nepal. Toni’s unassuming approach to empowering rural communities has been widely embraced. Through her travel company Myths and Mountains, Toni continues to lead trips to all three countries each year, where visitors can see first-hand the impact READ Centers are making in some of the most rural and isolated communities in Asia.