May 1, 2008 – Rural Education and Development (READ) Global will hold a special inauguration ceremony on June 7, 2008 in West Bengal to mark the opening of its first community resource library in India. After working in Nepal for 17 years, this event is a hallmark for the organization as the first concrete step in its global expansion plan.
The day-long ceremony for the Oceanic Library will be held in the rural village of Ullon, located approximately 70 kilometers from Kolkata. READ has partnered with Vivekananda Sevakendra-o-Sishu Uddyan (VSSU), a local community development organization on the project. Kapil Mondol, the director of VSSU and an Ashoka Fellow noted, “The Oceanic Library will address a tremendous need of the people of Ullon.. Students will be able to access books and the Internet to expand their knowledge and help with schoolwork, and women and mothers will learn about improved health care, early childhood development and expanding economic opportunities. The Oceanic Library plans to offer a variety of economic, social and educational programs for all ages, gender and literacy levels. We will strive to make the Oceanic Library a vibrant community center, dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people of Ullon. We greatly appreciate the support of READ and Senator Omer Rains to help us achieve that goal.”
In attendance will be Dr. Antonia Neubauer, Founder and Chairperson of READ Global, Robert Reno, Asia Managing Director of READ Global, staff from the READ India and READ Nepal offices as well as an estimated XXX people from the local community. Senator Omer Rains, a READ board member who has provided major funding for the library, will also attend the inauguration. Senator Rains noted, “READ Global is challenging the international development paradigm by supporting a model that provides maximum community impact at a relatively low price. The total cost of the project, including the land, building, furnishings, books, and associated business is less than US $75,000, and yet the community provided nearly 40% of the project’s funding. The leadership of READ and the Oceanic Library has required community participation, ownership and investment from the start of the project, and this will ensure that the Oceanic Library will play a vital role in the development of the community of Ullon for decades to come.”
READ’s model for building its community libraries is revolutionary in international development because of its heavy focus on sustainability and community involvement. READ Global provides the capital to build and equip the library and also provides seed money to start an associated business. The profits from the business are used to support the library and pay its bills. Additional revenue can be funneled back into the community for other social needs such as health clinics or infrastructure. In this way, READ is affecting a community’s educational, economic and social development and is ensuring the long term use and care for the library. The associated businesses for the Oceanic Library will be storefront rentals, a fish pond and hatchery; and a community hall rental.
READ Global has built 45 libraries across Nepal and has received a multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its program into four other countries by 2010. The Oceanic Library will be the first of four additional libraries that are scheduled to be constructed in India in 2008.