READ Global was inspired by a simple wish from a Nepalese trekking guide: to have a library for his village. Dr. Antonia “Toni” Neubauer, a former language teacher and education researcher, was traveling throughout Asia with her adventure travel company, Myths and Mountains. Embracing the opportunity to give back to a part of the world that had filled her with so much joy, Toni harnessed her resources and founded Rural Education and Development (READ) Global in 1991 with the establishment of the first READ Center in the village of Junbesi, Nepal.
A READ Center is a community library and resource center that is owned and managed by the community. READ works in partnership with each community to establish the center and launch at least one sustaining enterprise to help the center become self-sustaining over time. READ Centers offer resources such as books and newspapers, a children’s section with colorful books and educational toys, a computer room with free access to the internet, a training hall and a community gathering space. READ Centers – often through partnerships with other organizations and local government agencies – offer a variety of programs to meet the unique needs of each community. Programs offered in READ Centers may include microcredit, women’s empowerment, technology training, literacy, livelihood skills, agricultural programs, youth development, health programs and services – and more. Because READ Centers are locally managed, programming can evolve over time as community needs change.
In 2006, READ Nepal won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Access to Learning Award (ATLA), given annually to one organization globally in recognition of the innovative efforts to connect people to information. The next year, READ received a Replication Grant from the Foundation to bring its unique and sustainable model to Bhutan and India and expand in all three countries.
Today, READ Global is headquartered in the United States with local and independent country affiliates in Bhutan, India and Nepal. More than 2.52 million people have access to 112 READ Centers and their programs.