Room to Read receives P20 Talks 2013 Global Presence Humanitarian Award

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 I remember vividly being a young girl – growing up in the south end of Seattle, Washington – and having the Book Mobile cruise our modest suburban neighborhood. The Book Mobile was a library on wheels and my mother was a faithful patron.

Although she’d left school in grade eight to help care for her beloved, ailing grandfather – married at age 16 and had five daughters by the age of 24 – the Book Mobile enabled my mother to continue her explorations of great minds and authors.  It also affirmed for her that learning to read, and life long education, were two of the most empowering gifts a human being could ever embrace.

A highlight of my own childhood was the monthly Dr. Seuss books that arrived in the mail addressed to me. I recall – as if it were yesterday – walking down our driveway in great anticipation of their arrival, hugging them as if they held all the possibilities of the universe, then reading each until memorized. They are the reason, I am confident, that I remain an avid reader today. 

Consequently, I was very excited when the Executive Director of Room to Read for San Diego, Leora Langs, attended our P20 Talks 2012 conference. Leora is a vivacious, strawberry blonde with great enthusiasm for life and learning and an infectiously sunny disposition. My first thought upon learning she was Executive Director for San Diego was how fortunate Room to Read was having her as one of their volunteers. My second thought was how many lives would be positively impacted as a result of her contributions. 

I did not, however, in any measure, anticipate what happened a few months later.

In January of 2013, Leora sent me a copy of Room to Reads’ Girls Education Yearbook titled “Beyond the Classroom.” I opened the publication while drinking coffee one morning, expecting to read about the thousands of libraries and schools Room to Read has constructed over the past decade – in some of the most impoverished areas around the planet – and the tens of thousands of young lives they have transformed through their commitment to education and literacy.

What I saw instead were the words “Life Skills Competency Framework”, and an entire page dedicated to thirty core Life Skills competencies including personal care, safety and interpersonal communication.

I have been tracking the term Life Skills ever since I created the Life Skills Report Card out of desperation while raising my own daughters a decade ago. Up until very recently, over ninety percent of the articles and blogs referenced Life Skills only in terms of  basic living skills. Learning that Room to Read held Life Skills in the same high regard as Parenting 2.0, that they appreciated Life Skills for their role in individuals and societies thriving as opposed to merely surviving, brought instantaneous tears to my eyes. I knew immediately that Room to Read would be the perfect recipient for our P20 Talks 2013 Global Presence Humanitarian Award.

I called Leora and informed her of our plans. She was thrilled with the news and proposed we present our award at a May 15th, 2013 event featuring Room to Read’s Founder, John Wood, at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice in San Diego.  

When she mentioned the Joan Kroc Institute, I recalled another event I’d attended there five years prior. It was organized by It Takes A Village and, while listening to one of their speakers, I had the strangest sensation that there was more of me on the stage then in my chair. I shared this fact with my eldest daughter who was seated next to me. Had it been my younger daughter, she might have rolled her eyes and said “Ok mom, whatever” but – having a few more years to understand my quirky personality – my eldest daughter simply gave me a warm smile.

When Leora invited me to present Room to Read with our P20 Talks 2013 Global Presence Humanitarian Award during their event, I knew this was the day I had somehow anticipated five years previously and my heart was overflowing with gratitude.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture, however, is worth so much more to me. I am deeply grateful for Room to Read’s magnanimous contributions in the Life Skills arena. I am equally grateful for their Founder John Wood who courageously pursued a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” despite overwhelming challenges. I am in awe of the lives they have transformed through their activism. Most of all, however, I am grateful for people like Leora – people who volunteer their time to make seemingly impossible dreams come true and dramatically improve the lives of others.  John Wood will be the first to tell you that Big Hairy Audacious Goals only become manifest when shared – it does, in fact, take a village.

In talking to Leora today,  she told me that when people ask her if she minds not being paid for her work, she replies that volunteering for Room to Read has delivered her untold riches in friendships and rewards – riches impossible to quantify.  I know well what she means. I feel exactly the same way about my collaborations with her and my work with Parenting 2.0.

Editor’s Note: In August, P20 Talks 2013 will proceed with over 100 Ambassadors holding regional events in cities around the planet to promote a more proactive educational process for life skills and greater unity among Life Skills educators.

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