Room to Read Sri Lanka will receive another $9,800 this holiday season to help fund its current projects. INTO Giving matched the grant the organization received this past winter to generate nearly $19,500 in support in a little more than a year.
Achala Gunasekara-Rockwell, Ph.D., INTO UAB’s Indian culture and language adviser, nominated Room to Read for an INTO Giving grant, which supports education projects in developing countries. According to the Room to Read website, $300 can keep a girl in a developing country in school for a year, so the $9,800 grant can help more than 32 children during the next year.
The educational issues that children — young women especially — face in rural Sri Lanka are close to Gunasekara-Rockwell’s heart, because Sri Lanka is her homeland. She said less-fortunate families often will send their boys to school, but girls often are expected to remain home and care for the younger siblings.
In October, Gunasekara-Rockwell visited the Room to Read office in Sri Lanka and saw firsthand the difference the organization is making there. Teachers from surrounding areas were attending a full-day training session in the office that day; Gunasekara-Rockwell said they were enthusiastic but seemed from tired the travel required to attend the training, which helps them learn to best use their resources to improve education systems in their schools.
Room to Read itself has benefited more than 11.6 million children in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia and Sri Lanka.
“Because the money is given to less-fortunate schools, these teachers were from rural parts of Sri Lanka, and I’m sure they traveled by public buses that morning,” Gunasekara-Rockwell said. “Getting to see teachers benefiting from the support Room to Read Sri Lanka receives made me even more excited that INTO Giving is continuing that partnership.”
Gunasekara-Rockwell plans to continue to support organizations such as Room to Read by continuing to apply for the annual INTO Giving grants. Room to Read itself has benefited more than 11.6 million children in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia and Sri Lanka, and countless other nonprofits are trying to improve literacy in developing countries.
INTO UAB is an initiative begun in 2016 to increase the global diversity of UAB’s student body and expand global opportunities for its domestic students and faculty to pursue international teaching, research and service. David Hofmann, executive director of INTO UAB, said the Room to Read initiative mirrors the kind of community INTO UAB is building on campus.
“INTO UAB’s main priority is creating a global community on campus, but we also recognize the importance of participating in outreach on an international scale,” Hofmann said. “We hope that this continuing grant partnership with INTO Giving and Room to Read Sri Lanka will be the first of many such opportunities.”
"As a team, we appreciate Achala’s hard work in developing this proposal. It is exciting to think about the potential impact from INTO Giving’s partnership with Room to Read," echoed Kyle Bailey, INTO UAB's director of student experience. "Who knows? Perhaps Room to Read is helping to educate future UAB Blazers right now."