This week is our annual Country Management Conference, a time when our management teams from around the world gather to discuss strategies and plan for the following year. Erin Ganju, our CEO, submitted this guest blog following the opening of this year's conference in Kathmandu, Nepal.
This is always one of my favorite weeks of the year. Every summer, the management teams from each of Room to Read’s offices, from San Francisco to Bangladesh, converge for our Country Management Conference (CMC). It’s a week that is both exhausting and exhilarating, as we spend countless hours sharing best practices, learning about challenges and successes, and setting the strategic direction for the organization for years to come. In the past, we’ve rotated the location of the conference to a different Room to Read country in order of the year our country offices were established. This year we made an exception to our own rule and brought the CMC back to Nepal in honor of Room to Read’s 10-year Anniversary.
As we sit and discuss our first decade and make plans for our second, I sometimes find myself pondering how we got here -– building an organization that defends the global right for every child to grow up with a quality education, and, at the same time, empowering leadership in each country to have the flexibility to contextualize how we deliver our programs. It is a complex balancing act, but one that has resulted in depth and richness in our programming.
When I look around the room, I get my answer -– for around me is a melting pot of incredible personal perseverance and commitment to providing education to children now and in the future. It is fascinating to hear my colleagues discuss how we can enhance our library program, launch literacy pilots, improve government partnerships or conduct life skills workshops for our girl scholars through the lens of the real in-country challenges they face and the solutions they develop on the front lines.
Dinesh Shrestha, Room to Read's Co-Founder and Regional Director of Human Resources and Administration in Asia, embodies the essence of what Room to Read has achieved in the past ten years. He has demonstrated and helped develop our model of local leadership, one of the cornerstones of our success. Like Dinesh, each country director brings a personal story that reveals the heart of what drives them to work so hard for educational opportunities for children. For example, Kall Kann, our country director in Cambodia, grew up separated from his family as a young teenager due to the Khmer Rouge and had to struggle himself to get an education. Wiseman Ngwata, our regional director in Africa, has devoted more than 30 years to ensure that the quality of the education in classrooms meets the dream of parents to have their children be able to read and write. Sunisha Ahuja, our country director in India, has been a role model for women breaking through the glass ceiling and showing generations of girls in our Girls’ Education program that it is possible for women to play a significant leadership role. And Chris Mothupi, our country director in South Africa, who experienced the denigration of apartheid South Africa (and blogged about it last week), yet was determined to complete his education and share that gift with generations of children.
Each person at our conference this week brings a compelling story to the table and each story is very different from the person sitting next to them. And yet, they all share one quality -- a personal commitment to our mission of bringing education to children in the developing world. After a week of long hours and seemingly endless meetings, we will all return to our home offices, energized and ready to take the next step in Room to Read’s success. Millions of children are counting on us, and with the diverse and talented team we have in place, I’m confident we will fulfill, and likely exceed, our commitment.
Read more about our Leadership team.