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Have you ever experienced a moment in time when everything seemed to make perfect sense? When you saw something, understood it and said to yourself “I’ve got to be a part of this?”
With Positive Real Estaste, it all began when Founder, Jason Whitton came across John Wood’s book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. “This book really spoke to me. For nearly 20 years I have had a passion for education and building schools – I wanted to do whatever I could to change the lives of others.” Jason explains.
“Imagine my pleasure when I discovered that Room to Read’s mission aligned perfectly with my own desire to effect change in the world. When I shared what this amazing organization is doing with the staff here at Positive, let’s just say it required no lengthy deliberation before we chose to become involved. We emailed Room to Read in San Francisco and got started from there.”
Positive Real Estate started supporting Room to Read in February of 2010, when we pledged funds to build a pre-school in Sri Lanka in the amount of $22,500.00. The school’s construction, which commenced in October, has now been completed, and we couldn’t be more pleased.
Our 2010 sponsored school, located in the Mannar region of Sri Lanka known as the Thullukudi Iruppu St. Mary’s Preschool currently has an enrollment of 20 students – 12 boys and 8 girls with 1 teacher.
The teacher shared her thoughts at the opening ceremony, “This village did not have a preschool so the children had to walk nearly 2 kilometers to the nearest school. As it was difficult for the young ones to walk that far, the community got together and constructed a temporary building to function as a preschool and community center. Since then, the children have attended class in the temporary shelter, which lacked many basic facilities.
We asked many organizations and the government to provide a permanent building for the children. We were lucky when Room to Read visited our village and understood the difficulties we faced. We thank Room to Read for supporting and guiding us to construct a permanent building with all facilities. We also wish to thank the donors who were generous in helping the village and in giving us hope for a better future.”
Sam Saggers, Director of Positive Real Estate shares his thoughts. “Our involvement started in early 2010 when I attended a Room to Read event in Sydney with John Wood. I was impressed by his passion and commitment to the cause. He brought an entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy that I hadn’t encountered before and with some solid business principals from his Microsoft days [he] was making a measurable and positive impact in developing communities.”
Jason continued, “What resonated with me was that he isn’t just providing money for schools and libraries – he is partnering with the local communities to make it happen. This is a model of self-determination, not developed countries imposing their ideas on communities who have little buy-in. On the ground, this means that while Room to Read, through their generous donors, may provide the money for books, training and building materials, the transport and construction is up to the local communities.”
“Getting the entire team on board was the easiest part and we brainstormed to find the best way to go about it. The outcome was that along with company contributions, all proceeds from events and the playing of the Positive Real Estate Property Game was donated to Room to Read. A fixed donation from every Lifetime Mentoring sale was added as well,” said Jason.
This project exists as a touchstone to the spirit that Positive Real Estate and its generous donors share. For Sam and myself, our shared vision of children everywhere having the same opportunities to read as our children is so important!
We donate regularly by pledging to provide funds to build schools and libraries around the world. We then raise the money through the 1 day Property Game Workshops and Lifetime Mentoring Sales.
My dream is for us as a company to inspire other companies to donate significant money to making the world a better place. For many teams, money is not always the main motivator – doing good, making meaning and generally operating for a higher good is also very important.
“Giving back is a reoccurring theme throughout Positive Real Estate and for many of us it provides much of the meaning to why we do what we do. If we can, as a group of everyday people, change the lives of children across the world and provide them the means to improve themselves and the lives of their communities, then our legacy is complete,” said Jason.
Positive Real Estate is not stopping now. We have pledged to help build two schools/libraries in 2011 and so far, we are on track to have them completed by the end of the year. We can’t wait until we can share their progress as well!
In June 2013, Positive Real Estate employees Lara Haines and David Neradil ventured to Nepal. Positive Real Estate funded the construction of a primary school in the Dhading district in Kathmandu Valley with the help of Room To Read. Lara and David took time out from their holiday to check it out, and have shared their inspiring experience.
Shree Indrayani Lower Secondary School Pinda-1 educates children from kindergarten through to year eight. The school consists of two main areas, dividing the school into ‘primary’ and ‘junior’. 261 students from surrounding districts attend the school, many of them having to walk long distances from their homes. Sometimes it takes as long as an hour each way.
The school borders Kathmandu, which is a farming region. Many of the children’s parents never had the opportunity to be educated, and as a result cannot read at all. These families are poor and live very simple lives.
“We had a beautiful drive from the city on the rough and windy highway, admiring the terraced mountains and new crops being planted.” Lara said. “When I first saw the school I was surprised at how small it was. The colourful new building sponsored by Room to Read really stood out in comparison to the old mud-brick classrooms that were around it. The school was built on top of a huge hill. From their playground we had an amazing view of the district and surrounding farms. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in September when all the fields are green, the flowers are in bloom and the crops are ready for harvesting!”
Before Room to Read’s assistance, the children had to learn in mud-brick structures, often with fifty students in each room. The structures had metal roofs and very poor ventilation. Unlike schools in Australia, these buildings would overheat in the summer and could fall below 0°C in the winter.
Nepali government schools are still experiencing these difficulties. Thanks to Room to Read, the new building allows the children to sit in comfort while they receive their lessons. It is bright, sunny and, unlike the previous building, has a lot of space for them to move around. The students truly enjoy their learning experience now.
In Nepal, it is common for children to be taught English and never learn to read their own language. By the time they are adults much of the Nepali language and culture is forgotten. The Shree Indrayani Lower Secondary School is different as it has an extensive library with hundreds of books that are in the students’ native language. They books are beautifully illustrated and there are a variety for children of all reading levels.
“We were given the opportunity to look at the register. I saw thousands of entries by children borrowing the books, increasing year by year.” Lara told us. “The children are so excited! They flock to the library to these borrow books.”
If Room to Read had not become involved, these children wouldn’t be able to receive quality schooling. Many would not have been able to attend school altogether due to the serious over-crowding of the classrooms. However, these children are now experiencing an education that will empower them to choose their own destiny, and find work improving both their community and their country. Without this school, these children wouldn’t have a choice in their future.
However, it’s not this that has impacted Lara the most.
“The humility and warmth of the people had the biggest impact on me.” Lara shares. “It was amazing how people could survive on so little, and yet be so happy. They showed huge appreciation for even the smallest thing – just our visit to the school made them beam with joy! It made me realise how much we take for granted, and how many choices we have here.”
Lara explains, “Resources are limited. They don’t have computer or technology classes. They also don’t have subjects like art, dance, drama and music. Those were some of my favourite classes when I was at school! Even though we have achieved so much for these children, we still have a long way to go.”
At Positive Real Estate, we are so proud of the difference our contributions make. By donating just a little of your money and time, you can make a massive difference in the lives of young children and their families. We are convinced that the answer to poverty lies in education.
While donations go along way, if you can take five minutes to tell one person a day about Room to Read’s cause, and motivate others to get involved, we will be working together to get real and long-lasting results.