Editorial note: The Viet Kieu send back to Vietnam $US 8 billion (with a B) each year to prop up the economy. Where did this money go? How could a country of 85 million people remain poor and illiterate 36 years after the end of the war? Corruption? Lack of Freedom? What has this government done for the country?
Room To Read

Nicholas D. Kristof

         I came here to Vietnam to see John Wood hand out his 10 millionth book at a library that his team founded in this village (Cai Lay) in the Mekong Delta - as hundreds of local children cheered and embraced the books he brought as if they were the rarest of treasures. Wood's charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 of these libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools.

         It also supports 13,500 impoverished girls who might otherwise drop out of school. In a remote nook of the Mekong Delta, reachable only by boat, I met one of these girls, a 10th grader named Le Thi My Duyen. Her family, displaced by flooding, lives in a shabby tent on a dike.

         When Duyen was in seventh grade, she dropped out of school to help her family out. "I thought education was not so necessary for girls," Duyen recalled.

         Now Duyen is back, a star in her class - and aiming for the moon.

         "I would like to go to university," she confessed, shyly.

         The cost per girl for this program is $250 annually. To provide perspective, Kim Kardashian's wedding is said to have cost $10 million; that sum could have supported an additional 40,000 girls in Room to Read.

         He tells supporters that they aren't donating to charity but making an investment: Where can you get more bang for the buck than starting a library for $5,000?