In Nepal, Omer met up with the founder, Toni Neubauer, who had asked him on several occasions to become a member of the International Board and to take the helm of READ until its ongoing work was secure. After trekking and otherwise visiting several READ sites, including some high in the Himalaya’s and others down in the Terai (lowlands near the Indian border) of Nepal, he finally agreed and shortly thereafter became the International Chair of READ, a position he was to hold until January 1, 2012 when, having reached the age of 70, he voluntarily stepped aside knowing that the organization was then in a very sound position to carry on its good work.
By that time, READ had over 50 ongoing projects in Nepal alone, had secured annual funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had been given special recognition from the Clinton Global Initiative, had a strong and engaged Board of Directors, and had taken its mission to two other countries, India and Bhutan. During that time, READ’s mission had also been expanded to include the development of Community Resource Learning Centers that involved not only the construction of libraries, but also the provision of books in the local language, training the library staff, and helping to develop businesses to fully support the library and other projects on an ongoing basis. In short, READ had taken on the goal of providing everything from literacy training to health and job creation.
When in 2007, READ expanded its reach into India, its first project was in the West Bengal village of Ullon on the Bay of Bengal. There the Oceanic Library, with attendant sustainability projects, was constructed. To learn about this remarkable village and the transformation it has undergone, visit www.oceaniclibrary.com. Shortly thereafter, in 2008 READ entered Bhutan, the only country in the world that measures progress not by the customary standard of Gross National Product, but rather by the standard of Gross National Happiness. Later that year, by invitation of the Royal Family, Omer was present for the ceremony by which the new King was coronated. The following three years saw the development of yet more CLRC’s in Nepal, India, and Bhutan and still more are being developed today.