October 31, 2014 06:11 UTC

As It Is

Washington Monument Repairs Continue

Scaffolding Protects Washington Monument
Scaffolding Protects Washington Monument

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story


Hello, again.  I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.  Today we report on the latest efforts to repair one of the most recognizable sites in the world.  And we’ll travel to Nepal to hear about one man’s efforts to teach reading and writing to millions of people around the world.  The program is called As It Is, and we are happy you joined us.
 
The Washington Monument rises 169 meters over the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The grayish white stone structure is called an obelisk, with the top shaped similar to that of a pyramid.  The obelisk honors George Washington.  He led colonial forces that helped America win independence from England and served as the new country’s first president from 1789 to 1797.
 
For many years, the marble and granite structure has been a favorite of the public.  Millions of people have visited the monument, which had its first stone placed on July 4th, 1848. Its image in photographs and on postcards travels around the world.
                                                                                  
On a warm summer day in 2011, an earthquake of 5-point-8 strength shook the Washington, D.C. area. The quake was centered in Virginia, and was felt in several other states.  Two tall landmark structures in the District of Columbia suffered major damage.  One was the Washington National Cathedral. The other was the Washington Monument.
 
Cracks opened in the obelisk as pieces of stone shook loose from the quake.  One crack was large enough so that from the inside, daylight could be seen through it.  Soon after the quake, workers took off some pieces near the top to prevent them from falling.
 
Carol Bradley Johnson is a spokesperson for the National Park Service, the NPS.  The agency operates the monument and other memorials on the Mall.  She was at the NPS headquarters  when the earth started to shake.  She remembers that NPS staff members went into action quickly.
 
 “We were concerned about all our memorials. And immediately we went out and checked to see what had happened.  And obviously, particularly the Washington monument because we knew there was quite a bit of debris falling at the very top.  We knew pretty quickly that that was going to be a problem.”
       
The weather did not cooperate with efforts to find all the damage to the monument.  Just days after the earthquake, on August 29, Washington suffered the effects of the storm that had been Hurricane Irene. The inside of the monument had to be protected from rainwater.
 
When the winds died, inspections showed that the worst damage took place above 122 meters.  Since those early post-earthquake days, about 50 patches – small pieces of material – have been fixed onto broken places to reinforce them. Several months ago, workers placed thousands of pieces of scaffolding on the high structure.  The scaffolding is made of aluminum and steel, and was used inside as well as outside to protect the stone. 
 
Now almost two years of inspections and preparations have made possible a push toward complete restoration. The Washington Monument is expected to open to the public again next spring.

 
Almost 800 million people in the world are illiterate.  That means they cannot read and write. Most are in developing countries and more that 65 percent of them are female.  A former official with the Microsoft company is helping to lower those numbers. John Wood has opened 1,650 schools and 15,000 libraries in some of the world's poorest communities.  Avi Arditti has more on the man and his “Room to Read” campaign.
 
“The thing I learned at Microsoft was that bold goals attract bold people. From the very beginning, I said Room to Read’s goal was to reach ten million children around the world in the poorest countries.”
 
That is former Microsoft executive John Wood. In 1998, while he was still with Microsoft, Mr. Wood went on a three week walking trip in Nepal. While there, the businessman met a man who led a school in a mountain village. The man asked him to visit the school. John Wood said the experience changed his life.
 
“This headmaster has 450 students at the school, but he didn’t have any books. He had a library that was completely empty.”
 
Mr. Wood promised to fill the library.  One year later, he returned to the village with a team of yaks carrying bags filled with books -- 3,000 of them. But that was just the start. John Wood retired from Microsoft, and used some of his wealth to start Room to Read.
 
The not-for-profit organization is based on the belief that world change begins with educated children. Today the group operates in ten countries across Africa and Asia.
 
“It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished. We’ve built a world-class organization that’s really a thought-leader on solutions for education in the developing world.”
 
That is Erin Ganju, co-founder and chief executive of Room to Read. She says that world literacy is the group’s first goal. But she says equality of the sexes is just as important. Ms. Ganju says Room to Read pays for a long term girls’ education program to help girls empower themselves.
 
“It really focuses on not only keeping girls in school longer -- through the end of secondary school – but helps support them holistically. We bring female mentors into the communities that act as role models for the girls and we provide them with life skills workshops after school, where they learn critical skills such as goal-setting, leadership skills, problem-solving and they really become different.”
 
John Wood says local involvement is needed for the program to be successful. Room to Read donates money and provides books. But communities donate land, parents help build the schools and ministries of education agree to pay teachers and librarians.
 
Room to Read also has set up local printing plants that produce children’s books. Local writers write the books. Local artists draw the pictures for them.
 
John Wood says Room to Read will have published 1,000 books in over 20 languages by the end of this year.
 
“”I often joke that Room to Read is the biggest children’s publisher you’ve never heard of because your children probably are not reading in the languages that we’re publishing in. But, those children in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, South Africa, they deserve to have books in their mother tongue just as kids here in America do.”
 
John Wood says that Room to Read faces huge demand.
 
“So what drives me is really the idea of our strong local teams at Room to Read should not be in the business of saying ‘no’ or ‘not yet.’ They should be in the business of saying ‘yes.’ Yes to your community having literacy programs. Yes to your girls being empowered by education. Yes to every child having a place in a school that is well run and has really good teachers, and I am not going to give up on the goal.”
 
Room to Read is expected to reach ten million children by 2015. That is five years earlier than John Wood promised. I’m Avi Arditi.
 
And I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.  On this date in 1927, the most popular song in the world was “born.”  Mildred J. Hill of Louisville, Kentucky, wrote “Happy Birthday to You.”
 
That’s all for this edition of As It is.  There are more Learning English programs just ahead, and world news at the beginning of the hour.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
06/27/2013 6:00 PM
Thank you VOA

Learn with The News

  • A convoy of peshmerga vehicles is escorted by Turkish Kurds on their way to the Turkish-Syrian border, in Kiziltepe near the southeastern city of Mardin October 29, 2014

    Audio Iraqi Kurdish Fighters Enter Kobani

    Also in the news, Burkina Faso ends efforts to extend its presidential term limit after protests in the capital. Ukraine says the EU will be guarantor in any gas deal with Russia. Myanmar holds a major meeting Friday. And claims of cheating delay SAT results for South Korean and Chinese students. More

  • Ghana Bamboo Bike

    Video Ghana's Bamboo Bikes Hit the Streets

    Bicycle frames are usually made out of materials like carbon fiber, steel or aluminum. But in rural Ghana, a businessman has developed another way to make bicycles from a natural product -- bamboo. The wooden bike parts are sent Ghana to Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. | As It Is More

  • Video Singapore Film Ban Raises Free Speech Issue

    The documentary film, “To Singapore, with Love” tells about political dissidents from Singapore. The film has been shown at public events in Britain, India and Malaysia, among other countries. But one place the movie cannot be seen is Singapore. That is because the government there has banned it. More

  • Believer Benito Martinez (C), dressed as a "devil" wearing a mask, walks around in Almonacid del Marquesado, in central Spain, during the "Endiablada" traditional festival, Feb. 3, 2014.

    Audio A Halloween Special: The Devil is Everywhere ...

    Today we take you to the Dark Side. (insert evil laugh here) We teach expressions that involve the king of evil – the devil. Read on to learn how to “speak of the devil”, “to play devil’s advocate” and to ”make a deal with the devil.” | Words and Their Stories More

  • Orbital Sciences Antares Launch

    Video Questions for NASA after Rocket Explosion

    An unmanned privately-owned rocket bringing supplies to the International Space Station exploded seconds after launch Tuesday night. The accident did not cause any injuries on the ground. However, it has raised questions about efforts by the US space agency NASA to use private companies. More

Featured Stories

  • Obama Halloween

    Audio Halloween Is Big with Kids and Business

    The National Retail Federation says sales of Halloween goods will total about $7.4 billion this year. It says the average American will spend about $77. The group expects 162 million people to celebrate. The NRF predicts 54 million of them will hold Halloween parties. | American Mosaic More

  • A print shows the Second Battle of Bull Run, also called Second Manassas.

    Audio South Defeats North Again at Manassas

    Lincoln named George Pope to lead the Army of Virginia. He wanted to join Pope’s forces with the Army of the Potomac and break through Confederate defenses around Richmond. But General Robert E. Lee decided to hit Pope first. More

  • Star House

    Video Home of Last Comanche Chief Close to Ruins

    One of the most interesting people in U.S. history is Quanah Parker, the last chief of the country’s Comanche Indian tribe. Quanah Parker was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Quanah Parker was a fierce fighter. But that ended one day in 1875. More

  • FILE - A veterinarian at the nonprofit Bali Animal Welfare Association gives a rabies shot to a puppy in Kebon Kaja village, Bangli Regency in Bali, Indonesia.

    Audio Mass Vaccination of Dogs Can Eliminate Rabies

    About 70,000 people worldwide die every year of rabies. Rabies is a viral infection that people get mainly through dog bites. Scientists say vaccinating dogs can effectively get rid of rabies outbreaks in dog populations. And this will have a domino effect, fewer humans with rabies. More

  • Methane oxidizing

    Photogallery Small Organisms in Deep Sea Rocks Eat Methane

    The gas methane has been linked to rising temperatures on Earth. But methane does not stay in the atmosphere as long as another “greenhouse gas” -- carbon dioxide. Scientists say both gases trap heat from the sun. They prevent heat from escaping into outer space. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs