2021 marks 70 years since Welthy Fisher established Literacy House in 1951, which became World Education in 1958. For 70 years, we’ve been improving literacy rates, delivering nonformal education, developing curricula, training teachers, strengthening education systems, and making education more inclusive.

To celebrate this anniversary, we’ve opened the archives to remember how far we’ve come, and marvel at how much the world has changed! (And at the same time, how much it hasn’t!)

We invite you to join us as we reflect upon this journey.

Thank you for seeing us through 70 years. We hope you’ll support us through 70 more!

Literacy House

If World Education is a tree, with branches currently reaching out all over the world, then its root, planted deep in the soil of Lucknow, India, is Literacy House. The light, heat, and water that nurtured its growth was Welthy Honsinger Fisher, the founder of Literacy House and World Education. To honor our 70th anniversary, we are telling the story of the organization she established and of the people whose lives she changed.

Weeks before his assassination in 1948, Mahatma Gandhi invited his American friend Welthy Fisher to live in India and establish a literacy program that would help lift the country out of poverty. In 1951, Welthy, who was 73, established Literacy House in Lucknow to train villagers in literacy and agricultural management.
Literacy House prioritized literacy as a pathway out of poverty, enabling villagers—mostly agricultural workers—to read essential, practical texts, such as manuals for farm machinery, laws and decrees, and information about elected officials.
The House of Prayer for All People was an important part of the Literacy House campus. Lucknow had a mixed population including Hindus and Muslims, and Literacy House supported Gandhi’s vision of a democratic, secular India.
In 1980, the Indian government honored Welthy with a postage stamp celebrating her contribution to the country. It depicts her alongside the House of Prayer for All People.
Literacy House always retained connections to its founder’s country, the United States, and was proudly women-led. It would later be registered in New York as World Education. Pictured is a vehicle donated by the “Women of Greenwich, Connecticut.”

Literacy

World Education began with a national literacy campaign in India, and this work has remained at the core of our efforts. Since the founding of Literacy House, we have implemented literacy projects and early-grade reading in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the United States.

Nepalese men planning a serialized story as part of World Education’s Integrated Literacy program in Nepal, which would later become Nepal’s National Literacy Campaign. Between 1990 and 2000, Nepal’s literacy rates nearly doubled—and more than doubled for women.
Literacy House worked with nursery schools in India to help young children learn to read and write.
Mobile libraries were part of Literacy House’s early work in India, and in many remote areas, we continue the approach today.
In Ghana, a leader of the Asamankese Women’s Group reads during literacy class. World Education has been strengthening education systems and approaches in Ghana since 1971.
Welthy and Gandhi shared the belief that the ability to read was crucial to being a citizen of a democracy. The pictured man in Colombia took part in World Education programs, which approached literacy from a highly practical perspective.
ESL training in Thailand.

Supporting Women and Girls

Welthy’s vision was always focused on women and girls. She understood that educating women could lift families, and by extension, entire communities out of poverty. We have remained true to this vision, making women and girls a priority in our work.

In 1974 World Education partners with the Ethiopian Women’s Association on a program focused on women and girls, combining literacy with important life skills. Ten thousand people learned about health, nutrition, agriculture, family planning, reducing infant mortality rates, and increasing financial security while learning to read.
Ethiopian women taking part in family planning referral services in 1975.
Mleni Women’s Group in 1985, Mali. In 1992, World Education’s partners in Mali asked us to help create organized parent associations responsible for ensuring all children, specifically girls, go to school.
Women in St. Kitts participating in income generating activities at the Women's Training Center.
The education of women was also a priority for Literacy House, as Welthy began her career teaching at a girls’ school in China. Throughout her life she ardently promoted educating women and girls.
Girls in Cambodia, 1996. We continue to prioritize girls around the world in projects that focus on putting kids back in school.

Nonformal Education

World Education has always approached its work with the aim of “meeting learners where they are” and providing education that is practical and can transform daily lives and livelihoods. This often means delivering education in informal settings, such as shared neighborhood spaces, and covering topics such as small enterprise management, health, and agriculture.

In 1989, World Education worked with communities in Eswatini (then Swaziland) to develop and deliver training on small enterprise and agriculture management.
Team meeting in Swaziland in 1989.
Ray Witin and Elvina Matua, founder and director of Tototo Home Industries in Kenya. Starting in 1989, Elvina led one of the most successful income-generation programs for women in partnership with World Education. The project engaged thousands of women in small business development.
Kenyan women engaged in income-generation training programs.
Teacher in a job skills class in Nikom, Thailand, 1990.
Literacy House targeted primarily agricultural communities, like this one in Bangladesh. Agriculture and small enterprise management remains part of our approach.

Local Partnerships

World Education has always partnered with local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and schools, developing trusting relationships to ensure the success and sustainability of our programs.

Welthy and Indira Gandhi. Welthy and her husband met frequently with Indian leaders to talk about how to eliminate poverty.
Former President of Tanzania Mwalimu Julis K. Nyerere visits a World Education project on May 11, 1976.
World Education Vice President Chij Shrethsa, U.S. Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch, and a Nepal government representative at a celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Nepal, where World Education began working in 1979.
World Education representatives at the African-American Conference on Nonformal Education in Lagos, Nigeria.
World Education VP Gill Garb worked with Elvina Mutua and Christobel Motsa to implement a women’s economic empowerment program in Eswatini with support from Tototo Home Industries in Kenya.
Counseling training-of-trainers workshop in Madagascar, October 1992.

Your donation today will help us keep changing lives for another 70 years!

*As a team, we acknowledge the colonial and imperial context that gave rise to the missionary movement, and in which Welthy Fisher began her project. The racist structures and organizations created during this era marginalized colonial subjects. For 70 years we have worked to change this power dynamic through local partnerships, which are the foundation of our projects around the world.

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