Bring Books to Cambodian Kids

Bethany here: I am fundraising for one of my old students in Cambodia, one of the most remarkable young women I've ever met. I will raise as much as I can for her project, and then transfer the money into her Cambodian bank account. 

Voleak Phan, my former student, has written a book and goes to different schools and villages around her province reading a book she's written. It's incredibly inspiring to these children seeing a young woman author, and as part of her project, she gives books to the children she reads to and to their school libraries. She is fundraising to visit as many areas as she can and give away as many books as possible. The money raised will also go towards for the drawing materials and play props, as well as the supplies for teachers when they have their reading session later on.

We believe that reading books is the light in the dark tunnel of the life of impoverished citizens. Yet, in Cambodia, reading has never been a habit among children and adults compared to other western nations. The reason is due to historical contexts, mainly from the Khmer Rouge era. During that time period of political unrest, many intellectuals were killed, books were destroyed and never published, and schools were shut down. Children were exposed to manipulative teachings as part of their propaganda. The elderly who survived that regime came out not understanding the importance of reading, so their thinking influenced their children’s habits, which leaves Cambodia without a strong reading culture. Even after the end of the regime up until now, reading books is still not common. The lack of books also contributes to the unfamiliarity in the habit of reading.

In one survey carried out by Room to Read, “only 10 percent of primary school students read every day” (Cambodia Book Fair 2015). Even if this survey was conducted in only four provinces in Cambodia and may not be representative of the whole country, it still indicates that reading is not encouraged and emphasized enough. That is why organizations organized book fairs and events to encourage reading. Even the Prime Minister of Cambodia made an effort to address the issue when he signed a decree to make March 11th a date to celebrate reading (Government to encourage reading).

The story I am going to read to the children is based on the theme: “Girls can do anything.” It depicts a scenario in which a weed and a flower are in conflict because of the lack of water resources. The Weed is a lazy character who pollutes his own water source and then tries to steal the Flower’s water. The weather becomes warm until the Flower’s water dries out and both the Weed and the Flower feel weak. Wunnie, who is the girl passing by, sees the conflict and tries to find a solution to help the two. This story teaches children to not be lazy and pollute the environment. It also reinforces the idea of helping others in need and forming good relationships with each other. In addition, it shows how to problem-solve. I believe children can really benefit from learning about this story because it gives good life lessons that will help them be better people.


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Bethany Shondark Mandel 
Highland Park, NJ
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