NGO and Tour Agency Mobilize Mobile Library to Floating Villages in Kampong Thom

Parents, teachers, and students joined the project launch on June 9. Photo: Soy Rathanakvisal

KAMPONG THOM — A boat-library has reached five floating villages along the Stung Sen River Basin in Kampong Thom province to promote education and reading among students, especially at primary and middle schools. 



It is the second time that a floating and mobile library is being mobilized on the waters of the Tonle Sap Lake, in a joint initiative led by the NGO and publishing house Sipar and the tour agency All Dreams Cambodia. Their goal is to give books and teach eco-friendly lifestyles to the people living around the floating village of Phat Sanday, located in Kampong Svay district.



The library is on the run every week and goes to one village every day. These include Phat Sanday village, Koh Tapov village, Tuol Neang Sav village, Neang Sav village, and Kampong Chamlong village. 



All the books are donated under the “Education and reading promotion to the communities living in floating villages on Sen River through the services of a boat library” project. 



The floating library. Photo_ Soy Rathanakvisal



The initiative is also a good opportunity for the NGO members to provide reading lessons and non-formal education adapted to the needs of the communities. They also take time to give easy tips on how to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle to children and students. They mostly focus on how to use refillable bottles and manage their trash.



Hok Sothik, director of Sipar and also president of the Cambodian Librarians Association, said on June 9 that Sipar has installed many mobile libraries across the country. These include cars, motorbikes, tuk-tuk, and now boats.



The first boat library first sailed in 2019-2020 across Kampong Chhnang province. But after visiting the neighboring province of Kampong Thom, “I acknowledged the lack of accessibility to books and education among the population living in the floating villages,” Sothik said, hence setting up another boat-library there.



“People living in urban areas have more access to education and social opportunities than those in rural areas. Therefore, we want to close this education gap,” he added.



“Sipar initiated the project to make a boat library to deliver books, mostly to students in primary schools to middle schools.” 



The NGO director stressed that the project not only delivers books to children but also gives tips to school teachers and parents about sanitation, the protection of their nearby environment, and how to deal with common social issues, as the population's knowledge of these issues remains limited. 



“Most schools do not have a library for students to read books or to participate in activities. Therefore, we’re placing a library here, so that the people who want to read can access literature,” Sothik said.



Over 3,000 books



For one project, Sipar usually prepares around 3,000 books – 700 to 800 titles – that are divided into several sections to be installed in the library. The committee will then replace the books that have been read with new ones.



Chhoeung Navy, one of the two local librarians, said the project had inspired the children to read more, as there was previously a lack of books and study materials. 



“Since the library received the books, more and more children have come to read. There were not many readers at first because they did not know what we were doing,” said Navy, who is also the driver of the boat library. 



“However, more children kept coming after they heard from their peers about the library, including the reading sessions and educational games,” she added. 



Navy, who loves both children and books, said that some students do not drive boats, but their parents decide to take them to the library for the reading sessions. 



Jacques Guichandut, managing director of All Dreams Cambodia, said Cambodia’s tourism potential goes beyond Angkor Wat, adding that his agency often takes tourists to off-the-beaten-track sites such as the floating villages in Kampong Thom province.



 Jacques Guichandut, managing director of All Dreams Cambodia, gave refill bottles to students. Photo_ Soy Rathanakvisal



But when he first visited these villages, he found them littered with plastic. As he didn’t want his clients to have a bad impression of the place, he decided to come up with refillable bottles and deliver educational sessions on environment-related topics for the locals. 



“Through this project, we hope the people living in floating villages will learn more about the environment and how to reduce the use of plastics. For example, they can change from plastic bottles of water to refill bottles,” Guichandut said. 



“The key point of education is to read. Therefore, it's really important to support this kind of project. However, access to books in the village is limited. So, it's important that the project reaches out to them instead,” he added. 



Phat Sanday Commune Chief Heng Sok said the project has contributed significantly to promoting reading among the local people. This also reduces the illiteracy among the population in these five floating villages. 



The project has reached more than 1,224 families in the three villages of the commune, 40 percent of whom being under 18 years old. A total of 900 children and 500 adults will have benefited from reading, education, and awareness services during the project, according to Sipar’s report. 



As many as 200 children take part in boat library activities per week, while around 50 adults borrow books every week. Also, around 50 to 100 adults attend tri-annual sessions on social issues, the report says. 



 Boat Libraries. Photo_ Soy Rathanakvisal



Every week, the local committee will lead a weekly reading and educational sessions. The session lasts about 90 minutes for storytelling and individual reading sessions.



There are also educational games and artistic activities such as puzzles, bingo, free drawing, themed drawing, or coloring.  

 



Phat Dane contributed to the story. 


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