I arrived at the National Library of Laos around noon. It was lunch time and the library was closed. I asked a worker there when it will be open again and she told me in an hour or so. I called Aunt Kian and asked her to pick me up. I ate lunch at her house and tried on some clothes that she was making for me. Then I headed back to do what I was supposed to do, have LP book boxes make and ready for delivery to 4 lucky schools in Laos.
The library is not in a good shape but there is no budget for maintenance. Half of the Book Mobile vans are broken and with no money to fix them. The National Library of Laos depends on donors to keep their literary projects going. Program such as Book Box Library or Book Mobile Reading program are very important to kids in Laos. Without such programs, they would have have access to reading materials.
I was very happy to be back at the Children’s Library. I still have vivid memories of being there as a kid. I loved to read as a kid. My mother ordered Lao Newspaper for me to be delivered to our home so I can read. When I have a free time I would bike to Mahosot Hospital to meet my mother using my aunt’s bike. I could even reach the pedals when sitting on the bike. But I was determined to read so I would bike in a standing position with the seat hitting my back. It was painful at times and I would switch by walking all the way to the hospital to meet my mother. She would take me to the hospital cafeteria and would buy fer for me. Then she would drop me off near Nam Phu Fountain. I would then walk through the fountain ground to the Children’s Library. Sometimes I had to sit outside and wait until the library is open after lunch. Sometimes I would have enough money to buy their monthly publication of stories. I had no dolls or toys and I didn’t care for not having them. I just wanted books to read.
If you want to know why I am involved with the National Library of Laos Reading Promotion Program, most importantly the Book Box Library, the answer is simple. I want those kids in Laos to have more opportunities than I have had as an elementary student. Having access to reading materials is important. It is the basic step toward higher education. If they can read and write, then they will have more options later on.
My deceased Grandmother didn’t get to go to school when she was young, unlike her older brother who became a Maha at a Buddhist temple. He later won a scholarship and attended Harvard University. He has a completely different life than that of his sister. He loved to read and can speak several languages. He was the one that told me I can be anything I want, even though that I am a girl. I was fascinated with all the books at his house and whenever I was there, I spent hours looking at books in various languages.
While my Grandmother didn’t get a chance to attend school she made sure all her children get to go to school. Her determination paid off and my mother and all her siblings all graduated from the National University of Laos and some from Vietnam. For them, there was no library at the school. There was no extra resources and just one text book from the teacher.
Nothing has changed much from my mother’s time and many children in Laos still have no access to reading materials. But there is hope. The Book Box Fund program will give a school a library of their own. The last four book boxes we donated went to schools in the rural area of northern Laos. This time I was told by the Director of the National Library of Laos that I can choose which schools I want the book boxes to be sent to.
I chose four schools that are related to my relatives. They have no books there and if I can choose, then why not help someone close to you as well as strangers? I have asked the donors if they have a problem with this and none of them made an objection. This is also good for accountability and to check the status of the book boxes later on.
The four LP Book Boxes will be delivered to the following schools:
– Phonsikhay Elementary, Pakse, Champassak;
– Dannavieng Elementary, Phone Thong, Champassak;
– Nongdong Elementary, Phone Thong, Champassak;
– Akat Elementary, Sikhotabong, Vientiane.