Filling the Shelves of Knar Community Library 
~ Cambodia

 Knar Community library is located in Knar Village, 40 km/25 miles north of Siem Reap, in an area where most of the families are engaged in farming. Like all of Ponheary Ly Foundations other project locations, the community is disenfranchised from education due to their poverty level. PLF has been running a project serving primary school students in the area since 2007, while also offering high school students computer and English classes for many years. After the resounding success of the High School Library at Srayang, PLF wanted to expand on the concept and deploy a library at their Learning Center at Knar Village that would be the first library serving not only high school students, but the entire community.

Although the initial vision for Knar Community library was to construct a library that served the entire community, the library ended up being completely different from anything PLF had done previously. While it still serves older students, the library has drawn in a totally unexpected group hungry for books and literacy. By listening closely to this "new market" (composed of mostly young mothers and grandmas: literate but not well educated) the library space has been transformed into something completely unexpected and truly wonderful!!

These young mothers have their small children with them all day long in the fields and at home. Now, most mornings just after breakfast, a fairly large contingency of women come to the library before heading to the fields with their young children in tow. In response, and with funding from WaterBridge Outreach, there are now toys and board books for young children as well as the books for high school students and adults in the community. The mothers are also learning from the Librarian how to read to their youngest children. They engage in literacy building activities with their kids, and experience the newfound joy of reading to them. In response to that PLF is now bringing in more books that are appropriate for pre-readers with the help of WaterBridge Outreach, allowing the mothers to check them out to read to their children at home. It has become an amazing and unexpected twist on what PLF was envisioning.

In Knar Village, parents have always been quite engaged and involved in the education of not only their children, but also of themselves. They regularly come to parent workshops and to community meetings and help to fund small facility projects at the center. Though they typically have very little education themselves, they demonstrate a much higher participation in the education of their children than at most other PLF locations. Because of their relative proximity to the City, parents know if their children are educated, they can find better jobs that pay more than doing field work. Over the years, several of the parents at Knar Village have been taught to read by their children, a phenomenon that PLF has seen here and there but not in such high numbers as at Knar. In the past three months, mothers have checked out over 1,500 books at the Knar Community Library which has exceeded all expectations!

The Ponheary Ly Foundation promotes access to public educational opportunities and the health and well-being of children and youth in Cambodia. Guided by a UN human rights based approach, their work stems from the basic premise that access to schooling is fundamental to rebuilding the country’s civil society after the genocide of the 1970s. WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water is once again delighted to partner with them on another much needed literacy project that serves all members of the community. 

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