The difference a tuk tuk (three-wheeled small truck), a set of books and one determined woman can make to the lives of children and the creation of a reading culture in her country. Meet Ms. Ngim, mother of two, and librarian with Aide et Action’s mobile library initiative in Cambodia.
Despite a fledgling local publishing industry, age-appropriate and engaging reading materials for children (and adults alike) are still hard to come by in Cambodia outside the capital Phnom Penh and provincial capitals. And with the public education system still underdeveloped and definitely under-resourced, most schools offer little in terms of reading material beyond the basic textbooks and maybe a handful of outdated and dog-eared books. This leaves many places, especially in poor rural areas, without any books, so kids living there, even if they attend school and learn to read, have little opportunity to practice this skill and enjoy the benefits of reading.
Aide et Action’s Mobile Libraries
To promote a culture of reading, and to bring books to poor and remote areas where there is a lack of reading material, in particular for children, Aide et Action Cambodia operates a fleet of mobile libraries that crisscross the countryside to bring the joys and benefits of reading to children who would otherwise miss out completely. These mobile libraries are run by dedicated community volunteers. We caught up with Ms. Ngim, one of our female librarians who travels the invariably dusty, muddy and potholed countryside roads, to bring books to those who do not have any.
Becoming a Librarian
“I am Ngim DOUK. I am 39 years old and I have 2 daughters. I have been a librarian with Aide et Action’s mobile library service for one year now. Before that, I used to be a volunteer for our Community Health Center. I helped out quite a bit with nutrition because I know a lot about that. Then I was approached by Ms. SOK, who is our Community Leader for Women, to ask me if I would be interested in becoming the librarian for the Reading Corner at our Community Center. But it turned out that the requirement for that role was that you had to have finished High School, and unfortunately I only completed Lower Secondary School.
Then, at a certain point, the former librarian of the mobile library resigned. She found the role too exhausting. It involves a lot of traveling in very hot weather and on bad roads. Then the leaders of our Community Center considered me again for this role because they knew I was interested and motivated. So I got the job!
I travel with my mobile library through Saa Ang district, visiting various villages and schools, 5 days per week, from Monday to Friday. I work from 7 to 11am, and again from 1 to 4pm. I also still help out now and then at the Health Center, mainly with preparing food for the children.”
It’s all about Education
“I wanted to be a mobile librarian with Aide et Action because I very much understand the importance of education for our children. Educating our children is the most important way to help our society progress.
The most rewarding aspect of the role is that I can get books to children who otherwise would have nothing to read, nothing to practice their reading skills, nothing to gain more knowledge. On a personal level, it is great too, because I can expand my knowledge about many things through the books, and can also teach my own children how to read. And I also advocate now with other parents who are living near me to come read books at the Community Center and encourage their children to read books. I hope that the Mobile Library initiative can be extended further to other places in Cambodia so even more people can enjoy the benefits of reading.”