Chenda runs an ISF Community Library in her neighbourhood

Chenda Provides a Learning Space to her Community

Chenda has a morning ritual. She begins every day assiduously cleaning the books, shelves and reading spaces that make up the community library she also calls home. Chenda moved to Phnom Penh with her husband from Takeo Province 20 years ago in search of a better life. Though they found living in the city more challenging than they’d imagined. She and her husband had to do whatever job they could to keep up with housing payments and buy food. These days, loving children as she does, she considers her job as a community librarian with ISF a perfect match.

Before becoming employed by ISF, Chenda had a long history with our projects. Her son, Panha, is  a recent state school graduate and is now attending university with ISF Support (read more about him here: Panha is on the Road to Success). But her son’s future didn’t always look so bright. Dealing with unstable incomes, Chenda and her husband couldn’t afford to send him to school anymore and he had to drop out. Fortunately, one of ISF’s social workers met and was impressed by Panha’s passion for learning and had him enrolled in our Catch-Up Programme. He started with ISF in 2012 at grade 5. Thinking back on that time, Chenda smiles, “Being able to send my son back to school with ISF felt like a miracle to me! Panha is a gentle and understanding child. He never demanded anything that is more than what I could afford. He’s always been sensitive and aware of his family’s situation.”

Children reading at the Community Library

Opening Her Community Library

Chenda heard about the Community Library Project from the head of our Employment Programme. At the time he was a social worker in Chenda’s community and approached her to take over for a former librarian who was moving on. After some preliminary checks, a section her home was converted into a learning resource centre with support from ISF, who also provides her a rental stiped. Besides keeping the space orderly, she also records number of children who visit, books borrowed, and their IDs. To help Chenda manage library better, ISF has also provided her with training on how to classifying books, make book covers, and more. She’s often joined by her son after school. He helps her manage the library once he’s completed his homework.

Rotana receives ISF Support in university

“What motivates me to continue working hard is the kids. I enjoy talking to them and reading to them when they can’t do so themselves.”

When asked what her most favorite part of the job is, Chenda responds cheerfully, “What motivates me to continue working hard is the kids. I love working with them, and they also like me a lot. I enjoy talking to them and reading to them when they can’t do so themselves.” Since her workplace is in such close proximity to her living area, Chenda doesn’t have a lot of time off, even on weekends. Despite that, she never turns a child away who is hungry to learn. She lets them in to read whenever they come, only asking them to leave when she has urgent business that can’t be ignored.

As an ISF librarian and proud mother to a successful university student, Chenda feels grateful for ISF’s long-term support. “Before ISF, I worried a lot about my son’s future,” she confides. “Seeing him continue on to university feels like a dream come true. Some school days I didn’t even have enough money to buy him snacks. Now that I don’t have to worry about Panha’s tuition, I can save up for a house and purchase good food for my children.”