Here at ISF, we believe that every child has the right to education, healthcare and sport. We believe that quality education and a stable, loving home life mutually support each other and that one struggles to survive without the other. Therefore, we work closely with community and village leaders to make sure our education centres do not exist in a vacuum, but serve to lift up the wider community. Our goal is to create a good foundation for the children in our programme and opportunities for their families to develop their skills to change their own lives. To help achieve this we run a number of community development projects. Once such project is our community and mobile libraries.
We have seen first-hand how excited the students at ISF are about learning to read and finishing their first books. Unfortunately, the majority of their peers and families are denied this chance. To enable them to experience the joy of reading and learning, ISF initiated a project to set up libraries in the communities where we work. Our aim to establish community libraries goes further than merely the provision of books and learning; we want to foster an appreciation of education and a habit of reading among our students, their families, and wider community. In addition, the libraries provide children with an alternate safe place, a space for enhancing their learning and to meet their friends. The project programme allows us to further develop our relationship with the communities we work with beyond the family members of ISF students.
Our first community library was launched in Chbar Ampov in November 2014, soon followed by four more libraries in Stung Meanchey in January 2015. After feedback from our librarians and community leaders, we realised the need to expand our static community libraries with ‘mobile libraries’, which could venture out into difficult-to-reach areas in the community. Through these mobile libraries, our librarians bring a selection of books into the community on their bicycle or motor-bike. The first of these mobile libraries was launched in January 2015 in Chbar Ampov and we started running mobile libraries in Stung Meanchey between April and September 2015.
Today our libraries are well-used resource for the communities we work in. Take the libraries in Chbar Ampov for example. In the last six months alone, 2,110 visits have been made to our community and mobile libraries here. Of these, 1,210 people read books in the ISF’s libraries or borrowed them to read at home. Most library users are female and under 18 years of age. Our most popular books are story books, folktales and magazines, which contain many pictures, making them appealing to children and adults with limited reading abilities.
We hope to continue adding new books to our libraries year on year and continuing to foster a passion for learning and reading.