Interview with Batchimeg Purevjav

Batchimeg is new Community Hero in Sainshand, Mongolia
Batchimeg is new Community Hero in Sainshand, Mongolia
Batchimeg is our Community Hero in Sainshand, Mongolia. Her learning center opened as 12th Mongolian learning center in May 2017. In this interview, we introduce her.

Batchimeg, who are you?
My name is Batchimeg Purevjav. I am community hero of Sainshand Learning Center.I live in sainshand Dornogbi, Mongolia with my husband and 2 sons. I have ten years of teaching experience, f.e. for Dundgovi Medical University.

Why did you decide to apply at BOOKBRIDGE as Community Hero?
There is no language center in my town. Before the learning center existed, anyone who wanted to improve their language abilities had to go to Ulaanbaatar to study. This is very expensive and needs a lot of time, also people then have to leave their families. So I wanted to help community and at the same time become an entrepreneur.

Which offering (courses, activities) do you plan for your learning center?
For the first few months, I have planed to offer English courses for kids, teens and adults. Following activities will be offered such as book club, speaking club, movie night and yoga club. In the future, I want to offer additional courses like Mongolian for foreigners, courses in English, English for specific purposes (medicine, business), and academic-purposed English courses (exam preparation and TOEIC etc.).

What was your most difficult challenge until now?
The beginning was challenging because it was all very new. I had no experience how to do business. So writing a business plan and defining customer needs were difficult.

What will be the most important task in your first week as Community Hero?
I think defining customer needs is the most important.

GMP+4 Team opens up Batchimeg‘s learning center in Sainshand

Off to Sainshand: the GMP+4 Team at Ulaanbaatar Train Station

We are very proud to announce the opening of Batchimeg‘s Learning Center in Sainshand, Mongolia. Since the investor pitch in March, the GMP+4 Team worked hard on the implementation of their business plan. We keep fingers crossed for the first days of operation and the long-term success of the learning center.

Only 7 weeks ago, the GMP+4 Team successfully pitched the business plan for their social enterprise to Bolor and Pierre Lorinet from Oyun Foundation. The team worked hard to fulfill the conditions by their investors and prepare the opening of their learning center.

Stefan, GMP+4 Team Member discovers the library. The books had been collected by our book champions in Erlangen and London.

Last Saturday, the GMP+4 Team touched grounds in Ulaanbaatar. By Transsiberian railways, they set out onto their journey to Sainshand, approximately 450km east of Mongolia‘s capital. The team made use of the train journey for team building exercises as well as a discussion around tasks immediately to be done upon arrival. After 4 months of intensive teamwork across cultures and time zones, Team North and Team South of our 4th WHU General Management Plus Program finally met each other. The Mongolian Team members around Community Hero Batchimeg had invested a lot of time and effort in preparing the learning center infrastructure for the opening. The objective was to leave as much time possible for the critical phase after the opening. How many students would come? How would the community members of Sainshand perceive the new offering?

Invitation flyer for the community members in Sainshand

On Wednesday, May 24, 12 PM Mongolian Time, the learning center opens its doors to the community of Sainshand. The team distributed invitations to all community members, inviting them to discover an “exciting place for learnings of all ages to develop and improve English language skills. Furthermore it is a place for the whole family to have fun, meet and develop your personal skills.”

We are proud that the team acts as fully self-responsible entrepreneurs on the ground. They have been prepared by their leadership coach Heike Rudolf von Rohr for their journey. On-site, Heike supports the team in regular virtual coaching sessions on their learning journey as entrepreneurs.

We keep fingers crossed for the first days after the opening. Beginning July, the team will convene again in Sainshand and at WHU in Düsseldorf to assess the impact they have created and transfer their personal and professional learnings out of the program into their daily lives.


Marking the end of the beginning for GSE2

GSE2 Team North jumping full of joy with their certificates

Following the successful opening of the Kekirawa Learning Center (KLC) in Sri Lanka, the GSE2 Teams came together in Basel and Kekirawa to assess their impact and reflect upon their personal and professional learnings. Module 5 of our 2nd CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship in collaboration with the CEPS of the University of Basel marked the end of the beginning of their learning journey as social entrepreneurs.

In October 2016, a team of 22 candidates from 11 nations created a joint vision for a learning center in Kekirawa, Sri Lanka. Over the course of six months, they worked together as social entrepreneurs, living through ups and downs of intercultural teamwork, pitching a compelling story to their investor Bea Bättig from HILTI Foundation to implementing their business plan on-site. In May 2017, the team came together again to debrief their investor, assess the impact they have created and reflect upon their personal and professional learnings as an entrepreneur in the field.

Impressive investor debrief via Zoom

The investor debrief went very well. Community Hero Sampath had prepared a thorough progress report which showed major achievements towards the goals set, but also reflected on the drawbacks and failures. For example, most of the Sri Lankan Team Members vanished by the end of the program as they could not see the benefit for them to participate.

The team has already created major impact, although the learning center was only 60 days in existence. 40 students are currently enrolled in 5 different courses. The learning center reported a sustainability rate of 32% as of April 2017. A little bit more than 50% of the EUR 20,000 investment has been used up so far. On an impact level, Sampath has managed to place 5 local jobseekers in a local hotel. And he has much more plans ahead of him. One is to increase the number of students to 60 students by end of May.

All candidates and the BOOKBRIDGE Team took away important and significant learnings from this program. Each candidate recorded a short Pecha Kucha presentation which you may access by clicking on the video below.

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Markus is proud to receive his CAS certificate

Last but not least, we are proud to close our second program in collaboration with the CEPS from the University of Basel with big success. All candidates received an official Certificate of Advances Studies (CAS) with 15 ECTS. For Markus, this was the first time ever he got awarded ECTS credits. And he was really proud to receive his certificate. From all candidates, we have received valuable feedback which we will take into account for the future design of our course.

The learning journey of our candidates would not have been possible without the outstanding support of

  • Georg, Robert and Maria-Clotilde as our partners from the CEPS
  • Emilie Barrallon asTeam North‘s business coach
  • Eranda Ginige from Social Enterprise Lanka as Team South‘s business coach
  • Heike Rudolf von Rohr as leadership coach
  • Bea Bättig from HILTI FOUNDATION as impact investor
  • Monika and Sujitha from BOOKBRIDGE Sri Lanka as our partner organization
  • Carsten as the team‘s program manager
  • all candidates and Stiftung Liebenau as an organization for putting their trust, time and money in this unique learning experience!

Let’s keep on building bridges to Kekirawa!


From donations to a sustainable social enterprise

CAP9 Team North at Leuenberg, Hölstein, Switzerland

Following a 6-month learning journey as social entrepreneurs in Chreav, Cambodia, 23 members of our CAP9 Team met for their last module in Basel and Chreav. With an investment by Swiss Re Foundation, they have successfully paved the way for a formerly donation-based NGO to become a financially self-sustained social enterprise, improving the job and life chances of an entire community. On this remarkable learning journey, they experienced the power of a joint vision and a diverse team.

In early February, the team successfully pitched their business model to their investors Angela Marti and Gerhard Lohmann from Swiss Re. Six weeks later, they found themselves at the location of their vision: Chreav, Cambodia. Within 8 days, the team opened up the learning center and ensured that the team under the leadership of our Community Hero Ravy could start their work.

Following the opening, the team kept all fingers crossed that many of the existing students of Ravy would sign up for the courses of the newly created social enterprise. Challenges and risks involved were quite big as Ravy‘s NGO had been offering courses and activities for free for the last 15 years. Would the CAP Team be able to change people‘s mindset and offer quality education by locals for locals?

Syncing Team North and Team South via Zoom

Yes, the team successfully mastered the challenge to turn a donation-based NGO into a social enterprise. As of May 1, 2017, 188 students have signed up for the different course offerings of the learning center. Angela Marti was very pleased to hear about the developments in Chreav and congratulated the team on its success. It is now in the hands of Ravy to continue the successful kick-off of his life as a social enterpreneur.

But Ravy is not alone. The CAP9 Team – according to their own view “the best CAP Team ever” 😉 – will continue to support Ravy and his team. As a first step, CAP9 Alumni Bo and Grazyna will travel to Chreav mid May to install much-needed IT materials. Due to the sudden death of Cambodia‘s Vice Prime Minister Sok An, our container could not get out of customs on time. Hence, Bo and Grazyna decided to return to finish their mission in the name of the entire team.

Jorge and Boris hand over certificates to the candidates, marking the end of the beginning.

On their learning journey as entrepreneurs in unknown waters, our 23 candidates have developed both personally and professionally. As part of module 5, each team member recorded a short Pecha Kucha presentation on their key learnings. They range from very practical business skills like the Business Model Canvas and virtual conference tools like Zoom to insights on how to lead a diverse team with strong characters towards a joint vision. We are proud of their achievements and we keep fingers crossed for the impact each one of our bridgebuilders creates in his or her respective environment.

Watch the key learnings of each candidate in a Pecha Kucha

The learning journey of our candidates would not have been possible without the outstanding support of

  • Jorge Cendales and Chanthorn as passionate business coaches
  • Boris Billing as the team‘s leadership coach
  • our champions at HILTI, Swisscom and Swiss Re
  • Angela and Gerhard from Swiss Re as impact investors
  • Sokhan and Sanha from BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia as partner organization
  • Jella as the team‘s program manager

Let’s keep on building bridges to Chreav!

From Mongolia to Europe: Buyankhishig’s visit

Buyanaa visited Europe for the first time
Buyanaa visited Europe for the first time
Buyankhishig “Buyanaa” Zunorov, our new Community Hero in Khovd, Mongolia, visited our offices and projects in Europe. In this interview she shares her experiences.

Buyanaa, you decided to do the long travel to Europe. Why?
It would have been my first time in Europe and I was given a chance to come here by BOOKBRIDGE and the Franconian International School (FIS). My goal was to meet the candidates of my Capability Program who will support me to set up my learning center in Khovd and to do an internship at the FIS.

What did you do during your stay?
During our stay, I and Cambodian Community Hero Kimsorn stayed Carstens’ first three days in Basel. We visited the BOOKBRIDGE office. Then we met the project teams of Capability Program 10 and participated in the module 1 training on April 27-29 in Leuenberg. After module 1, I had the most wonderful day in my life in Luzern: for the first time, I was on a ship, for the first time I was on the high peak of a mountain. I felt like I was dreaming. Thank you everyone who I met in Europe and special thanks to Carsten and Elaine and their families!

Buyanaa with students at Franconian International School
Buyanaa with students at Franconian International School
On May 1, we travelled to Erlangen to start our internship at FIS. We had so beneficial and amazing days there, meeting and teaching children from many different countries and gaining much experience from potential teachers, seeing their great works and visiting wonderfully organized libraries.

What did you learn?
During my stay in Switzerland and the module 1 session, I learnt about how BOOKBRIDGE started, how to build teams, how to write a business plan, social entrepreneurship, leadership, different cultures, and setting up my learning center’s vision. At FIS I got many useful ideas for student-centered teaching, learning environment, working with kids and library activities for ESL. I also observed an high school geography class. Additionally, I learnt a lot from my host families: how to behave and bring up children, how to serve guests, how to manage everyday life and time.

What would you advise the next community hero who comes?
Prepare much information about your country and your community in detailed topics. Also, you should be ready for any questions students might ask about your country, community and family so you should be able to provide them with correct and interesting information.

Cambodian Community Hero visits Europe

Kimsorn with Inés (Co-founder of BOOKBRIDGE foundation), Carsten and Buyanaa (from right to left)
Kimsorn with Inés (Co-founder of BOOKBRIDGE foundation), Carsten and Buyanaa (from right to left)
Kimsorn Ngam is going to be our next Community Hero in Cambodia. Together with the participants of our 10th Capability Program, he is developing a business plan for his learning center in Siem Reap City. From April 23 to May 4 he travelled to Europe to meet the participants and the BOOKBRIDGE team.

My name is Kimsorn Ngam from Siem Reap, Cambodia. On April 23, I went to visit BOOKBRIDGE Europe. I participated in module 1 of the capability program in Switzerland and observed teaching teachniques at the Franconian International School (FIS) in Germany.

What did you do during your stay?
During my stay in Switzerland, I joined module one of the capability program with the European team (team north). I had the opportunity to tell the team north about my country, how people live there, and my family. In addition, I had the chance to share information about the competitor school where I wanted to start the learning center to give the team a better understanding about the opportunities and challenges there. During module one, the mission of the learning center has been established and I gained much more understanding of the process of business development. Now I feel more confident that my business will running smoothly as the business plan will be created by two teams, south and north.

Kimsorn tells about his country to FIS students
Kimsorn tells about his country to FIS students
In addition to the points above, I have learned that many Europeans want to do something positive but they do not know how, where and what. After I had told them about how, where and what, the team is more inspired to get involved in my learning center as they see that this is an opportunity for them to do what they really are.

While staying with Carsten’s family in Basel, Carsten took us to a mountain. I was excited as it was my the first time in my life to see and play in the snow. In addition, I have learned what great leadership is that Carsten has in his work and family responsibility. This inspired me to apply in my families as well as in my learning center with the people I will work with.

Kimsorn (second from left) with Elaine Smith (right) from Franconian International School
Kimsorn (second from left) with Elaine Smith (right) from Franconian International School
At the FIS, I have learned how to organize an enticing library for students and the community. As one of the librarians said: “Library is the heart of the school” which means it is not only a reading place, but also the classroom where students can have sessions with different subjects and also read for fun. At the same time, I was introduced to different classes for observing student-centered learning techniques. Now I gained much in teaching approaches of non-native English speakers and am able to build a network with international schools teachers for future improvements of my learning center.
I would like to thank the Franconian International School for inviting me and allowing me to meet with students, teachers and librarians, and BOOKBRIDGE for the support and program arrangement. I also would like to thank especially Elaine Smith and her family for hosting me, taking care, travelling to and from school, taking me to experience a German dinner. I of course enjoyed my trip and find this program is really helpful for my learning center and strongly appreciated.

For the first time in his life Kimsorn sees snow
For the first time in his life Kimsorn sees snow
What would you advise the next community hero who comes?
I would like to propose to BOOKBRIDGE foundation to keep this program for the next community heroes as I can see many opportunity for them to learn what is happening at BOOKBRIDGE in Europe. I recommend the community hero to prepare well for Europe since the weather is cooler than Cambodia. The food is also different and normally includes bread, meat and vegetables. You should be aware of getting a culture shock and becoming homesick and encountering different ways of thinking or doing things together with your host families and the CAP north team.

Celebrating Khmer New Year

Martina (center) with a Bunong guide (left)
Martina (center) with a Bunong guide (left)
Martina Fraternali is BOOKBRIDGE fellow at our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The end of April is quickly approaching and I am left with only 5 weeks of work. Not to give away with sadness I will write about the Khmer New Year holidays.

April in Cambodia is synonym for great celebration as the New Year is in the air, the biggest celebration ever here. Schools remain closed for 2 weeks – however students and teachers stop coming there way before it. The cities and villages slowly get decorated with lights, colorful stars hanging from buildings’ entrances, shops and streets. In the many shops big and small water guns begin to appear that will then be used throughout the days of celebration. The atmosphere is very festive and of expectancy. On top of all this, people move to their home towns where they will spent quality time with their families and friends; therefore some shops stay closed.

This year, the New Year came between the 14th and 16th of April. The Learning Center stayed open until the 11th and I decided that I did not want to spend the holidays in possibly the most crowded city in Cambodia! As a matter of fact, Siem Reap is the city where many Cambodians travel to in order to take part into the big festival called Angkor Sankranta, which is held in Angkor archeological park. Artists from all over Cambodia and eminent public figures participate in the festival and the city becomes a magnet. And given the rising temperatures of that period, I figured that Angkor Sankranta would not have been a smart idea.

Martina enjoys the lush rain forest of Mondulkiri
Martina enjoys the lush rain forest of Mondulkiri
I bought bus tickets to Mondulkiri, the far-east province of Cambodia that borders with Vietnam. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful, lush and weather-friendly. And in fact it did not disappoint! Mondulkiri is covered in forests and the richness and diversity of natural landscape it is uncomparable to any other place I have been in Cambodia so far. Additionally, it is one of the few enclaves of elephant communities in Cambodia and there are plenty of agencies that claim unforgettable experiences with elephants while protecting their well-being. However I chose not to go for it and to select a 2-day trek in the jungle with sleep over. My trek guide was a member of a minority group in Cambodia – although majoritarian in Mondulkiri -, called the Bunong, the forest people that until not long ago lived of subsistence with the products of the forest and of animal breeding. My guide was a very knowledgeable man about the forest and its animal and showed me plenty of hidden waterfall and interesting spots in the depths of the forest. When we finally stopped for camping, he cooked the most amazing and yummy soup I ever tasted in Cambodia: the bamboo soup cooked directly inside a real bamboo stick! After the many hours of walk and climb, that was exactly what I needed!

We slept in hammocks by a waterfall that lulled my sleep. The night was extremely cold in the forest to the point that I had to use two blankets to keep warm! Something that does not really happen in the plains like Siem Reap..It was a true blessing!

Waterfall in Mondulkiri
Waterfall in Mondulkiri
In the morning my guide woke up really early and went around the place collecting the trash that other Cambodians had left the day before during the New Year celebration. Plastic cups, styrofoam food containers, cans and much more lay scattered in the forest and I had the dreadful impression if he had not done it himself, nobody would have ever come to clean the mess. He then came to me and with a very disappointed face exclaimed ‘Cambodians no good’. Belonging to a minority group that lived for so many decades in harmony with the forest in his view defines him as very different from the others. At the end of the trek, we reached his village, on the top of a hill where humans and animals coexist in the streets peacefully: pigs, cows, dogs and chickens mingle together around the people’s houses.

Mondulkiri is an amazing place to relax and get away from the heat of April/May and its environment heritage has been kept relatively intact thanks to the effort of NGOs that operate in the territory and attract tourists pushing for environmental conservation. Definitely a place to see!

Double Kick-off to Khvod and Siem Reap

What a big team! CAP10 consists of two teams, one for Mongolia and one for Cambodia
What a big team! CAP10 consists of two teams, one for Mongolia and one for Cambodia
24 candidates made their ways from India, the US, Japan and from all over Europe to Basel, Switzerland to kick off the 10th Capability Program. You might wonder: So many people? Yes, so many! In CAP10 we will have twice as much as in former Capability Programs. That’s why CAP10 is special: It starts with two teams in parallel. Half of the team will set up a learning center in the community of Siem Reap City, Cambodia. The other team will establish a learning center in the community of Khvod, Mongolia.

When the 24 candidates came to Basel, no one of them knew to which team they would belong and to which country their learning journey would go. Not an easy decision, but the first of many decisions which was managed confidently by the team. Only 1,5 hour after the start of the program the teams were set. From this moment on, 12 people made the first steps towards a learning center in Siem Reap City and 12 participants for another one in Khovd.

Proud of her team: Buyanaa, future Community Hero in Khovd
Proud of her team: Buyanaa, future Community Hero in Khovd
By the way – Kim from Siem Reap and Buyanaa from Mongolia joined the module in person. They will be the future Heads of Learning Centers or Community Heroes in Khovd and Siem Ream City. This way, the two teams could immediately dive into the adventure and challenge of setting up a business with the social entrepreneur that will be in charge of the business plans they make in theory.

The days were packed with intense working sessions. On day 1, the teams learnt about BOOKBRIDGE, social business theory and their business challenge. The challenge is about creating a social business model for Kim’s and Buyanaa’s learning center. The goal is to serve the people in the communities of Siem Reap and Khovd. The teams start from different points: Buyanaa already operates a small learning center with one class and Kim is still searching for a final location for his center. On the second day, both teams worked on their vision for the learning centers and drafted a first Business Model Canvas. Day 3 was dedicated to the leadership topic. The participants reflected on their personal WHY of being in the program and drafted a personal vision.

The teams worked together on the business plans
The teams worked together on the business plans
For the upcoming weeks the teams will divide in subgroups that work together virtually only. They will prepare the investor pitch in July which – if convincing – will allow them to implement their plans in Mongolia and Cambodia in parallel in September 2017.

The teams will be accompanied by a Business Coach and a Leadership Coach. Nathalie Moral coaches Siem Reap team and Jorge Cendales Khovd team. Boris Billing is the Leadership Coach for team Khovd and Heike Rudolph von Rohr for Siem Reap.

We are very excited and still impressed by all the people who shared so much energy and motivation with us during these three days!

Do what you really are – Lkhamsuren Erdenedash’s story

Lkhamsuren during one of the TEDx sessions
Lkhamsuren during one of the TEDx sessions
BOOKBRIDGE’s mission is to support people to do what they really are. This is the story of Lkhamsuren Erdenedash and how she found out what she wanted to be.
By Lkhamsuren Erdenedash, English teacher at Mörön Learning Center

Do you agree that one is not too old to learn new things and earn good experiences?

Before being a part of BOOKBRIDGE, I had totally given up all the things in my life. I was already 36 years old, I hadn´t found the job I really enjoyed and also I didn´t earn money at least for myself. I was depressed and disappointed about the things related to my life and I kept asking myself “You are already up to 30ies but you do have nothing except your boy and husband. You have a great family that cares for you but it is not enough to be happy and satisfied about your life. Where is the thing that can give you the thing you want?” Yes, this is the biggest question, maybe you could call it “a problem” for me and I have been searching for the most suitable answer for the question.

I have graduated from the University of Science and Technology as an English translator but I have totally understood that the DIPLOMA is just a PAPER in last few years. Graduating from university does not mean that you are perfect. The thing that makes you PERFECT is the family you have chosen, the job you love and the friends who care about you – I understood. Making a lot of mistakes, thinking critically, searching new exists, meeting new barriers, making a lot of practice and meeting good people have made me to be a part of this wonderful BOOKBRIDGE in my opinion.

After doing many experiments, quitting or loosing jobs, I really understood that I should do something useful and helpful for others based on my knowledge and experience. It is being an English teacher.

Lkhamsuren with students
Lkhamsuren with students
My dream to be an English teacher fell when I found out that my profession does not meet the requirements, the documents to be a teacher are very complicated and also, I needed to be very rich or I needed to have high-positioned friends in the community. These things have really made me to give up my dream but luckily I have met a young lady, Daariimaa, who was looking for an English teacher for her learning center. I am always thankful for Daariimaa because she became the bridge between me and my dream.

Since then I have started to work as an English teacher at the BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Mörön and this is the second trip I have made with BOOKBRIDGE’s great support.

I have never been to any seminars and trainings before, so when we had the training at “Mandal resort”, I was very glad about myself, the training and the members of BOOKBRIDGE. I very appreciated the things you give me. I have learnt many things, shared many opinions and experiences with other teachers and staffs, understood many things to work and help others and the main character of BOOKBRIDGE, too. It was a great opportunity for me to fulfill my dream to be a teacher however I only have few students.

The second chance that I was given by BOOKBRIDGE was to work as a facilitator for learning center Arvaikheer’s TEDx writers’ workshop. I have never been to Arvaikheer and the most important and scary thing for myself was the question “Can I be the one who meets their expectation?”

Finally I arrived in Arvaikheer at the BOOKBRIDGE learning center with huge fear. Uuganaa picking me up from the bus station was my Arvaikheer life’s starting point. When I met Uuganaa and others, my fear totally disappeared! They were the people who helped me to control myself and look ahead full of energy.

We spent seven wonderful, valuable, useful and helpful days in Arvaikheer and there were seven people including Jenni-CEO, Uuganaa –Rock manager, Saikhnaa-Beautiful senior manager, Lhamaa-Facilitator, Ian-Facilitator, Phoebe-Facilitator, Perrin-Rock facilitator.

Preparing TEDx workshop
Preparing TEDx workshop
TEDx Workshop in Arvaikheer
On the first day, I ran to Jenni with millions of questions and she explained all things very clearly. The students who were in our team were waiting for us to start and Perrin did not know how to do the start. So it was my turn to start and break the ice and that’s why I ran to Jenni for help. After 30 minutes, Perrin and me got the class under our control and since that scary period, everything became very comfortable.

TEDx talk is a brand new thing for Mongolians and it became complicated for the students and facilitators, I am sure. So at first, we, the facilitators, should become familiar with the TEDx and that’s the thing I was afraid of.

On the first day, we helped and guided the students in how to find their brand new idea. Jenni had introduced about TED talk and also gave tips on how to be a good speaker. The first day’s facilitating translators were Uugnaa and Saikhnaa. The second and third days were mine and Saikhnaa’s. Those were almost my first translation in front of 38 people.

The students chose big topics including life-related proverbs, metaphors etc. They were not familiar with simple ones, f.e. their past etc. In Mongolia we are accustomed to using big topics, very big things to express our idea in a formal presentation. So TEDx is 100% different from Mongolian-type presentations. It is a way to express an idea in a very simple and easy way to others in comfortable ways, relating to your past life. It is the most interesting, comfortable and open-minded way in my opinion.

So we had guided the students to find their ideas based on their past life, facts, habit or experience and made them specify the ideas with strong examples. The students got our ideas and they worked very hard and beneficial.

On the next day, we gave tips on how to write down our ideas. The most important tip was how to make a conclusion, how to give the messages to others, how your idea might affect lives if it’s implemented. During team breakouts, our team had played and did exercises to get energy.

Proud of her students and herself: Lkhamsuren
Proud of her students and herself: Lkhamsuren (third from right, lower row)
On the very last day, all facilitators were judges. We had divided into two groups because the talks were bilingual. Before judging, Perrin and I had checked our student’s speeches, their conclusions and their public speaking language etc and gave them advice. It was very nice to see that they had prepared perfectly for the talk show and always asked for feedback from other teammates and us. They were not nervous, stressful or afraid because we had prepared and guided them to be like that with simple examples, related with their past life or experience and therefore, they were ready to express their own ideas-not unknown huge things. That is the main focus of this event in my opinion.

In the afternoon of the 3rd day, we had judged and admired all of the students over there. We had presented them participation certificates and chose 6 students to attend into TEDx talk show in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian Turkish School.

Five of the six winners were my teammates which shows that we were a great team, worked very hard and efficiently together. It made me proud of myself, too. By the way, I want to say that I am very proud of having you as my team students:
1. Renchinbyamba
2. Khaliunaa
3. Munkh-Ujin
4. Munkhchimeg
5. Munkhzul
6. Unurjavkhlan
7. Bolorchimeg
8. Khulan
9. Egiimaa
10. Bodikhuu

Taking a part in this workshop makes me understand:
1. The easiest way to express my idea;
2. The way to make the idea interesting;
3. The way to make the things systematic;
4. The way to make the idea realistic;
5. The way to make the idea arguable;
6. The way to use public speaking language completely;
7. How to organize the things with others;
8. How to cooperate with other teachers and students;
9. How to share your ideas with others;
10. How to help and guide others;
11. How to manage the class and be a good teacher ….etc.

TEDx participants
TEDx participants
There are so many things I have learnt from others and all the facilitators were very helpful, potential, open-minded, easy-going and hard-working in my opinion. My counterpart Perrin was very helpful, experienced, punctual and easy to work with; I appreciated her positive attitude and the hope to make others comfortable very highly. In one word, we are same and thus we had succeeded in due work.

Teaching English is very challenging for me because knowing grammars, words etc things are just knowledge in my head. But I wish I would pass my earned knowledge to the children who really want to learn English, being a little helping or guiding star. I have been improving my knowledge from day to day, teaching, working and helping children on my own and it is the THING I WANTED. I was born to share the knowledge and experience I have earned with others, to give them the opportunity to improve themselves, to help and guide them to find their true ways and to believe in themselves in my opinion.

Therefore, working as a member of BOOKBRIDGE is the EXACT chance and OPPORTUNITY! Since I have been teaching English, my teaching methods and skills are improving however it has been taking a lot of time. I always look for the things, methods and interesting ways to teach and it makes me more satisfied, more challenging, more curious and more hard-working.

Visiting to Arvaikheer learning center, I was so surprised, fascinated and thrilled by its students. They are brilliant at all: they speak fluently in English, they respect each others very well, they behave themselves in most suitable way, they get and follow their teacher’s words/orders well enough, they are very active and the most important thing was they really want to learn and share new things, ideas and experiences in my opinion. I was so astonished because I have never seen that kind of students before even in Universities. I have talked with them, shared my opinions, checked their notebooks and also, I have found their vocabulary notebooks as below:

Vocabulary notebooks of Arvaikheer students
Vocabulary notebooks of Arvaikheer students

They are the leaves from the huge tree named Uuganaa, BOOKBRIDGE Arvaikheer.

About Uuganaa
Now, I want to tell you about Uuganaa who became my lady-hero with so many god examples. In one word, she is the most hard-working, warm-hearted, generous, high educated, high experienced and easygoing lady in my opinion. Sharing her BOOKBRIDGE experience made me proud of her. I want to be a teacher like her. But I don’t know how many years will be required to be a good teacher. In one word, I totally astonished with her hard-working, passionate, well-organized and positive attitude for everything.

It is not very easy to understand person’s posts on Facebook pages and so this trip was the greatest opportunity to share her posts personally. I appreciate the communication personally because I do think that the communication on other Medias or sources seems to me very complicated and fake.

Lkhamsuren also visited Arvaikheer learning center
Lkhamsuren also visited Arvaikheer learning center
The second thing I have understood very well was that her family members always take care of herself to make her achieve success, do her work without any worries, just paying attention into her business. I have heard that there is a real hard-working and reliable person behind the succeeded person. But, when I was in Arvaikheer, I saw it personally. When Uuganaa was very busy with me, with her classes and with TEDx, her husband did all his bests to make her wife’s busy work easy and comfortable. It was wonderful and now, I wish my husband would be like him one day.

Travelling to Arvaikheer and sharing an experience with Uuganaa make me understand:
1. Being hard-working and passionate is the key factor to pass your knowledge to the students you have;
2. Vocabulary is the main thing in learning language;
3. Activities are also important to keep the students close with you;
4. Well-organized and planned lessons would access a valuable process;
5. Being punctual, curious and positive makes your work more efficient / however I am punctual, curious and positive/;
6. Family is the fundamental part of your success.

I will try my best to implement the above-mentioned tips for my classes to be a good teacher. This is my goal.

At very last I would like to say THANK YOU for every body who gave me a great chance to improve myself, open my eyes with – brand new things, share my opinions with others, value my self, get wonderful experiences, learn from great people and see my future brightly.

You are never too old to learn.

Vote for the best PSA Video!

How can we reduce plastic waste? In March, we started a competition about the best plastic banning campaign. We asked our learning centers to create a Public Service Announcement for their community calling them to help to minimize the use of plastic bags and bottles. 9 learning centers participated in the competition. Voting is open until Monday, Mai 15.

How to vote:

1. Watch the videos by clicking on them.
2. Think about which one shows best how to avoid plastic waste.
3. Scroll to the end of the page to “Vote” and vote your favorite video.

1. Watch the videos:

2. Think about which video shows best how to avoid plastic waste

3. Vote for the best video by clicking on the check box:

New Classes in Ang Tasom

A joyful bunch: the new class in Ang Tasom
A joyful bunch: the new class in Ang Tasom
Charlotte and Pierre are currently BOOKBRIDGE Fellows in Cambodia. Today, they write from our learning center in Ang Tasom.

After saying goodbye to our young students at the new micro learning center, we tried to focus on the learning center in Ang Tasom. Pierre and I thought that we should try to communicate more about the learning center to win new students but also to allow other children to come and take advantage of the library and its different facilities.

One of our goals is actually to help bringing in new children to allow them to enjoy our classes and environment. As a lot of people in Ang Tasom don’t know what BOOKBRIDGE actually does and can offer we thought of contacting the local High School to do something together.

We first tried to make some announcements on the megaphone of the High school that some classes would be given by us which brought a few faithful students coming to share and learn with us. Those ones come from 11 to 12am everyday with the strong will of improving their English. During the first sessions, it was hard to make them talk. It felt like a lecture which was not very pleasant for us and nor for them as they were not practicing their English at all. Cambodian teenagers are very shy, especially with foreigners I guess. So we started with games which only involved basic and simple answers which obviously gave them some confidence as now classes have become full of joy and they all dare talking no matter how good their English is.

As this class consists of only a few students and doesn’t really make the change as far as our goals are concerned, we then decided to go further in the development of the communication. The second step was thus to create some flyers and go distribute them all around the city. We started with the High School and ended up at the market where most of the mothers are. Trying to convince someone who doesn’t speak your language is hard but sometimes a look is stronger than words.

The week after a bunch of 11th grade students came, took a chair and started to talk with Pierre and me. Way more self-confident than the ones we have from 11 to 12am, this class is the same age in average but is very different from the other one. Even if we study the same thing it always happens very differently. But still we try to give a real structure to the class even though it’s hard for us as we’ve never taught before. Dealing with the differences of level is a real challenge but our goal will be to let nobody behind and make them progress altogether. We will thus try to assess the evolution of their English through some tests and recordings to show them their progress and what they still can improve.

Kekirawa wins Job Cooperation with Hotel

Five students got offered job positions at a local hotel
Five students got offered job positions at a local hotel
Good news from our newsly opened learning center in Kekirawa, Sri Lanka: the learning center was able to partner with one of the top-class hotels operating in Sigiriya. Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress and UNESCO World Heritage site thus seeing many tourist from all around the world.

Community Hero Sampath Senawatte was able to get employment opportunities for the community of Kekirawa: two learning center students and three non-students will join the hotel and work in housekeeping, the front office and the financial department of the hotel. As Head of the Learning Center, Sampath is very much proud of this opportunity and success for his students and community members.

What does a Social Entrepreneur Earn?

Or: Let’s talk about money, honey!

Money, money, money – the financial side of many social enterprises is a mix of sales, subsidies and donations. We claim to be independent of donations but how does this work exactly? Where does our money come from? How do we spend it? What do you earn as a social entrepreneur? In this blog post, we share our answers to the 10 key questions around money. Why? Because we think it is our duty to be transparent and accountable to all who support our cause. Money might be a taboo for some – we feel it’s important to talk about it. Whilst BOOKDBRIDGE clearly isn’t about money, it wouldn’t work without. 

#1: What is your budget?

When we asked this question to our Bridgebuilders at the 2016 Summit, the average of all educated guesses laid around EUR 2m. Millions are also what we hear when colleagues of international NGOs estimate what we need to earn in order to do what we do. The truth for 2016: our budget was EUR 495,346. In the chart you see where this money comes from.

budget 2016

This sum includes all income from all our legal entities, namely BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION and BOOKBRIDGE GmbH. The latter is 100% owned by our Foundation and generates sales with our Capability Program.

#2: How profitable is BOOKBRIDGE?

Our profit margin on the Capability Program in 2016 was 14%. BOOKBRIDGE GmbH offers the Capability Program as a unique action learning program to companies, not-for-profit organizations, government institutions and individuals. The program is offered in partnership with BOOKBRIDGE‘s country organizations in Mongolia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The country organization prepares, accompanies and follows up on the business challenge for each Capability Program. For this service, they earn part of the program‘s revenues. Thereby, they can sustain the operations in their own countries.

Profit margin of BOOKBRIDGE GmbH from 2013 to 2016

What happens with the profit?

As BOOKBRIDGE GmbH is fully owned by BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION, the profit is re-invested into our network of learning centers. Similar to our learning centers, we use the profit to re-invest into our organization, pay back loans to our investors and put money aside as savings for bad times.

You claim to be independent of donations. Why do you still accept them?

Because we are able to forward 100% of all donations directly to their beneficiaries. And this is what most donors dream of, right? So why should we say no if this really helps people and comes with no effort by us? Through the sales generated by BOOKBRIDGE GmbH and our Capability Program, we are able to cover all our so-called overhead expenses – staff costs, sales, marketing and administration. This is pretty unique in the NGO landscape. And we are proud of this! Most important for us is that we do not depend on donations.

We can continue to exist without any donations, yet let us be very clear: we are very happy for each EUR received. Donations help us to fund activities which would usually not be funded. In 2016, we could provide our learning centers with some extra funds to

We are very happy for each EUR received but we can also continue to exist without it.

#3: Where does your money come from? How dependent are you on whom?

Good question. First of all, all our money comes from people we know personally and organizations we trust. Second, this questions needs to be answered separately for BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION and BOOKBRIDGE GmbH. This is why you find two actually really pretty pie charts:

2016 Origin of funds for BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION and BOOKBRIDGE GmbH

As you can see from the graphs, the maximum dependency on one stakeholder amounts 20% for both legal entities. If this stakeholder drops out, this does not automatically mean that we will end up making a loss at the end of the year. The reason is that most of our costs are variable, e.g. if we do not have enough candidates to run a program, we simply do not run it. This still leaves us with some fixed costs. However, these are much lower than the variable costs associated with one program run.

Why are there no names behind the percentage figures?

For legal reasons, we are not allowed to display full names here. For BOOKBRIDGE GmbH, you may find the names of our clients here. For BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION, you can find the names of the top income sources on the websites of our learning centers. These are the investors investing EUR 20,000 each into our Social Business Fund.

We are completely independent from government and church funding. In the history of BOOKBRIDGE, we have never received nor taken any donation or subsidy from a government or a religious group for our work. All funding is based on money donated from the private sector.

#4: How do you spend your money?

Wisely 😉 Again, this question needs to be separately answered for BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION and BOOKBRIDGE GmbH. While BOOKBRIDGE GmbH covers all staff, admin and program costs, BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION primarily invests into learning centers via its Social Business Funds and forwards donations to worthwhile projects around our learning centers. The profit of BOOKBRIDGE GmbH is re-invested into the Foundation as the GmbH (limited liability company) is fully owned by the Foundation.

#5: What salary do you earn as a social entrepreneur?

This is a sensitive and valid question. Sensitive because salary is an untouched topic in many cultures. Valid as many myths exist around social enterprises and their remuneration. As we follow Muhammad Yunus’ 7 principles of Social Business, we expect a market wage with better working conditions.

How does this look like in reality? In 2010, we started with a unitarian salary in Germany. The idea is that everyone in the BOOKBRIDGE Team earns the same salary, adjusted to the purchasing power of his/her respective country. The rationale behind this is that each team member is of vital importance to the success of our Capability Program and the impact of our learning centers. As we are quite cautious business folks we kept our salaries – especially in Germany / Switzerland – quite low for the first decade of the BOOKBRIDGE history. After years of sustainable success also in commercial terms, our board encouraged us last year to start closing the market gap in remuneration.

Today, we operate with salary bands for each country and team. The salary band starts with USD 800 and goes up to EUR 6,000, depending on the country you are based in and the relative purchasing power. We want to strengthen the self-responsibility and entrepreneurial freedom of each one of us. This means that each of our team members can pick his or her own salary in accordance with the team and the budget. If the budget follows the plan, the salary is paid out as planned. If not, the salary is adjusted. While we have moved away from one unitarian salary in each of our countries, we are proud that we still keep the idea of each team member being equal in the importance to make our organization work.

Depending to what you compare our salaries to, you end up with your own judgment on how attractive it is to work for BOOKBRIDGE as a social enterprise, e.g.

  • our salary in Germany is 83% higher than what you would earn on average at a for-profit social business, according to the 2017 salary report at Great!
  • our salary in Switzerland is average, according to Verteilungsmonitor of the University of Basel. For both, Germany and Switzerland we deliberately decided not to compare our salaries to jobs with similar profiles in the for-profit sector.
  • our salary in our Asian countries is high when you compare it with local organizations. If you compare it with international NGOs like Care, SOS Children‘s Villages and the Red Cross, our salaries are much lower. Given our bottom-up approach, this is also not what we want to be compared with.

The salary is only one side of the medal. Coming back to Yunus’ principle of a market wage with better working conditions, how does BOOKBRIDGE score on all other things than salary? See what Carsten thinks BOOKBRIDGE gives to him:

Benefits which Carsten sees in working for BOOKBRIDGE

#6: How are your learning centers performing financially?

Our learning centers are doing well. In 2016, our learning centers reached out to 164,000 community members in Mongolia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. 11 out of 19 learning centers showed a sustainability rate above 100%. Out of the remaining 8 learning centers, Cannak, Sreydieb and our micro learning center in Angroka broke even in 2016 but showed an average below 100% for the entire year. Only 4 out of 19 learning centers still have a longer way to go to reach break even. All of them have only started their operations in the last 18 months.

Community outreach and sustainability rate among our entrepreneur-run learning centers in 2016

As per February 2017, we are proud that 19 out of 22 learning centers are fully financially self-sustained. 2 out of the remaining 3 learning centers have been created in the last 10 months. They still need time to reach break even. And the last learning center, the one Sothika took over last year in Ang Tasom, can in the meantime compensate the loss with the profits of his 5 micro learning centers. Enjoy these impressive figures. We are proud of all of them!

Sustainability rates of our learning centers as per February 2017.

Are your learning centers able to pay back loans?

Yes, they are! Our entrepreneur-run learning centers have received a loan by our Social Business Fund. Since the start of our Social Business Fund in 2014, EUR 236t have been invested into these learning centers. Currently, EUR 199t are still placed while EUR 49t have been paid back (21%).

Investments and paybacks of the BOOKBRIDGE Social Business Fund

#7: How do you ensure checks and balances in the way you handle money?

We ensure proper checks and balances in three distinct ways:

  1. All legal entities are audited by professional external auditors
    Every year, all our legal entities are audited by independent auditors. The results are presented to the Board of BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION and published as part of our impact report.
  2. BOOKBRIDGE Foundation is governed by an independent and qualified Board
    The BOOKBRIDGE Board meets every 3 months to supervise and check the strategic direction of the entire organization. Whilst all board members have been part of our Family of Bridgebuilders for many years – t hey have either taken part in one of our programs or visited our learning centers – they are all independent, experienced and qualified for the important job they are doing. There is a job profile for every board member position and all board members work voluntarily and do not receive any salary or compensation.
  3. We open up as a transparent organization with each Capability Program
    With the start of each Capability Program, we turn all candidates into temporary members of the BOOKBRIDGE Team. This includes that we open up as an organization and show them what is going well and what is going not so well. By creating a new learning center, candidates realize where we can still get better. This allows us to improve on a constant basis and get valuable input from external sources.

#8: Did you take loans yourself to kick-start BOOKBRIDGE?

Since our start in 2010, BOOKBRIDGE GmbH took up loans amounting EUR 423.000 from 6 courageous impact investors. In monthly briefings and bi-yearly conference calls, all six tell us that they are happy and impressed with the impact of their investment. This makes us proud! Out of the EUR 423t taken as loans, EUR 250t (59%) have been paid back so far. EUR 173t will be paid back in the next 4 years.

Loans taken by BOOKBRIDGE GmbH as of April 2017 [in EURt]

#9: Do you own large assets like real estate, stock or others?

No, we don’t. So far, we have remained small and beautiful. Following the principles of Social Business, all loans given or received are interest-free. BOOKBRIDGE GmbH puts its money on interest-free accounts at GLS Bank, a German ethical bank. BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION also does not gain any interest from its bank accounts in Switzerland.

#10: How does your budget for 2017 look like?

In 2017, we aim at growing in sales and profits as well as subsequently in investments into our learning centers. Sales by BOOKBRIDGE GmbH will increase from EUR 387t to EUR 537t by conducting our 10th Capability Program with two teams in parallel for the first time in our history. Leaving everything else equal to 2016, this will hopefully result in an increase in profits from EUR 54t to EUR 95t. As we will conduct one program more, we will also setup one more learning center. This will increase the investments by our Foundation and subsequently the budget from EUR 107t to EUR 156t.

2017 Budget for BOOKBRIDGE Foundation (green) and BOOKBRIDGE GmbH (orange) [in EURt]

Any questions?

It is not easy to make everything self-explanatory. If you have questions on the numbers presented, feel free to leave a comment or contact Carsten directly.


Carsten Rübsaamen
carsten [at]

Interview with Community Hero Ravy Vang

Ravy Vang is Community Hero in Chreav, Cambodia
This March, we opened our 7th learning center in Cambodia. Ravy Vang is Community Hero and responsible for the learning center’s activities and services. In this interview we introduce.

Ravy, who are you?
My name is Ravy Vang. I am 36 years old. I am married and I have 3 children, all boys. I am the director of Salariin and the new head of Chreav learning center. My wife is a cook, she runs a small local restaurant.

Why did you decide to apply at BOOKBRIDGE as Community Hero?
After having difficulties in doing fundraising for my NGO – Salariin Kampuchea (which means School of Cambodia) in 2016, we had no more operating budget beside the remaining reserve fund for the NGO. I then thought of converting the NGO’s programs to a social enterprise but it was just my in mind that time. Then I heard about BOOKBRIDGE which aims at supporting and empowering local entrepreneurs. My NGO’s Board of Director agreed with my idea of running a social enterprise with the existing education program, so I decided to apply for becoming a BOOKBRIDGE Community Hero and I was selected and later together with CAP9 team successfully won an investment to realize my dream.

Which offerings do you plan for your learning center?
With the business plan prepared by BOOKBRIDGE’s 9th Capability Program team, my learning center will offer the following services: English program, kindergarten, IT courses, Chinese classes, daycare service, hospitality and community library.

Looking back at your preparations for the opening of the learning center, what was the most difficult challenge?
It was the first time for me to organize and celebrate an official ceremony for the opening of my learning center. So we felt very concerned about how to arrange and organize the process of the opening ceremony, properly welcome guests and honored guest as well as how to prepare my welcome speech.

What will be the most important tasks for your first week as a Community Hero?
The most important tasks are to set up and organize the main tasks assigned to me and the team members and get feedback from the team integrated to improve our business plan and implement it in reality.

Impact Reports from our Countries

Our country managers Monika, Sokhan and Amar share their impacts
Our country managers Monika, Sokhan and Amar share their impacts
For many years, our country teams have been working closely with our learning centers. What are they most proud of? How do they assess the impact created by their support of our learning centers? In this blog post, Sokhan, Amar and Monika share their personal views.

Impact Report Cambodia – by Sokhan Khut

BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia has operated since late 2011 after signing MoU with Cambodia Scouts and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports establishing its very first two learning centers in two separate provinces: Takeo in Southern Cambodia and Siem Reap to the North of the country. Both centers were set up with strong support by Cambodia Scouts and run in the form of social businesses in the field of education.

After 4 years of its operation, 3 more learning centers including a mobile one were set up in Takeo and Kampot provinces under the supervision of two key members of BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia Country Organization Team. BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia provides BOOKBRIDGE with implementing our Capability Program in Cambodia, on-going support in the operation of the established learning centers and conducting a bi-yearly workshop for the learning center staff.

In 2016, BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia conducted two local Capability Programs with Cambodian candidates joining in parallel with European programs. They resulted in one new learning center established in Tani, a district town in Kampot Province, creating at least three jobs for local people working in the learning center, a business plan for setting up a new learning center for investor pitch prepared and 12 Cambodian talents have been trained to think and act as entrepreneurs as well as new generation leaders.

By the end of December 2016, six learning centers including the Mobile Learning Center were established in total. They have operated as social businesses in Siem Reap, Takeo and Kampot provinces

  • reaching out to 87,484 community members in total
  • offering 386 free educational activities with 7,112 participants
  • running 54 paid courses with 664 students per month on average
  • covering 81% of sustainability rate per month on average.

Different Challenges and Situations
However, the progress of each learning center varied due to having different situations and challenges. Aside from the monthly status calls with BOOKBRIDGE Community Heroes in Cambodia to get updates on the development and understand their challenges, a 3-day workshop was conducted for all learning center staff to let them share best practices and experiences, disseminate BOOKBRIDGE Vision 2020 and gather inputs towards the Quality Framework.

In addition to the monthly status call, the Country Organization Team travelled very often to visit all centers to work with the Community Heroes to find out what can help them and to support them in the development and improvement of their learning centers and in aligning them with the BOOKBRIDGE 2020 vision.

Now let’s see how each BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Cambodia has performed in general:
Takeo Town: Officially opened in November 8, 2011 in cooperation with Takeo Provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport, but redeveloped and opened officially for the second time in January 27, 2013. The learning center employs 2 full-time staff and has created 6 part-time job opportunities for local teachers. In 2016 alone, the learning center reached out to 13,542 community members in total. On average, 10 free educational activities with 141 participants were conducted and 108 students attended 8 different paid English courses on a monthly basis, allowing the learning center to cover already 93% of its annual operational expenses by course revenues. Currently, Community Hero Sreydieb works together with her colleagues to reinforce rules related to the learning center guidelines and to conduct technical meetings with the teachers in order to share ideas on teaching concepts.

Performance of our learning centers in Cambodia in 2016
Performance of our learning centers in Cambodia in 2016

Siem Reap: Like Takeo, Siem Reap learning center was opened twice, firstly in November 2011 and secondly in May 015 in partnership with 10 January 1979 High School. From January to December 2016, with 2 full-time staff and 5 part-time English teachers being employed, the learning center reached out to 13,443 community members in total. On average, 5 free educational activities with 77 participants were conducted and 42 students attended 4 different paid English courses on a monthly basis, allowing the learning center to cover 55% of its annual operational expenses by course revenues. With support from the center’s very first fellow, Martina, Community Hero Sanith could organize many library activities that attracted many students: Public Reading Contest, cinema event and fun educational games. Sanith and Martina conducted technical meetings with teachers in order to share ideas on teaching concepts.

Angtasom: The center was officially opened in November 2013 together with Tramkak District Education Office. It has performed well during the last two years but the decision to leave the learning center by the community caused a dramatic change in its performance. The learning center is currently employing 3 full-time staff and 8 part-time teachers. In 2016, it reached out to 7,105 community members in total. On average, 3 free educational activities with 98 participants were conducted and 218 students attended 18 different paid English courses on a monthly basis allowing the center to cover 72% of its annual operational expenses by course revenues. New Community Hero Sothika has worked very hard to find solutions and strategies to save ‘the sinking boat’. He and his colleague Mr. Sareth have worked together to provide training on specific areas to their teachers in order to enhance their English skills and to produce necessary teaching and learning materials.

Tonloab: Officially opened in May 2014 in collaboration with Kirivong District Education Office, learning center Tonloab employs 3 full-time and 10 part-time staff including the community hero. In 2016 alone, the learning center reach out to 43,318 community members in total. On average, 8 free educational activities with 116 participants were conducted and 241 students attended 20 different paid English courses on a monthly basis, allowing the center to cover almost all (98%) of its annual operational expenses by course revenues. Community Hero Vannak tried to set up a specific curriculum which matched the government school’s English curriculum in order to win students who study at public schools and look for more support after school. Vannak has also set up technical meetings with his teachers to share teaching strategies. He offers a speaking club that connects alumnis of our Capability Program with students on a monthly basis adding benefits to the enrolled students of the learning center.

Angroka (Mobile Learning center): Officially opened in March 2015 as BOOKBRIDGE’s first mobile learning center, Angroka has been run as a subsidiary of Angtasom Learning Center. It creates job opportunities for 1 full-time, 1 part-time staff and 3 part-time teachers. In 2016, the learning center with its 4 mobile subsidies reached out to 5,900 community members in total. On average, 3 free educational activities with 112 participants were conducted and 108 students attended 7 different paid English courses on a monthly basis, allowing the center to cover 98% of its annual operational expenses by course revenues. Also in 2016, Community Hero Sothika from Angtasom Learning Center took over the responsibility at Angroka. Since then, he has worked with his colleague Mr. Sareth to provide training to their teachers to enhance their teaching and English skills. There were also new teaching materials produced and they started to implement the mobile learning center concept by establishing 4 more micro learning center around Angroka.

Tani: BOOKBRIDGE’s youngest learning center opened in March 2016 providing job opportunities to 3 full-time staff and 1 part-time staff. By the end of last year, the learning center reached out to 4,186 community members in total. On average, 3 free educational activities with 48 participants were conducted and 55 students attended 5 different paid English courses on a monthly basis, allowing the learning center to cover 70% of its annual operational expenses by course revenues. Community Hero Sothy promoted a kindergarten class in the morning shift that was very well accepted. He also provided specific meetings every week to his teachers to train and share ideas related to teaching strategies. They also to set up some homework for students.

Our Mongolian learning centers offered many activities in 2016
Our Mongolian learning centers offered many activities in 2016

Impact Report Mongolia – by Amar Purev

The year 2016 has been successful for BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia in several areas such as learning centers’ teachers skills development, students motivation, CAP implementation according to the business plan, finding capable and experienced community heroes for CAP projects in 2017, having fellows working with community heroes, getting financial audit done and increasing commitment from Nomin guur NGO board members towards learning center’s operation.

English Skills Improvements
Dulamsuren, English teacher at our learning center in Zavkhan, was able to improve significantly her teaching and speaking skills. She has organised jointly with PCVs English Olympics for the first time. Daria from Murun learning center started to attend English advanced level course (C1) in Ulaanbaatar last December. Contributing factors to this were English skills development sessions and mock lessons organised at bi-annual all staff training, good scheme or peer to peer support amongst the team, English teachers fellows worked at the learning centers.

Uugantsetseg Gantumur, Community Hero in Arvaikheer, went to first to Germany and then to Cambodia to share her English teaching skills. It was a great opportunity to develop her peer support skills with immediate results.

English Festival Cooperation between Arvaikheer and Chinggis
Our learning centers in Arvaikheer and Chinggis have organised a joint English festival in Chinggis town taking students from the both communities. It was great opportunity for students to know and learn from each other and motivated the students a lot. The English Olympics organised by Zavkhan learning center was great opportunity not only students, also for teacher to develop their English skills. Scout activities organised in Arvaikheer, Bulgan and Dalanzadgad have attracted and motivated students to join English courses in the communities.

First Capability Program with Local Candidates
A local Capability Program project was piloted this year during the implementation of our 8th Capability Program in Mandalgovi. Five local candidates out of eleven initially selected candidates from Mongolia have completed all five modules successfully. Twenty hours training sessions on business and English speaking skills have been provided to local candidates. As result of the project, one local candidate started her own private business, another candidate has improved her English noteacably and another candidate started taking English course at the learning center. The country organisation was able to train their own business coach thus saving budget for hiring external business consultant.

New Community Heroes found
Two community heroes, one in Dundgovi and another one in Khovd, were found for two Capability Programs to be implemented in 2017. Batchimeg from Dundgovi teaches English at a medical universtiy branch and is doing Ph.D. in linguistics and Buyankhishig, Khovd, works as local English teacher on the Access project funded by American Embassy having been selected as the best teacher in the province.

One six months fellow has worked in Murun, Zavkhan and Khentii learning centers helping English teachers there to improve their teaching skills and co-teaching. Five to six short term fellows in Mandalgovi and a two months support by fellows at Sukhbaatar learning center have been coordinated by the country team.

The financial audit was carried out in May/June 2016. The new audit company found in 2016 was more professional with less fee than the previous one and provided an audit report in English. The audit hasn’t discovered a major break of law or financial and NGO regulations but only released four recommondations that have been pursued by the country team.

Restructuring of BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia NGO Board
Finally, Nomin guur NGO board was restructured. Altantungalag who made a request not to continue being a chair of board has been replaced with Tsolmon who has an educational background and did her master’s degree in USA. Board members demonstrated more interest and commitment towards the learning centers’ operations and two board members including the chair of the board attended the all-staff training.

Impact Report Sri Lanka – by Monika Nowaczyk

A diverse team: Sri Lankan and European participants worked together

2016 was the first year of operations for BOOKBRIDGE in Sri Lanka. BOOKBRIDGE Sri Lanka is the newest member of the BOOKBRIDGE global family with the first Learning Center established in June of 2016. So far one Capability Program, GMP+3, has been completed in Sri Lanka with 13 European and five local candidates participating and opening the first learning center in Bandarawela. The GSE2 CAS program started in October, 2016 and will result in the opening of the 2nd LC in March 2017.

Learning Center Bandarawela
The first learning center is located in Bandarawela, Uva province by Sujitha Miranda. In 2016, the Skills Learning Center ran 41 activities with 726 participants. Sujitha has also conducted 49 courses with 463 students. Sujitha has been working hard to develop a unique program called Find Yourself, which aims to support school leavers to develop the necessary soft skills to succeed in work and life. Three parents who also started to learn English also improved very much.

One the biggest impacts of Sujitha’s Learning Center is the achievements of some of the students from the Find Yourself course. 11 students have completed this course and 5 have gone to find employment as a result of their improved communication skills and confidence. And three students have continued onto higher education. Once student, Kuga Sri Ganesh, is now employed as an intern at the learning center as a support staff member and is further developing his skills as a teacher as well as continuing to improve his English.

Our 3rd GMP+ opened the learning center in Bandarwela, Sri Lanka
Our 3rd GMP+ opened the learning center in Bandarwela, Sri Lanka

CAP9: When Visions become Tangible

The opening speech
Bona Vin, full time English teacher at the learning center and local CAP9 candidate, held the opening speech together with Clara Maingi (right).

This week, team of our 9th Capability Program has opened our new learning center in Chreav, Cambodia. In this post, the participants describe their feelings and impressions.

Our experiences during eight phenomenal days in a nutshell: Transform visions into reality. Achieve results and discover more to do. Connect with a dream, their people and create new dreams together. Leave enriched to grow in every sense. Hallelujah and Let it Be! These are statements that summarize a unique week for a unique CAP9 team, a week of growth in every sense.

Most of us were visiting this unique country for the first time ever. The welcome by the team South and their coaches Sokhan and Chanthorn was warm and vivid: They showed us local markets, a Buddhist monastery, a typical coffee shop, a typical sport activity – tug of war – in one of the state schools and finally, introducing us to the reason why we are here: the Learning Center in Chreav! And last but not least our home stay (hostel) contributed to touch this country: Waking up every day was so easy as at 5 AM every day loud speakers flooded us with Cambodian music. Either to praise heaven, celebrate weddings or to say goodbye in funerals. Specifically, we perceived that the funeral music, is perfect to motivate souls to leave this planet: the sound was indeed terrible!

Curious children in front of the newly openend learning center
Curious children in front of the newly openend learning center

The first two and a half days were dedicated to the first milestone: Getting the learning center ready for the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday at 8 AM. We cleaned and painted rooms, transformed them with small changes into real class rooms, installed water pipelines, developed big signs praising the offerings of our school, established the library with the existing English books, purchased funny toys and materials for the day care room, made gardening and environmental improvements, painted complicated large pictures and funny attractive motives, etc. And all based on CAP9-self–and-agile-organized teams; perfectly orchestrated by Lisa, Kim & Eleanor, thanks!

To inspire the audience during the inauguration and to set a strong signal for women in this country, we decided consciously to let Clara do the inauguration speech. She did it and she touched all our hearts. Congratulations! After the inauguration event the team went to a very well deserved free afternoon, with wellness, swimming pool and motorbike adventure to countryside, which motivated Lisa and John to test the Cambodian soil.

The next two working days were dedicated to the next milestone: Get the learning center ready for the critical starting period when team North has long gone. We dedicated our collective intelligence to mainly two questions:

  1. How to make the learning center successful & sustainable (run the business)?
  2. How to create social impact (social entrepreneurship)?
The CAP9 team in one of the classrooms
The CAP9 team in one of the classrooms

We worked on the topics: IT, library, legal, financial plan & reporting, quality, marketing, hygiene and waste. Our “guest – speakers”, Sanha and Monika from BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia, supported us with learnings from other learning centers and on the meaning and content of quality.

The pace of both days was again very high and the team achieved brilliant results. To mention three:

  1. Team quality conducted a truly important workshop together with the teachers and Ravy to define and measure quality. To strengthen the identity of the learning center they developed the mission & vision of it.
  2. Team marketing initiated visits to the schools in Chreav to win customers. Their key marketing message was the power of connection: the learning center is connected and supported by and with the world. To express this all “white skin Team North members” were sent together with Ravy to speak to the children and to distribute flyers. The impact was strong. Unique experience for team north and unique sales event for the center.
  3. Team IT installed all what could be done without the content of the container that is still in customs. In addition, they setup the connection and process to enable Da Vid, the local IT hero, to install and manage the network, router and IT as soon as it arrives.

On the last day of the on-site module, we visited temples in Angkor Archeological Park. Undiscovered Archaeologist Sokhan gave us an impressive tour through several temples, culminating with Angkor Wat. Thanks, Sokhan!

All the efforts of the weak were strengthened by long nights, singing Hallelujah and the endless counting of empty bottles. This culminated in a glamorous and exciting farewell dinner, singing Let-it-be on the stage of the “Bierbar”. Excellent experience! Especially for Eleanor, who survived at least 4 times the crowd-crying-singing of her happy-birthday song!

Team, we did it! Each of us grew in this week, each of us made an impact, together we are energy, together we are the learning center. Thanks & Congratulations!

GMP+4 Team pitched successfully to their investor

Georgie and Henning, GMP+4 Team Members, deliver the investor pitch at WHU Campus Düsseldorf

After 2 months of in-depth research, business modelling and teamwork across cultures and timezones, the team of our 4th WHU General Management Plus Program successfully pitched their business plan to Bolor and Pierre Lorinet from Oyun Foundation. And they did it! With EUR 20,000 as a soft loan and certain strings attached, the team now sets out for the next stage: implementing what they pitched in Sainshand, Mongolia!

End of January, Batchimeg left her family in Sainshand, Mongolia to visit Germany. It was her very first time in Europe. She did not know what to expect. Her key driver was to make a difference for the next generation in her home town. In Düsseldorf, she met 11 passionate team members at WHU Campus Düsseldorf. Together, they created a joint vision for an exciting place for learnings of all ages to learn and develop.

Pierre debriefs the GMP+4 Team after the pitch

Following weeks of user research, iterative business modelling and agile teamwork across timezones and cultures, Gerogie and Henning from the GMP+4 Team pitched the business plan for Batchimeg‘s Learning Center to Bolor and Pierre Lorinet from Oyun Foundation. For this occasion, Pierre had taken the effort to fly in from Singapore to meet the team in person. He had previously participated in BOOKBRIDGE‘s 8th Capability Program, leading to the setup of Nangaa‘s learning center in Mandalgovi. Intrigued by the model and the idea of BOOKBRIDGE, he and his wife decided to place invest with their foundation into a learning center in Mongolia.

And they did it! Following a convincing pitch, Pierre and Bolor agreed to place their investment under the condition that the team reviews the marketing strategy as well as the viability of the business model. Congratulations to the GMP+4 Team for reaching this important milestone on their learning journey as entrepreneurs. The team has another 7 weeks until they all meet in Sainshand, Mongolia to implement their business plan.

Happy Faces after the pitch. GMP+4 Team Members in Sainshand and Düsseldorf are ready for the next step!

Learning Partnerships kicked off with Swiss Re

Kick Off call with Swiss Re Professionals and Mongolian Entrepreneurs

We are very proud to announce the kick off of 5 learning partnerships between amazing Mongolian Entrepreneurs and professionals at Swiss Re. Over the course of 6 months, the aim is to turn promising business ideas into a fully-fledged business plan. Both learning partners engage in regular video calls to reach their learning goals.

The Learning Partnership Program brings together entrepreneurs from our countries with professionals from Swiss Re. The entrepreneurs aim at establishing their own business and need support in skills like market research, sales and marketing.  The professionals work at Swiss Re and would like to contribute their skills to the creation of a business as well as broaden their own horizon.

On March 28, the kick off call between our 10 learning partners took place. Despite technical difficulties at the start, we were able to introduce all of us to each other. In the following week, learning partners will get together individually to define and exchange their learning goals for the 6-month program period. The learning partners will be accompanied by the team at BOOKBRIDGE and Swiss Re Foundation as well as Edith and Loredana as Capability Program Alumni.

In July, all learning partners will get together again for a mid-term feedback call. We will keep you updated on the progress they make as well as the challenges they face.



Competition: How can we reduce plastic waste?

Waste is a global problemMountains of plastic waste: In Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka, plastic waste (bottles, bags, straws, packaging) is an immense and growing problem. BOOKBRIDGE is challenging the students at our Learning Centers to tackle this problem: Their task is to create a fun, creative and engaging 30-70-second long Public Service Announcement for their community with a clear message calling people to action on the issue of plastic use in their community. The main goal is to encourage people to reflect on their use of single-use plastic items and decrease it.

People use single-use plastic because it is convenient, cheap and easy, without thinking about the long term effects of plastic on the environment. Plastic products take hundreds, sometimes thousands of years to decompose which means when you throw a plastic bottle in the forest, it will still be there when your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren visit the same place. Plastic is filling up our oceans and littering our communities.

Students at our learning centers in Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka are encouraged to work in groups, pick a topic/message (Stop using plastic straws // Reuse plastic bottles // Take a reusable bag rather than plastic bags), research it, write a script for their PSA and film it. Community Heroes and teachers can assist with the process but should let the students lead and take charge of the process.

A public service announcement (PSA) is a message in the public interest with the objective of raising awareness, changing public attitudes and behavior towards a social issue.

All videos will be uploaded and presented for voting from April 22, World Earth Day. The winners will be selected from a combination of online voting, a specially selected committee and the BOOKBRIDGE team. Prizes will be awarded for the top three PSAs from three different learning centers.

Impact Report Sri Lanka

A diverse team: Sri Lankan and European participants worked together
2016 was the first year of operations for BOOKBRIDGE in Sri Lanka. BOOKBRIDGE Sri Lanka is the newest member of the BOOKBRIDGE global family with the first Learning Center established in June of 2016. So far one Capability Program, GMP+3, has been completed in Sri Lanka with 13 European and five local candidates participating and opening the first learning center in Bandarawela. The GSE2 CAS program started in October, 2016 and will result in the opening of the 2nd LC in March 2017.

The first learning center is located in Bandarawela, Uva province by Sujitha Miranda. In 2016, the Skills Learning Center ran 41 activities with 726 participants. Sujitha has also conducted 49 courses with 463 students. Sujitha has been working hard to develop a unique program called Find Yourself, which aims to support school leavers to develop the necessary soft skills to succeed in work and life. Three parents who also started to learn English also improved very much.

One the biggest impacts of Sujitha’s Learning Center is the achievements of some of the students from the Find Yourself course. 11 students have completed this course and 5 have gone to find employment as a result of their improved communication skills and confidence. And three students have continued onto higher education. Once student, Kuga Sri Ganesh, is now employed as an intern at the learning center as a support staff member and is further developing his skills as a teacher as well as continuing to improve his English.

Our 3rd GMP+ opened the learning center in Bandarwela, Sri Lanka
Our 3rd GMP+ opened the learning center in Bandarwela, Sri Lanka

Impact Session in Arvaikheer

Uuganaa (right) with students
Uuganaa (right) with students

Recently, our learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia has conducted an impact session with parents and students. 65 people, of them 40 parents and 25 students of different ages, participated.

First, we introduced last year’s review and highlights. Then we discussed the plan for the upcoming year. Then Uuganaa, Head of Learning Center, held a session about positive thinking. Parents were very interested in this session with their kids. It consisted of real cases. Also, students performed very well in English surprising their parents. Finally, we brainstormed about advantages and disadvantages and discussed how to improve some issues related to our learning center. Most importantly, parents showed interest in supporting and helping us. Overall, they were very satisfied with our yearly activities. The training lasted for three hours and ended with an animated conversations between teachers and parents.

Parents’ voices about the learning center:

  • My son Togoldor found his purpose to study English after attending the learning center’s classes. He really wants to join scouts.
  • We are glad that our kids are studying at a nice training center
  • Communication skills, respect and working as a team are best things of your students
  • By joining this center, my son is accustomed to learning new words quickly. He really likes to go to BOOKBRIDGE
  • My son is studying English very well. In my opinion, the quality of this learning center is very good. I am happy to see my son having many friends and improving his independence.
  • My daughter is able to read well in English and memorize new words. Also, she is really happy to go to classes. I am very satisfied with the training.
  • BOOKBRIDGE helped not only to learn English but also improve the students. Teachers help students with how to reflect on each other, all activities are based on their interests. I like the process of doing homework being checked on time. Thanks, Uugana, for being dedicated to her students.
  • The learning center is special and different from other training centers because of the fact that students have the opportunity to learn by themselves.
  • My daughter is always satisfied with the training.
  • Really focused on helping students to catch up with the others when they missed classes. Teaching has a good quality and my son’s eagernes to learn is improving.
  • I have no problem to tell. I am a supportive dad.
  • When my younger brother attended this center he couldn’t read in English but now he can read and write sentences and even speak little bit.
  • My daughter is always talking about her teacher and the center positively.
  • BOOKBRIDGE is always on time and makes me daughter being more honest.
  • I will send my niece and nephew in the future
Parents during one of the feedback sessions
Parents during one of the feedback sessions

Suggestions for improvements:

  • So far, I like the learning environment. If you have some issues let us know
  • If you need help, parents are ready to help.
  • It would be nice if there was a location to do sport exercises
  • If there is an air-conditioner, it would be the best
  • Need to change floor cover
  • Improve the toilet
  • Include new students to field trip
  • Handwashing points
  • Make benches in front of the gate
  • At least 2 activities for parents to participate
  • Remind your students to improve their responsibilities at home
  • Remind students about their duty to clean the classroom
  • Organize a BOOKBRIDGE reunion
  • Pay attention on students’ level within one group
  • If it is possible, can you decrease the number of the students in one group.
  • If you give a chance to speak with native speakers, that would be great.
  • Improve the sanitation system
  • Travel around with teachers to improve students’ life skills
  • Plant trees with students in the center’s yard

Students’ voices about the learning center:

  • BOOKBRIDGE helped me to improve my leadership skills and to find myself. Of course also to improve my English
  • I learned how to be responsible for everything and have self-confidence, be punctual and to make a lot of friends
  • I got high passion and interest to learn English more
  • I learned speaking English, also how to be a good disciplined student and respect others
  • When I joined BOOKBRIDGE, I was very shy and hardly to speak others at first. Now I got over the challenges I faced. I also learned writing sentences in English and even speaking it. Thanks to my teacher for making me current “I”.
  • I have changed a lot after I came to BOOKBRDGE in such as making a lot of friends, socializing with others through many activities and my English improved obviously a lot.
  • I learned speaking English without being scared of mistakes. I improved my enthusiasm and motivation to study.
  • I had a lot of experience with many different tests, had fun, made many friends and learned speaking English well
  • Having studied at BOOKBRIDGE, I found myself and my learning style and understood how my role is important in my team
  • My attitude has changed through scout activities and the life skills club. Recently I took a medal for essay competition.
  • When I first came to BOOKBRDGE I didn’t know English and I learnt the alphabet. Now I am graduating from 12th grade this year. I am so happy with my skills, I can even speak English fluently besides the fact that I got many friends, became confident. I feel happiness after having done something perfect. I got involved in many activities as an organizer.
  • Being a part of BOOKBRIDGE made me gain knowledge and see a lot of improvements. The best part of this is that my teacher is as close to us as a mentor, and doesn´t only teach. We can use good dictionaries a lot. Also, how to be a volunteer and helping others is the most exciting thing. I am so happy that we have this center. This is very important for us.
  • We started to manage our times properly. Now, I can express myself to others very well. I made a lot of friends and with them I celebrate Halloween, New year and other holidays at BOOKBRIDGE.
  • High requirements are nice.
  • BOOKBRIDGE helped me to open myself, work in a team, connect to each other and participate in regular activities.
  • Sometimes I am lazy to come to BOOKBRIDGE but my teacher said nice words and my friends made great atmosphere.
  • I became more creative.
  • I can spend my time usefully.
Students writing down their improvement suggestions
Students writing down their improvement suggestions

Suggestions for improvements:

  • I don’t know exactly about what to change at my learning center but if we do it step by step, eventually a lot of results will be seen.
  • Setting up a playground outside of the center
  • Establish a silent room/separate rooms
  • Have an own kitchen for us
  • Create a reading corner
  • Want a room for tea-break
  • Need to focus on improving reading comprehension skills
  • Improve the sanitation system
  • Watch English cartoons with students
  • Decorate walls
  • Build a shadow shelter
  • Have a good relationship with other BOOKBRIDGE friends

Interview with Sampath, Community Hero in Kekirawa

Excited: Sampath at the opening ceremony for the learning center
Excited: Sampath at the opening ceremony for the learning center

Sampath Sri Senawatte is our new Community Hero in Sri Lanka. On March 8, he opened his Kekirawa Learning Centre together with the participants of our 2nd CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship. This interview introduces him.

Sampath, who are you?
I seek opportunities with great challenges and responsibilities where I can use my professional qualifications and over 18 years of my working experience, knowledge, skills and talents in various fields for the benefit of others.

As an elder son of a Buddhist family, I was born in the hill country of Sri Lanka. I have one younger brother who is a Mechanical Engineer. I have almost 20 years of experience as a computer engineer, teaching of computer science, mathematics and science, business management, HR management, construction management and staff training skills.

You have just opened Kekirawa Learning Center (KLC). What will the center offer? What is its focus?

  • The learning center’s offerings include courses for Spoken English and ICT (Beginner to Advance ICT Courses) with modern library facilities & ICT Lab facilities to enhance the ICT Practical Experience
  • The KLC wants to enhance the reading interest in my community

Which chances do you see for your learning center and which challenges?
In my community there are many talented personalities. However, they are hidden and did not recognize that they have born talents and various capacities. Kekirawa Learning Centre gives them a chance to discover them and push them in order to let them find their path. Until now, the people in my community (kids, teenagers, young adults and adults) have walked a certain distance in their life path without knowing this. Therefore the KLC needs to show them and open their minds to take the right path. This is the only challenge Kekirawa Learning Centre has.

Kekirawa Learning Center opened!

Opening ceremony (with business coach Eranda Ginige)
Opening ceremony (with business coach Eranda Ginige)
We are very excited to announce the opening of our second learning center in Sri Lanka! Learning Center Kekirawa will offer its first program by next week. The Kekirawa Learning Center (KLC) is the second learning center to be opened in Sri Lanka and is headed by our Community Hero Sampath Sri Senawatte.

On March 8, the local and global teams of the GSE2 program, united for the opening of the 20th BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center. The GSE2 team has been working together virtually across the globe since October 2016 with members dialing in from South Africa, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and Sri Lanka. After the initial research stages, they developed a business plan and convinced Hilti Foundation to invest 20,000 Euro into the learning center.

One of the GSE2 participants with children in the library
One of the GSE2 participants with children in the library
Prior to the official ceremony, monks blessed the building. The ceremony was moderated by Sampath and speeches were given by Sampath, Stefan representing the GSE2 team and Monika from BOOKBRIDGE. The school director from Bastian Silva College gave a great endorsement to the learning center encouraging all parents to send their students for courses. Following the formal opening ceremony, community members were invited to take a tour of the center learn more about the upcoming courses and other offerings. More than ten registrations were collected during throughout the day!

We wish Sampath and his local team all the best in the coming months!

CAP10 is ready – only 1 spot left!

Mandalgovi Learning Center
CAP8 Alumni Tobias and Community Hero Nangaa on the opening day of their learning center in Mandalgovi, Mongolia

Only 6 weeks to go until we kick off our 10th Capability Program. For the first time, two teams will set out in parallel to create their social enterprise in Mongolia and Cambodia. A very diverse team from 18 countries (!) cannot wait to get started. And we are booked out: 24 out of 24 spots taken.

Six years after our first pilot program, we are proud to celebrate our 10th BOOKBRIDGE Capability Program kicking off on April 27 in Switzerland, Mongolia and Cambodia. For our program anniversary, we decided to send two teams in parallel onto their learning journey as well as invite our Community Heroes Buyna from Khovd, Mongolia and Kimsorn from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Switzerland to attend module 1.

Each program has been unique in its learnings and outcomes so far. From the 8th Capability Program, we learnt that the presence of the Community Hero in module 1 eases relationship building and allows the teams to better assess the needs and resources of the people from the beginning. We are excited to welcome our Community Heroes in Switzerland!

Many of our clients asked us how we can grow our program as more and more get interested in developing their talents with us. Our answer is that we send out multiple teams in parallel. By that way, we keep the same quality level and allow candidates to experience and learn from collaborating across teams. We are looking forward to the learnings we will make!

We are excited to welcome SBB, SIGLO and Autoneum as new clients in this program. They will join a group of very diverse talents from Swiss Re, Swisscom and HILTI Northern Europe. In addition, two passionate individuals from Spain and Switzerland have also signed up for the program. One of them will volunteer on-site as a BOOKBRIDGE Fellow after the program.

Are you interested in joining a future program? Feel free to contact Carsten, download the program brochure and apply directly online.


Carsten Rübsaamen
carsten [at]

Khmer Books for Learning Center Siem Reap

Khmer books for Siem Reap Learning Center!
Khmer books for Siem Reap Learning Center!
Thanks to a donation campaign of our fellow Martina, BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap was able to purchase Khmer books for its library.

At the beginning of my fellowship at the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap, Sanith introduced me to an issue that frankly was intolerable to me. The library had many books in English, however the section of books written in Khmer was incredibly smaller compared to the former. Most of our library visitors do not possess the adequate level of English to read books; moreover they had expressed the desire of having more up-to-date and variety of Khmer books. I could not let this wish unmet. I wanted the students to come to the library and know that they could find all they liked and not to feel discriminated based on the language.

By Christmas time I began a fundraising campaign to collect donations for the purchase of Khmer books and advertised it among my friends, relatives and more broadly on my social media networks. Fortunately, my call was heard and many generous souls donated what they could to contribute to this cause. So far I have collected 620 USD approximately, however I will keep it open until I am leaving Cambodia.

In the meantime, however, I did not want to wait long time and decided to withdraw part of the money gathered and buy the first bulk of Khmer books. After some weeks of wait, finally the money was given to me and Sanith and with the help of some students we all went onto a field/educative trip to the near bookstore and started selecting the books for the library.
The bookstore contained so much variety that I was overwhelmed – partly given the fact that I could not decipher what each book was about, being all in Khmer. Anyway I helped with the choice and at the end we managed to acquire 120 and plus books which will soon be catalogued and added to the shelves. We purposely selected titles that targeted personal growth as well as professional, namely how to become more self-confident, how to face a job interview, how to become future leaders, etc.. Additionally, we chose those titles which would equip our students with more general knowledge of the world, history and geography.

The students had a lot of fun, and I believe that the fact they had been involved in this process greatly contributed to their confidence and love for our library! This is just the first start, however it was a significant one both for Sanith and me as well as the students. I will continue with my fundraising campaign so that also in future the money that’s not spent will be meaningfully utilized for the education of the students and the community in a broader sense.

GSE2 Candidates in Sri Lanka

The team: Sri Lankan and European candidatesOn March 3, the 14 members of the GSE2 team arrived in Sri Lanka in order to meet and work with Sampath Sri Senawatte, our Community Hero in Kekirawa. This week they will be joining forces with the local team, preparing for an open day to be held on March 8 and putting the final touches on their implementation plan and kick starting their business.

The team started working together back in October 2016 when they met for the first time. The team is very diverse and has a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, experiences and nationalities. This diversity has proved to be one of the team’s strengths with skills, knowledge and experience from a wide background.

After an intensive co-creation phase and development of a business plan with the support of leadership and business coaches, the team successfully pitched to the investor from Hilti in January, securing the start up capital required to get the learning center off the ground. Working virtually with Sampath, they made the initial preparations for the opening and start up of the learning center. They faced numerous challenges, bumps in the road, with the most significant being the loss of first building they planned to use for the learning center. However, through hard work, perseverance and support from the European team, Sampath was able to secure a new and suitable location and prepare it in time for the arrival of the team.

The learning centerThe opening day of the learning center will be an opportunity for the local community to visit the new center, experience the library and the computer lab and learn more about the vision and mission of the learning center and its future offerings in English and ICT. The GSE2 candidates are working hard together with their local counterparts to prepare the learning center for this special day.

Kekirawa Learning Center will soon offer courses in English and ICT for children, youth and adults, with a planned opening in April. Its vision is to build an empowered and inspired sustainable community with knowledge, skills and values and a positive attitude towards life.

Mission: The KLC is designed to meet the needs of the Kekirawa community, including children, teenagers, youth, and adults, assisting them to discover their own talents and develop themselves to be self-sufficient members of the community. The KLC provides high-quality and student-centered education and training, with a strong focus on English language, information technology and on new forms of media to all members of the community.

Find-Yourself-Course starts creating Impact in Bandarawela Community

From student to trainee teacher: Kugasri (left)
From student to trainee teacher: Kugasri (left)
Our first Sir Lankan learning center, BOOKBRIDGE Skills Learning Centre Bandarawela, started its journey just eight months ago. The key determination of the learning center is to design courses to meet the needs of the young generation in Bandarawela to discover their talents and develop their personality in order to become a self-determined member of the community and be prepared for the job market.

“Find Yourself” course is a unique course designed as a high-quality and personalized education. It has a strong focus on English language-based training plus personality development, career guidance, life skills, as well as new media (internet and the usage of social media in daily lives) to meet the demands of the job market. It is designed as a six month course.

The 1st batch of the course almost reached their final stages. During the course, many students started improving in all the expected areas meaning that the course started creating impact in the community as expected. The students who are following this course found their real potential and their career vision. They already started the journey towards their vision. Here are some examples:

Kugasri Ganesh
Kugasri is the very 1st registered student of this learning center. When he was joining the course, he was very quiet and always doubtful of his skills. He always had a hesitation to participate in conversations. In the course, he improved a lot in both English speaking and grammar. Since he is coming from a teacher family with his mother and sister being teachers, he had a natural talent of teaching. So, we chose him to train him as a trainee English teacher for the kids’ courses at the learning center. Today, he is one of the most child friendly teachers in the center.

Hasitha (in the back) at the registration desk
Hasitha (in the back) at the registration desk
Hasitha Pradeep (left)
Hasitha was the 2nd student registered during the the opening ceremony in June 2016. He was a shy little boy when he joined the course. After a couple of months he appeared as one of the favourites in the class. He started exploring his needs while showing a huge improvement in his English. When he was in his 4th month, he applied for the International Airline and Aviation College. Today he’s following a Ground Operation course completely in English in this college.

Manel (girl on the left) in the dinning etiquette class
Manel (girl on the left) in the dinning etiquette class
Manel Priyangika (right)
Working as a pre-school teacher, Manel had a strong desire to improve her English to begin her own pre-school in the future. She was very quiet and much afraid to get up and give a speech in the early stages of the course. She gradually began giving some very good speeches in the class. Today she took the 1st step towards her dream by starting after-school English classes for kids. She expressed her gratitude to the learning center saying, the center built her confidence to restart her life with new energy.

Rajendran in his class (second from right)
Rajendran in his class (second from right)
Rajendran is an experienced professional who joined the course to change his job to a hotel trade. He joined all adult courses continuously for 3 months to improve his English speaking skills and his life skills. When he was in his 3rd month, he was able to get through a job interview in a leading hotel in Ella and got the job there in the following month.

Apart from these 4 students, most of the students of the first course have also reached the expected improvement and they are moving forward in search of their dream.

Presently, BOOKBRIDGE Skills Learning Centre is training its 2nd and 3rd batches of the “Find Yourself” course. The second batch is in their 4th month while the 3rd batch is completing their 1st month. Both courses are a comprise of young school leavers and most of them are waiting for their university entrants. BOOKBRIDGE Skills Learning Centre has a high expectations on these 2 batches, believing that each of the student will fly high in their life and bring major changes to their community.

Two new Fellows for Learning Center Ang Tasom

Pierre and Charlotte will support Sothika at Ang Tasom learning center
Pierre and Charlotte will support Sothika at Ang Tasom learning center

In the beginning of February, our learning center in Ang Tasom, Cambodia welcomed two new volunteers called Pierre and Charlotte. The two fellows came from France to help us during their university break. Sothika, Head of Learning Center, showed them around so they could discover the learning center.

First, they visited the learning center itself which offers English classes, IT classrooms and a kindergarten in the very center of the city. In the beautiful library children can read English or Khmer books at any level. There is also an IT class with computers where students can learn how to use them.

Charlotte and Pierre then visited the three micro learning centers which are spread over the city. A micro learning center is a branch of Ang Tasom learning center where we provide English courses in the afternoon in classrooms that do not belong to BOOKBRIGDGE but to schools that don’t use them in the afternoon. BOOKBRIDGE runs micro learning centers because the central learning center doesn’t have enough classrooms. It carries out educational offerings to children living remote so that they don´t have to take long travels from the schools they visit in the morning to the learning center.

Little girl reading in Ang Tasom library
Little girl reading in Ang Tasom library

After the visit, the training of of the fellows could start. Sokhan Khut, Country manager of Cambodia, and Sanha Nhor, Education Business Developer, came to Ang Tasom for the week to get the fellowship program started. Therefore, they worked altogether to integrate Charlotte and Pierre as much as possible in the team and to make them familiar them with the organization of the centers and their specific challenges. They went through different topics like cross-cultural communication and the characteristics of Cambodia.

The fellows then visited another learning center, Takeo which is not too far from Angtasom. Here, they discussed their future projects. Charlotte and Pierre should now be ready to fully help Sothika and his team with the learning center. “It has been an enriching and intensive week for both of us.” Pierre said, “I think that there is a huge potential and I will try my best to make it more successful.”

Interview with Charlotte and Pierre:

Hi Charlotte and Pierre, who are you?
I am Charlotte Gionnet, a 22 year-old girl who was born in France. I am a business student in Toulouse in the south of France. I am fond of sport – running, gymnastics…- and I love nature.
My name is Pierre Le Buhan, I am 23 years old and I come from France. I’m studying in a Business School in southern France call TBS. I love sports mainly tennis, football, running and volleyball. I love travelling and discovering new cultures, and together with Charlotte I will be a fellow at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Ang Tasom for the next 6 months.

How do you know about BOOKBRIDGE?
We found Bookbridge on a website called Idealist that lists a lot of associations.

Why do you engage in BOOKBRIDGE?
Charlotte: I got involved in BOOKBRIDGE because I wanted to give my time to an association during my second part of gap year. I really wanted to live a different experience from what I’ve done so far meaning internships in startups.
Pierre: I have received and learnt a lot during my childhood, and during my experiences in start-ups. I am taking a gap year to give and live different experiences with amazing people like in Cambodia.

What do you do at BOOKBRIDGE?
We are fellows at Ang Tasom Learning Center and will help to develop its communication toward the community and to make the center sustainable. It will go through different initiatives like going to high schools and Universities to explain the students what BOOKBRIDGE is about but also to create activities to attract them. Our goal is to help the Head of Learning Center to reach its sustainability rate through English classes and activities.

Fellow Martina: Empowering Students to Think Outside the Box

Student from Siem Reap with her certificate
Student from Siem Reap with her certificate
Martina is BOOKBRIDGE fellow at our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After half or her 6-months fellowship has passed, she looks back and writes about her learnings in the last months.
It’s time for my third blog post and so much has happened in the meantime that I honestly do not know where to begin! I am close to having completed half of my fellowship and it feels like time keeps moving faster and faster.

Learning Center Siem Reap is growing considerably and beautifully. Every day the library is full of students who come to read, learn and rest from the tiring and demanding school classes. Today for example it seems like exams are approaching in some classes, therefore we are seeing many students reviewing their books and notes in preparation for the tests.
The activities are running regularly as usual and the students are eager to take part in them. For example yesterday it was San Valentine’s day and we decided to write postcards to people we love. We decorated them with stickers and colored them and the results were simply beautiful!

Moreover, as every two weeks we schedule a movie event here in the library, many students are bringing suggestions for movies they would like to see and we try our best to fulfill their requests. Our approach is to listen to the students and attempt to accommodate their requests at the best of our capacity because we firmly believe that by involving them in the center’s decision-making processes is to empower and give them the ownership of the learning center and consequently confidence.

Discussing with students
Discussing with students
Following this stream of thoughts, we strongly work towards empowerment and self-confidence, both in our library activities as well as in the classrooms. The students are encouraged to think outside the box, to express their opinion frankly and to cooperate with their peers to generate better results, through self-research and general knowledge. However, most of the times, given the conservative teaching methods of the Cambodian schools and a culture that values a hierarchical system to be the core of education and work, it is very hard to get the students to be brave and think independently because they are used to being told what to do and how to do it.

Some days ago I was having a very interesting conversation with one of my students who asked me ‘Why Western students are braver and more independent-thinking than Khmer?’ It stunned me for the straightforwardness and honesty and most importantly because I ultimately saw that they – the students – recognize the flaws in the system and desire a change.
Cambodia is going through a change in generational thinking and understanding and I am so happy that I can see it first-hand. Thanks to the contact with different cultures that happens digitally as well as physically, the younger generations are challenging old rules and creating their own by mixing the Cambodian and Western world. BOOKBRIDGE Learning Centers are following suit in this endeavor and I am strongly confident that gradually – however invisibly – the change is already happening before our eyes.

How a Smart Team Convinced Tough Investors

Excited to have concinved the investors: the CAP9 team
Excited to have concinved the investors: the CAP9 team
You got an idea on what collective intelligence means when listening to the pitch of our Capability Program 9 to their investor, Swiss Re Foundation. After an excellent presentation by three team members, the whole group piloted itself through an extensive questionnaire on detailed and core parts of their business case. In the end, the investors expressed their respect for the team’s work and said yes – however under the condition of certain homework to be done within the coming weeks.

Sun was shining brightly after several foggy weeks when the team arrived in Boldern, Switzerland on Thursday. This put energy and moods to a high level and the team used the afternoon with their business coach Jorge to do a Mock Pitch and finalize their presentation. After three month of only virtual work it was the first time the team met again in person. Friday morning started rainy but the team atmosphere was fantastic – besides normal excitement there was a great spirit of confidence and the feeling “Yes, we will do this and convince the investors!”

When investors Angela Marti and Gerhard Lohmann from Swiss Re Foundation arrived the team let them directly dive into their story and plans for Chreav learning center. Lisa from Hilti and Eleanor from Swisscom represented team North while Ravy, future Community Hero for Chreav, represented team South. The presentation was very well done by all three of them, entertaining and at the same time very informative and competently presented.

Ravy from Chreav presented the Cambodian team's business plan
Ravy from Chreav presented the Cambodian team’s business plan
The Q&A session afterwards was all the more exciting as it felt like a cross-examination. But it seemed that as the questions got deeper and deeper into details the more the collective intelligence of the team grew. The session had a perfectly spontaneous flow as the team passed the question balls to each other making it very entertaining to listen to them.

In the end the investors said yes – Swiss Re Foundation will invest in the learning center. They also expressed their respect for the work of the team so far. Nevertheless, the investors stated some conditions with their yes: The team will have to deepen its market research and do further calculations. Some team members were a little disappointed but others saw it as an advice and chance to strengthen their business case even more. After an Aperó with the investors the team immediately went to work again and in the afternoon prepared their on-site time in Cambodia.

The last day Saturday was – as in module 1 – dedicated to team-building and leadership journey. Leadership coach Boris Billing let the team reflect on their work as a team so far, gave them feedback on their leadership challenges and achievements and looked at the upcoming time in Cambodia and aspects of the intercultural collaboration all accompanied by a beautiful sun shining on Zurich lake. Well done team, next stop: Cambodia!

All-Staff Training in Mongolia

The Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE team
The Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE team
At the end of January, our Mongolian team conducted their bi-yearly All-Staff Training. The 16 participants traveled Mandal resort, about 60km from Ulaanbaator away and located in a beautiful, peaceful valley with a lot of snow and fresh air. It was a wonderful reunion after five months! As Mongolia is a vast country, our Mongolian Community Heroes don’t get often the chance to meet each other. The Community Hero who traveled the farthest comes from the western province Khovd about 1,500km away. There were altogether ten Community Heroes and two English teachers.

We much appreciated having Monika Nowaczyk, BOOKBRIDGE Country Development Manager, with us – she flew in from Cambodia. Jenni Myung, Peace Corps Volunteer and English teacher at our learning center in Arvaikheer also joined.

On the second day of the training, Tsolmon Gund, Chair of Board of BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia, visited us on the second day of training. With an MBA in education from the US, Tsolmon started her career as an English teacher and has edited several English schoolbooks.

Jenni's session on test preparation
Jenni’s session on test preparation
During the training, we dwelled on topics like improving teaching skills and methods, learning new and best practice from each other as well as working towards the quality framework. Under this thematic part, Community Heroes Uuganaa, Buyanhishig and Monika presented mock lessons. Jenni showed us new techniques and shared resources to prepare test to assess students’ outcomes beyond memorization.

Additionally, we discussed positive attitude and business approach facilitated by Monika and Amar. Besides being a good teacher, these soft skills are crucial for the right mindset to run a learning center successfully in long-term.

Maralmaa and Battuul got awarded Best Scout Leaders by Mongolian Scout Association
Maralmaa and Battuul got awarded Best Scout Leaders
Jenni’s session about activities and projects for the community and how to utilize a volunteer within a learning center was an eye-opening experience for us as it showed how Peace Corps Volunteers think and what is the best approach to work with them. In Arvaikheer, they have organized very successfully various activities together with Community Hero Uuganaa and their next big project will be “TedTalk” in May. How exciting!

A big surprise came the Mongolian Scout Association: two of our Community Heroes, Battuul and Maralmaa, were awarded as the best scout leaders. This makes us very proud as it shows that our learning centers engage with offering lots of children and youth activities and closely cooperate with the scout movement.

Overall the reunion was a great chance to catch up with each other and exchange ideas and experiences. It also painted a clearer picture of the next steps we as BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia and the single learning centers need to take. We from the country organization are going to explore the opportunities to advance further the skills of our Community Heroes.

Interview with Batchimeg Purevjav

Learned a lot for her learning center: Batchimeg in the FIS' library
Learned a lot for her learning center: Batchimeg in the FIS’ library
Batchimeg Purevjav is our next Community Hero in Mongolia. Together with a group of managers from our Capability Program GMP4 she plans to open a learning center in her community Sainshand. To meet the European candidates of the program in person and receive training in library management and modern teaching methods, she travelled to Germany and Switzerland at the end of January. In this interview she talks about her learnings and impressions.

Batchimeg, you decided to do the long travel to Europe. Why?
I went to Europe to meet the candidates that will help me to open my learning center and to do an internship at Franconian International School. This way, I hoped to improve my teaching skills and get valuable insights into modern teaching methods.

What did you do during your stay?
During my stay, I met the project teams and participated in the module 1 training on January 23-26 at Otto Beisheim School of Management (WHU) in Düsseldorf. On January 26-29 I visited the BOOKBRIDGE office in Basel to learn more about what BOOKBRIDGE is doing. From January 3rd to February 2nd I visited the Franconian International School (FIS) for student-centered teaching observation and shadowing librarians.

Batchimeg (left) with a science class in elementary school
Batchimeg (left) with a science class in elementary school at FIS
What did you learn?
During my stay in Switzerland and the module 1 session, I learnt about how BOOKBRIDGE started, how to build teams, how to write a business plan, social entrepreneurship, leadership, different cultures, and setting up my learning center’s vision. At FIS I got many useful ideas for student-centered teaching, learning environment, working with kids and library activities for ESL. I also observed an elementary science class, and visited the school’s three different libraries.

What would you advise the next community hero who comes?
Gather more information about BOOKBRIDGE project module activities beforehand and plan in detail for your own learning center’s vision and community needs.

Video: A Mongolian School Day

How is going to school like in Mongolia? If you have ever wondered how the typical Mongolian school day is you should watch this video. It is made by students from our learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia. In the video, students Pujee and Numalan take you on their way to school – from getting up at 7am in the morning until doing homework and going to bed at night. Enjoy!

4th GMP+ Program successfully kicked off to Sainshand!

Batchimeg presents her vision during module 1
Batchimeg presents her vision during module 1
We are excited about the successful kick-off of our 4th WHU General Management Plus Program (GMP+). Over the next six months, a team of 11 candidates from Europe will work together with five candidates from Mongolia to create a community-based learning center in Sainshand, Mongolia. For the first time the prospective Community Hero joined the European team for program module 1. Great to have you had with us, Batchimeg!

Future Community Hero Batchimeg was for sure the most special guest at WHU campus when the team came together last week. The 11 candidates from Germany conducted module 1 of the program together with Batchimeg while the Mongolian module 1 had taken place already early January to ensure that Batchimeg can participate in both modules.

The team had four days of intense theory and practice: On day 1 it was briefed on BOOKBRIDGE and its mission, on the social business concept and on the way how they will be working together as a virtual team. Leadership coach Heike Rudolph von Rohr worked with them on team building and leadership perceptions. Day 2 and day 3 were dedicated to theoretical management lectures and on day 4 the gained knowledge could be applied right away: Business coach Emilie Barrallon challenged the team to create a joint vision for Batchimeg’s learning center in Sainshand. And as Batchimeg was present she could report the European team directly what vision the Mongolian team had developed during their module 1. A much more easy, personal and fun way to evolve a joint vision!

Celebrating the joint vision with traditional Mongolian shawls
Celebrating the joint vision with traditional Mongolian shawls
Besides Batchimeg’s reporting the Mongolian team joint virtually and in the end the team stated the vision of letting arise an exciting place for the community of Sainshand to improve life conditions and develop future opportunities. They celebrated the joint vision with a Mongolian Hadag – a Mongolian tradition to celebrate big events. And the teams had decided: This is a major event!

The participants will now start to work together in virtual teams to further investigate the needs of the people in Sainshand. The will meet again virtually for module 2 at the end of February and in person for module 3 in the end of March to pitch their plans to the investor and gain the required money for the learning center.

Batchimeg spent another week in Germany at FIS to get some training in library management and teaching methodologies.

From Freiburg, Germany to Angtasom, Cambodia

Charlott with two students in the library
Charlott with two students in the library
Hello, we are Riad and Charlott from Freiburg, Germany. As we never have been to Asia before, we thought it is a good idea to do a voluntary for our stay in Cambodia. Fortunately, we got to know Sokhan as he visited our hometown in Germany. He arranged a short-term fellowship of six weeks in the learning center in Angtasom. After having a one-hour video conference with Sothika, Head of the Learning Center, we agreed to arrive on November 17 and to stay until January 2.

New Micro Learning Center
First, we helped in promoting and open up a new Micro Learning Center [a micro learning center is a mobile unit equipped with books bringing educational offerings to people living in the rural areas of Takeo province]. Therefore, we had to join meetings with various local authorities and several heads of school, as BOOKBRIDGE is cooperating with state schools. Its aim is to teach English not only in the city, but also in the countryside. This was a quite big challenge for us as we didn’t know the conditions of teaching in Cambodia. Once a new micro learning center opened, we assisted in teaching. During our presence three new micro learning centers were ready to open.

Fixing chairs
Fixing chairs
Fixing chairs and see-saw
Unfortunately, the students’ chairs at the learning center were in very poor conditions when we arrived. During our stay, we fixed about 82 chairs! Luckily all the tools we needed were provided by the center and the school’s “Booktook” driver Ra was a great help. He was very patient in working together with two foreigners who don’t speak Khmer. As well as the chairs, we fixed the children’s playground sea-saw, which had been broken for some years. Children appreciate it a lot.

Charlott and Riad are reading with little children
Charlott and Riad are reading with little children
Christmas Party
As a Christmas party was scheduled for December 25, we were involved in preparing games and decoration. Having a snack, a coke and exchanging presents was as great fun to the children as playing games and singing. In the evening, we had a tasty barbeque with the advanced students and all the teachers and we enjoyed to chat and have a drink after the busy afternoon.
Our personal experience

Charlott with Sothika (green shirt) and students
Charlott (red shirt) with Sothika (green shirt) and students
We want to thank everybody for the warm welcome at the learning center. We really enjoyed working closely with staff, teachers, children, pupils, students and everybody else. Sometimes it was quite a challenge and a good training to work spontaneously and be in charge of something without any preparation. So we improved our skills to react on a sudden change of plans. We see this as an exchange of experience and learned a lot about Cambodia, its everyday life and its people. Thank you very much for the good time we shared together!

New Fellow for Mongolian Learning Centers

Agatha supports our learning centeres in Mongolia
Agatha supports our learning centeres in Mongolia
Agatha Haun has been around quite a while in BOOKBRIDGE. She has been supporting our Mongolian learning centers with offering activities and classes. In this little interview we present her and what she is doing for BOOKBRIDGE.

Who are you?
My name is Agatha Haun. I’m an American. I studied history and literature, then foreign languages, including Russian and Japanese at the university. Also I earned a master’s degree in library science. I’ve worked as a librarian, English teacher and translator in the US and several European and Asian countries, frequently working as a volunteer.

How did you hear about BOOKBRIDGE? Why do you decide to volunteer at the learning center?
I heard about BOOKBRIDGE over the Internet. The work that BOOKBRIDGE does is of interest to me since I have worked in libraries and in English teaching. The way this functions in a country like Mongolia is an unusual and original approach to promoting education in an informal setting. I wanted to learn more about the way this kind of program works, so I’ve been volunteering to teach and translate in the learning centers.

Agatha teaching an intermediate class in learning center Mandalgovi
Agatha teaching an intermediate class in learning center Mandalgovi
What do you expect from your fellowship?
I expect to get to know how learning centers work in the countryside, get to know their difficulties and get to know more about Mongolia in country side.

Uuganaa’s Impressions from the All-Staff Training in Cambodia

Uuganaa (right) presenting her learning center's approach
Uuganaa (right) presenting her learning center’s approach
In the beginning of January, the All-Staff Training took part in Cambodia bringing together not only Cambodian BOOKBRIDGE staff but also Community Heroes from Mongolia and Sri Lanka. Uuganaa Gantumur was one of them. In this post, she describes her impression from the first multi-national training.

Hello everyone!
My name is Uugantsetseg, “Uuganaa”. I am the Community Hero of the Arvaikheer Learning Center in the Uvurkhangai province of Mongolia. With the help of BOOKBRIDGE, I have been running an English learning center in my community for the last nine years. This past month, I had a chance to go to Cambodia to share my experiences, meet other Community Heroes, and hang out with Cambodian kids at their learning centers.

My favorite thing about Cambodia was its warm weather and green environment. The seafood and the ocean, especially, were completely new experiences for me. I also think the Cambodian people are so hardworking. They must be so proud of all their rice and agriculture.

Uuganaa (blue shirt) discussing challenges of the learning centers
Uuganaa (blue shirt) discussing challenges of the learning centers
The purpose of my trip was to meet fellow BOOKBRIDGE colleagues and to share ideas about our work and how to make a difference in our communities. We worked hard to find solutions for our weaknesses and discussed ways to improve. The training I attended allowed all participants to talk freely about their own challenges at their sites. In addition, the training was very well organized and everything started on time. We talked about the importance of positive thinking and how it influenced the quality of our learning centers. Everyone had something to say on the topic of student-centered training.

I discovered that the issues that Cambodian learning centers deal with are the same like the problems in our Mongolian learning centers even though we are so different geographically and culturally. I noticed that the Cambodian teachers maintain strong and positive attitudes in the face of ongoing issues. Overall, I was very satisfied with the staff training in Cambodia and I learned so many ideas to share with my Mongolian team.

Team-building activities
Team-building activities
During my trip, we worked hard but we also played hard. We participated in many team-building games and creative exercises. After the training was over, we all went to Rabbit Island which gave us a lot of moments to talk about our centers and activities informally. We all became very good friends. The three BOOKBRIDGE countries keep on always inspiring each other through sharing and communication.

My favorite part was talking to the Cambodian students and visiting the Cambodian learning centers. Every time we chatted, the students were so enthusiastic about learning English at BOOKBRIDGE. They told me that they wanted to make more friends from other countries. We played games, sang songs and I even introduced them to Mongolian culture and life through videos that my students made.

Monika presenting the Quality Education Framework
Monika presenting the Quality Education Framework
I have always believed that sharing experiences makes the biggest difference! We can change ourselves through quiet reflection and inspire others with our change. This trip was incredibly significant for my own work and the work of the Mongolian team. It serves as an example of the strong connections between the Cambodian, Sri-lankan and Mongolian teams.

Thank you, Sokhan, for managing the team skillfully and organizing activities so efficiently. Thank you, Sanha, who is a great facilitator, and Monika who is very good at leading people to think about the quality of service and student-centered training methods. Thank you to the entire Cambodian team!

Intercultural learnings at its best!

After a 4h virtual module, candidates from 10 countries said good bye to each other with a goofy face ;-).

What brings together 24 people from 10 countries on a Saturday morning? Our virtual module 2! The CAP9 Team made use of the 4h meeting to reflect on their teamwork and initiate their working groups towards module 3.

Following a successful and inspiring kick-off in November, the team developed a productive culture of online spring meetings. In working towards their joint vision for a learning center in Chreav, the team found a way to work at eye-level and meet up regularly in video conferences.

After 8 weeks of needs and resource assessment, the team faces a stiff timeline towards the pitch on February 17. To avoid running out of time, the team decided to develop a joint understanding of the different terms used in the Business Model Canvas, a master plan with clear milestones and setup more in-between team meetings.

We keep fingers crossed for the vision of the CAP9 Team and their business plan. Only 4 weeks to go until the pitch!

What a compelling story for Kekirawa!

GSE2 Module 3 Team
The GSE2 Team celebrating their successful pitch

You could sense the excitement and tension in the air as Bea from HILTI Foundation entered the University of Basel on January 18, 2017. The GSE2 Team invited her to listen to their pitch for their learning center in Kekirawa, Sri Lanka. Following a long Q&A session, Bea decided to invest EUR 20,000 in the dream of the team.

Over the last 10 weeks, the 22 members of the GSE2 Team have put in all their heart and passion to assess the needs of the community in Kekirawa and come up with an impactful and sustainable business model for a learning center. Communication across time zones and cultures proved to be challenging. However, the joint vision united the candidates to work towards one goal.

GSE2 Module 3 Storytelling
Christina tells the story of Nehara in the pitch

On January 18, the big moment had come. The team got the chance to pitch their business model in front of their investor. Bea from HILTI Foundation came from Liechtenstein to Basel to listen to the candidates. In the following Q&A session, Bea challenged the team on impact chain of the learning center, the dependency on the Community Hero and the robustness financial plan.

After a short break to reflect on the decision, Bea confirmed her investment of EUR 20,000 as a soft loan into the learning center under certain conditions. The team enthusiastically responded and has started the work on the implementation. In two months from now, they will all find themselves in Sri Lanka to implement their plan.

We keep fingers crossed for the GSE2 Team and their dream to MAKE THE FUTURE PRESENT in Kekirawa, Sri Lanka! Stay tuned for news from Sri Lanka in March!

Impact at Learning Center Mandalgovi

Children playing a learning game
Children playing a learning game

In September 2016 we opened our 12th learning center in Mandalgovi, Mongolia. Narangarav Jambaltseren, Head of the Learning Center, has worked hard since then to get the center running. In this post she describes the progress she has made so far and what she is planning in the future.

We had our official opening for the Mandalgovi “Development Bridge” Learning Center on September 15, 2016. More than 200 people came. Before the opening, we contacted government organizations, schools, NGOs, parents and children. At the opening, we had a children’s concert, speeches by province leaders, Book Bridge associates including CAP 8 members, and local children’s organizations. We had a tour of the LC facilities, some people read books, and we had some food and drinks outdoors. That day we also began to register the students for classes. We registered more than 20, for classes which were scheduled to begin in mid-October. We also spent two weeks in cataloguing and classifying the books, making book lists, and assigning numbers to the book shelves.

On 10 October, Mrs. Narandelger came to start work as an assistant teacher of English and Russian. Classes began on 15 October. We had 4 students in the beginners’ class and 6 students signed up for library cards. Classes met 2 times a week, for 2 hours of class. There were 2 different levels of English skills among the beginners. Students came to the LC several days a week to read in the library. Already in July, we had started an abacus training with 10 students. The class continued until the end of November. A second course of abacus training started with 4 students.

We started to publicize the LC’s services after the 15 September opening ceremony. We made announcements on 2 TV stations, handed out leaflets to schools, and gave leaflets to visiting members of youth clubs and NGOs.

One of the Peace Corps Volunteers practices English with the children
One of the Peace Corps Volunteers practices English with the children

I met three Peace Corps Volunteers at the end of October. Tom started the Reading Club at the end of October. We invited all students of the abacus courses and English courses to come to the Reading Club. Michael and/ or Tom come to the LC to read books during Reading Club time once a week. We also began a monthly Cooking Club with Michael and Tom, where we taught students how to make pizza, tacos, etc.

The LC celebrated Halloween on 31 October with about 35 students. In early November, Mrs. Narandelger and I participated in trainings about child protection, which was organized for classroom teachers. In November, Mrs. Battuul and 5 students from the Dalanzadgad Learning Center visited us. In late November, PCVs Michael and Tom showed videos about the celebration of the American Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas. For the Thanksgiving holiday we had about 20 guests, including abacus course students, English course students, Scouts, and friends.

In November we also visited two school dormitories and organized games and other activities and told the children about the LC’s services. Also in November, we began adults’ classes with 4 students. At the same time, a former PCV visited from the USA with his mother. Both volunteered at the LC for 2 weeks, helping to run English classes and preparing learning materials.

Amar visited, organized a 2-day training for local CAP candidates, and then we had a Zoom call with the European members of the CAP 8 team. In November we had a total of 13 students, including adults. Jessica, a PCV from Dalanzadgad visited for one day, to help teach English classes, read to the students, and have conversation sessions. Scout Honor Day was held in November, with about 20 Scouts in attendance. We participated with the Scouts in the government-sponsored campaign to prevent domestic violence.

In December we undertook various measures to try to increase the number of students. As a result, the number of students went up to 28, in beginning, intermediate, advanced English classes, abacus classes, Russian classes, and exam preparation classes. We downloaded and printed out several textbooks for the English courses at different levels, such as “Excellent! 1-2-3”, “Headway”, “Side by Side 1”, and “Face2Face 1”. Tunga sent one copy of “Master Test” for examination preparation. We printed out cards for assessment of English language skill levels.

The Halloween Party
The Halloween Party

Also we bought English language class vocabulary card sets, for topics such as clothing, flags, customs, equipment and tools, etc., and 10 sets of Mongolian cards on various topics to aid in memory training. Many of the learning resource materials had to be laminated, to prevent them from wearing out too quickly.

In mid-December the students and Scouts helped to decorate the LC for Christmas and New Year. I went to Khovsgol for 4 days, in connection with the Ger-to-Ger Foundation’s nomad-centered eco-tourism NGO. A new Community Hero from Dornogovi came to see the LC and exchange experiences and ideas. We started a new adults’ beginning level class with 1 student. We received a visit from the new Khovd Community Hero.

The English language methodologist from the provincial education department visited to learn about our teaching methods and materials. She asked me to send her our curriculum when it has been designed. A new Book Bridge volunteer came in early January, to assist and advise in teaching, preparation of learning materials, and curriculum design. Community trainers in different sectors such as social work, continuing education, political education, child and family welfare, etc. attended a meeting to plan future training.

Nangaa (right) with students and volunteers during an English class
Nangaa (right) with students and volunteers during an English class

A new club, the weekly Speaking Club, began to meet in January. We spent several days taking inventory of teaching materials and resources, such as vocabulary card sets, maps, and grammar charts; organizing textbooks; rearranging the order of books on the shelves for greater efficiency. The local Mercy Corps donated 60 books dealing with economics.

Future plans:

  • We discussed with the PCVs the possibilities of having weekly movie nights, showing English-language films with English subtitles.
  • Tom is interested in giving talks, trainings, and demonstrations of nutritious diets and healthy cooking and eating, possibly twice a month.
  • We learned how to play the crossword game Scrabble, and decided to make up one or two sets of Scrabble letters and game boards out of felt or cardboard, as a way of teaching students vocabulary and spelling skills. We might be able to organize Scrabble competitions.
  • Some students are interested in starting a chess club. World Vision may be able to donate a few chess games.
  • We are also thinking about organizing some weekly or monthly story-telling and reading-aloud sessions, and for Speaking Club, we might organize poetry readings and recitations.
  • Now we’re getting ready for a graduation ceremony for students who have completed 3 months of English and abacus classes, which will involve granting certificates and a celebration to which family members will be invited.
  • As part of the Reading Club activities, we plan to have students make their own bookmarks, bookplates, and book covers, as part of an LC campaign to teach children to respect books and treat them carefully. Possibly we will do this in connection with special book-related days, such as International Book / Reading Day / Week.
  • We have several large-format charts of grammar rules and key vocabulary which we’re going to mount on the walls, to make it easier for students to review what they learn in class.

Please see the following links to see our impact:

All-Staff Training from a Fellow’s Perspective

Martina (left) during one of the team-building activities
Martina (left) during one of the team-building activities
It is now been nearly 2 months I started to work at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap and the time has flown away so fast! So many things done and so much more to accomplish!

We just came back from an amazing 3-day workshop at the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Angtasom. Here, the Cambodian team, joined by some Community Heroes from Sri Lanka and Mongolia, Uuganaa, Sampath and Sujitha had engaged in a productive discussion about the challenges faced, the weaknesses and strengths of each center and how to efficiently move forward and make our learning centers more sustainable and quality-oriented. In this light, we brainstormed on possible solutions to be adopted and how we could fit them within a broader scope for the long-term goal of BOOKBRIDGE.

The experience has been of extreme importance for me under many aspects: first of all, I had the pleasure to meet incredibly dedicated people who gave me an insight into the world of BOOKBRIDGE outside my learning center and how similar our problems are and the attempts to cope with them. I could learn from their mistakes and from their successes. Moreover, the presence of Community Heroes from other countries and especially the participation of Uuganaa, the first Community Hero of all, has been necessary to analyze our problems from a different perspective and try to find innovative solutions.

Martina (left) in discussion with Uuganaa and other participants
Martina (left) in discussion with Uuganaa and other participants
Secondly, from a more personal angle, talking to community heroes, teachers and librarians enlarged my understanding of Cambodia and its culture, its diversity and the greatness and resilience of these people to be catalyst for a change in their communities. I learned about their past, why they became Community Heroes and the hardships they were and are going through in order to make their dreams come true. Theirs are stories of sacrifice, love and most importantly humanity that brought them all together where they are and made of them the brilliant persons they are today.

Sothika Khoeun from Angtasom Learning Center during one of the workshops
Sothika Khoeun from Angtasom Learning Center during one of the workshops
Finally, in this trip I had a touch of a different Cambodia, a more rural country where tourists are absent and roads are unpaved. Where shopkeepers do not speak any English and the only restaurants open serve Khmer food. Cambodia hides a variety of landscapes that someone cannot grasp by living in a city like Siem Reap: fields punctuated by rice cultivations, jungle and orchards; mountains covered in lush green vegetation as well as a sea that offers great chances for escaping the constant heat of the daylight.

Overall, the journey has been one of professional and personal growth for me and I am sure it was a similar experience for all the participants. I wish all of them the best of luck in their educational endeavors and to find the strength to overcome difficult times thanks to a supportive team of committed and kind people.

P.S. We had some silly moments too, like you see in this picture!

There were also some silly moments at the All-Staff Training Cambodia
There were also some silly moments…

New Fellow in Siem Reap

Impressions of Martina's first month in Siem Reap
Impressions of Martina’s first month in Siem Reap
Martina Fraternali is supporting our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia as BOOKBRIDGE fellow. In this blog post she describes her first month at the learning center.

Hello! My name is Martina and I am the new fellow at the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap, Cambodia. I began my fellowship exactly one month ago and this is the first blogpost I write. I would like to describe a bit myself and my first month living in Siem Reap and working in the Learning Center.

I come from Italy, however for the past 4 years I have been living and working in various countries both Europe and Asia. As a matter of fact, I love traveling and exploring new cultures while dedicating my time working or volunteering for projects that help the local population to be empowered and to contribute to positive impact in their country and the world as a whole.

This is exactly the reason why I decided to become a fellow for BOOKBRIDGE. Their values and mission are very closely aligned to mine, especially in their focus on equal education and social entrepreneurship in the generation of sustainable development. With the term education I do not mean solely the formal education imparted and received at school, but also a more informal one – called experiential learning – that takes places outside the classrooms and it grows thanks to the social interaction and real-life situations which the young generation is confronted with.
The library and the English classrooms at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Centre Siem Reap are the perfect laboratories for this sort of unconventional education and I, together with the Community Hero Sanith, am trying my best to apply to our daily work here.

Living in Siem Reap
I had already traveled in Cambodia, however this is my first time living here and frankly I love it! Siem Reap is a fairly big city which is the house of not solely Cambodians, but of many Western and non-expats that work and have businesses here as well as in other cities in Cambodia. The city is very much alive and oriented towards the tourism that populates Angkor Wat and the few natural attractions situated around Siem Reap city, like the lake Tonle Sap. Therefore are many the people that speak good English and have a higher education.

Khmer culture and language
On the other hand however, it is hard perhaps to find the real and authentic Khmer culture that is very much alive in the villages and smaller cities of Cambodia. Despite it, I consider myself very lucky because thanks to a staff that is entirely Khmer I can truly exchange opinions and ask questions to Sokhan, Sanha and Sanith who are giving me an invaluable insight into their ancient and rich culture. Spending time with them at work and outside is a true blessing.

Additionally, I am making an effort to learn the local language Khmer thanks to a great teacher Sanith! We dedicate one hour per day, from Tuesday to Friday to it and my skills have noticeably improved since the first class. I can now speak few sentences and my vocabulary allows me to go to a grocery shop. I am looking forward to the moment when I could have a proper conversation with some local stranger!

My role at the Learning Center Siem Reap entails many different and interesting tasks and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity I was given to co-teach English classes because what I would like to students to experience in the English lessons is not solely English grammar and scattered topics, but to incorporate real-life and essential topics such as environmental protection, cultural exchange, etc.. within it in order to not only improve their vocabulary, but to sensitize them towards issues that are perhaps overlooked at school and that can turn them into citizens of a bright future.

After a month of work I can happily say I love my job and the Learning Center that gives me space to experiment and learn a lot of new skills. Cambodia is a country with amazingly smiley and kind people and I cannot wait to learn more from its history, culture and ordinary life.

All-Staff Training in Cambodia – with Mongolian and Sri Lankan participants

Sampath, Uuganaa, Vannak and Sujitha
Community Heroes from three nations: Sampath, Uuganaa, Vannak and Sujitha

Our Cambodian team held its 4th All-Staff Training on January 6-8 at our learning center in Angtasom. For the first time, the training was not only provided for Cambodian staff but there were also Sri Lankan and Mongolian Community Heroes participating. In total, nine Community Heroes, four librarians, one fellow, two staff members from the BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia team and Monika Nowaczyk, Country Development Manager at BOOKBRIDGE joint the event. – by Sujitha Miranda

Guests from Mongolia and Sri Lanka arrived in Cambodia on January 1: Uuganaa Gantumur, Head of Learning Center in Arvaikheer, Sujitha Miranda, Head of Learning Center in Bandarawela and Sampath Senawatte from our new learning center in Sri lanka. They gained knowledge through four different platforms: visiting the Cambodian learning centers plus Liger Learning Center, attending the All-Staff Training and personal exchanges with the other BOOKBRIDGE team members.

1. Learning Center Visits

Prior to the All-Staff Training, the guests got the opportunity to visit four BOOKBRIDGE learning centers in Cambodia: Tani, Angtasom, Tonloab and Takeo. Talking with the learning center heads and seeing the centers with their infrastructure and offerings they learned a lot about how to run a learning center. Whereas Sujitha and Sampath spent more time in Angtasom and Takeo with joining classroom activities Uuganaa visited Tani and Tonloab. They were amazed by the improvements of the learning centers and the students.

  • They summarized the learning center qualities as followed
    Tani: The learning center is well organized and Sothy is a very experienced teacher. Appearance and organizational structure were amazing. Uuganaa had a great time with the kids doing wonderful classroom activities with them. She also agreed on building bridges among the learning centers. The students handed over many gifts to Uuganaa to give them to their Mongolian friends.
  • Angtasom: The learning center is also very clean. Community Hero Sothika is taking all efforts to clean and keep the environment clean. He is very talented and very eager to learn new things. He has two motivated teachers who could be trained to apply Student-Centered Learning. “I learnt to think positive and explore opportunities from Sothika. We planned to connect our students via Facebook.” said Sujitha after the visit.
  • Tonloab: Community Hero Vannak Pen is very energetic and tries to implement new things in the teaching process. He is the best example for the teachers. He always explores new ideas.
  • Takeo: Sujitha, Sampath and Takeo staff built bridges between their learning centers. Their students exchanged greeting cards and gifts and are now connected. Sujitha and Sampath had some classroom sessions with the students. The students are great: they not only understand English but can also have conversations in English. Community Hero Sreydieb and her assistant Sopheak are very friendly and open. They shared every single experience with the visitors. “I am about to open my learning center in Sri Lanka in March. These two ladies gave all important information to me. They shared all their knowledges and experiences with me and gave me a lot of tips. I learnt sharing and caring from them.” said Sampath.
Uuganaa shared best practices for teaching methods
Uuganaa shared best practices for teaching methods

2. All-Staff training

The All-Staff Training was a great opportunity for all the participants as it helped them to see their learning center in a broader picture.
The session on the Quality Framework by Monika was very useful. The Community Heroes clearly understood the strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvements at their learning centers. Sujitha stated that she will share this with her staff and post the summary sheet on her office wall as soon as she returns to Sri Lanka.
The experiences and best practices shared by Uuganaa were very useful for all Community Heroes and teachers. The teachers plan to use some of her techniques in their classes. The session on the Student-Centered Learning Process provided many tips to the teachers to improve their teaching skill.
Sokhan and Sanja shared tips and knowledge to help the Community Heroes to improve both their skills and learning center management. During the training, all Community Heroes and fellow Martina had the opportunity to share their experiences and give tips on “best classroom practices”.

What a great time! The participants of the All-Staff Training enjoy time-off at the beach
What a great time! The participants of the All-Staff Training enjoy time-off at the beach

3. Get-together

To grow together as a team, the participants took a trip to Rabbit Island and stayed together at some nice home stays. During the get-togethers, everybody took the chance to share their experiences and cultures and discuss different issues. Thanks to the positive atmosphere, existing barriers were broken and bridges were built between the different countries.

4. Liger Learning Center Visit
Visiting Liger Learning Center was a great experience for all participants. The teaching process and the center’s environment gave many ideas to the participants including doing more useful projects for their respective communities. The visit helped the Community Heroes to sharpen the goals of their learning centers.
All-Staff Training facilitators Monika, Sokhan and Sanha were highly appreciated for their work by the participants. Sokhan’s management and coordination of the training was extraordinary. He was very concerned about the safety and facilities of the participants. He provided all things necessary on time, which was really remarkable and one of the best lessons the Community Heroes learnt from him.

Sujitha participated in different classroom activities in Angtasom and Takeo
Sujitha participated in different classroom activities in Angtasom and Takeo

New-employed Sanha is a great team members in the BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia team. He’s full of knowledge and one of the best persons for training teachers and motivating Community Heroes. He shared many tips with the participants, especially for teaching techniques.
Uuganaa is a wealth for BB. She is the best friend of everyone sharing her rich experiences and always encouraging everyone to be strong and to do their best. She gave many teaching tips and advices on designing courses.
Monika is always the favourite of the Community Heroes. She motivates and inspires them in her workshops. Her sessions energized everyone and made them to think deeply about the quality of their learning centers.

Sujitha expressed her gratitude to the organizers saying “this tour is one of the best experiences and learning opportunity in my life. It was so useful to me. As soon as I returned, I had a meeting with Satheesh and my Assistant Teacher and made many changes in the learning center process. This training energized me to work more focused. I would like to thank Monika, Sokhan, Carsten and BOOKBRIDGE for giving me this unique opportunity. I am looking forward for another great training program!”

Welcome to the team, Sanha!

Sanja will support our Cambodian team
Sanja will support our Cambodian team
News from our team in Cambodia: Program Support Officer Yourngchantreara Sao “Ra” will leave us to dedicate himself full-time to the entrepreneurial stipend program he got elected for. His successor is Nhor Sanha and we would like to introduce him to you in this short interview.

Sanha, who are you?
My name is Nhor Sanha. I am 36 years old. I originally come from Battambang province, but I now live in Siem Reap province. In my free time, I like reading books, doing researces through Google search and other documents, meeting friends and spending time with my family.

How did you know about BOOKBRIDGE?
I got to know BOOKBRIDGE when I started applying for a job at BOOKBRIDGE and at that time, I found out some information and read BOOKBRIDGE’s website many times. At the meantime, some of friends used to tell me about BOOKBRIDGE as well.

Why do you engage in BOOKBRIDGE?
The reason that I on purpose engage in BOOKBRIDGE because it is an organization that helps to promote and motivate people to become young entrepreneurs by providing soft loans, supports, strategies and other guidelines in order to make them become financially self-sustained in the future. This really encourages me to join and work with BOOKBRIDGE and I hope that I will become a useful asset and a part of it in order to help to achieve that.

What will your tasks be?
I will work as an Education Business Developer at BOOKBRIDGE. My responsibilities will include:

  • Help to design and develop any curriculum with the Community Heroes of every BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Cambodia
  • Co-operate and support the country manager for Cambodia
  • Share ideas and support the Community Heroes as much as I can
  • Help to facilitate Fellowship Program
  • Provide specific trainings as needed

Achievements and Learnings in 2016

2016 has been an exciting year for us. Besides the opening of our first learning center in Sri Lanka, we also conducted for the very first time Capability Programs with mixed teams in Asia and Europe. At the end of this year, we wanted to share with you our achievements and learnings. Read what each team member has to say about this year (or watch it in this video).

CarstenCarsten, CEO
Thinking back of 2016, the Summit comes to my mind as our biggest achievement at the first place. Personally, I was especially touched by the evening around the fireplace. I felt so connected to all bridgebuilders being present when we sang songs and shared stories. Secondly, the Capability Program made me very proud this year. For the first time, the program did not only foster entrepreneurial thinking and acting among talents in the Global North but in the Global South as well. Local candidates from Mongolia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka learnt in the program how to setup their own business and do what they really are. I am also proud to welcome talents from 5 new companies in our programs. As a result, the Capability Program allowed us to be profitable as a social enterprise for the third year in a row. Thirdly, we launched our impact wall this year with more than 80 selfies on the change we have brought to people‘s lives. It makes me so proud to kick off each new week with a video from one of our bridgebuilders.

As key lessons learnt, I would like to mention two special moments. First, I learnt that our Vision “Do what you really are” may mean that bridgebuilders change the course of their personal or professional life. And that this is something positive! Emilie retired from her role as program manager after two years and chose to become a self-employed business coach. She has grown in confidence through this change. Jella decided to return to our team after her maternity leave. Instead of continuing her administrative role, she found the management of our programs a perfect opportunity to grow. Ra is another great example. He got so inspired by our learning centers that he became an entrepreneur himself as part of an incubator in Phnom Penh. Good luck to him! And finally Kadet who left “our” learning center in Ang Tasom to setup “her” own learning center just down the road. While this decision came with a lot of challenges for Sokhan and Kadet’s successor Sothika, we can be proud that Kadet continued her journey in providing children with education.

Second, I learnt that letting go is an important part of leadership. Since September 2015, I have not stepped into an airplane. I am not proud of this. But I am proud that I optimized by time around my daughter Anna. Spending more time with her came to the expense of spending less time with BOOKBRIDGE. This allowed everyone to step in, fill the space and grow. And I am happy to say that our learning centers and country organizations now run without depending on me. So letting go makes you achieve this!

TungaTunga, Country Manager Assistant Mongolia
I am proud that this year I could complete the tasks I set for 2016. As for the auditing process at BOOKBRIDGE, I could find a new auditor company that is more competent and cheaper than the last one. The recommendation of the Audit will be improved and completed by the financial report of the year 2016. I also managed to complete the legal documents for establishing an NGO in Mongolia to 95%. As the process is very complicated and laws-centered I realized that we need external help if we don´ want to spend too much time in doing it. Concerning the Capability Programs we conducted in Mongolia I could support them as needed so that they could successfully be implemented.
As for my goal of enabling sustainable impact through our fellows, I have learnt that only few applicants meet the need of our learning centers and that the positions are not very attractive for foreign English teachers. We also need to establish stricter rules on the expected behaviour of a fellow. Personally, I could improve my English speaking skills through my work. However, I realized that I will have to take a classe to improve substantially.

Monika is part of the BOOKBRIDGE teamMonika, Country Development Manager
2016 was a great year for BOOKBRIDGE in terms of progressing towards Vision 2020. During All Staff Training in Cambodia and Mongolia, our Community Heroes gave excellent and thorough inputs towards the development of a quality framework and also described the many things they are doing at their learning centers for their students and for their communities. More and more teachers at the learning centers tried to implment more student-centered approaches in their classrooms.

More and more connections are being developed across the globe. Learning centers from the three countries we are operating in are collaborating and bringing their students together more and more. The Community Heroes have been working closely with CAP alumni and other Bridgebuilders on various projects such as conversation classes, fundraising and business development.

The Sri Lanka team is growing with one learning center successfully established (in Bandarawela) and another one on the way.

My key lessons learned: the need to observe our learning centers more closely for quality of programs, teaching and learning. It’s not enough to rely on photos and stories for their learning centers themselves, but regular interaction with and visits to the centers are required to monitor and asses. Another key lesson is the need to carefully review together both sides key contracts and agreements concerning our partners.

SokhanSokhan, Country Manager Cambodia
My 2016 has been a good busy year, personally, but there were a few disturbances in my daily routine. The first one, my babysitter has left us for a better life chance causing me some troubles in dealing with my little daughter Jolie. The second one is, as part of paying my gratitude to my grandpa who passed away late last month, together with my siblings, uncles and cousins, I converted to a Buddhist monk for a short time for his funeral.

Professionally, 2016 has been an exciting year for me being a Country Manager for BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia. Three major goals have been accomplished:

  1. Tani Learning Center was established through BOOBRIDGE’s 7th Capability Program with its Community Hero, Sothy Tep
  2. Although, the goal to develop Angroka Micro Learning Center into a fully fledged learning center was not implemented as planned, but having Sothika Khoeun as a new Community Hero for BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Angtasom has brought promising outcomes toward the goal set
  3. The Community Hero for our 9th Capability Program, Ravy Vang, was found and our first local Capability Program with 9 local candidates led by a local business coach, Chanthorn Theng, being run in parallel with European program.

However, 2016 has also been a challenging year for my works since two of the six goals set are still behind schedule but this outcome has given me some lessons learned:

  1. Things could be ‘off-track’ when the goal set was too ambitous and underestimation of time and changes when dealing with people from different backgrounds with limited skills and expertise
  2. Keeping a small thing delayed or ignored would cause us failed to reach a major goal.

JellaJella, Program Manager
My working year hasn’t started before November, as I dedicated nearly the whole year’s time to my daughter Minja. And so my key learnings and experiences in 2016 have happened more in the area of the new role as mama and as part of a little family. And here my key learning was: I couldn’t imagine how adventurous, how great, how funny and at the same time how challenging it can be to become a Mama and a family and to find the right new place for everybody in this new life phase. And now I’m really happy and proud on how we found together as a family.

And finally on November 10 when Minja became 1 year I started working for BOOKBRIDGE again. My key learning in this: Great to come back to BOOKBRIDGE and to this familiar organisation – but at the same time so much had changed and moved forward within this one year! I had to get to know (and still have to) BOOKBRIDGE newly.

My learning happened during a Capability Program in Basel in November – CAP8 team met for the last Module and CAP9 for the first Module. The two teams had a speed dating on their questions and experiences. The atmosphere was so electrified! My key learning: Be open-minded, be curious on new things and always ready to get something started, like the candidates are here, this is so inspiring and so many good things can arise. This atmosphere of “something gets started” gives me lots of energy.

RHRuth, Marketing and PR
My main achievement this year was getting our new website online that better shows what we are doing – thanks to the creatives at Contexta. My biggest learnings this year came from the people I met at the BridgeBuilder Summit in March, especially the women. Meeting my colleagues Monika, Battuul and Sujitha for the first time was a great honour for me and showed me what BOOKBRIDGE is: a bunch of highly motivated people striving to reach the same goal.

My women colleagues inspire me very much: Monika who brings in a lot of experience in the field of education, tons of cross-cultural experience and a high level of abstraction capacity. Sujitha, an experienced educational journalist who has now opened her own learning center in Sri Lanka adding social competences to her center’s course offerings by visiting projects and organizations with her students. Tunga who is our tri-lingual (English, German, Mongolian) administrator of our office in Ulaanbaatar supporting our Mongolian learning centers. May-Britt who is managing one of the most important research centers in Germany and has set up the learning center in Bandarawela. Uuganaa who is running our first learning center in Mongolia with never-ending energy, enthusiasm and humour. Emilie who started as manager of our capability programs and now has decided to work as business coach for Swiss and international companies. All are smart, hard-working women and dedicated mothers. The combination of motherhood, professional work and enthusiasm for BOOKBRIDGE’s values inspires me and shows me that we are on the right track.

Watch our achievements and learnings in this video:

Volunteer Portrait: Keo Sophea

Sophea is volunteer at our learning center in Takeo
Sophea is volunteer at our learning center in Takeo
Since this May, our learning center in Takeo, Cambodia has a new volunteer helping with the services and courses at the learning center. We talked to Keo Sophea about her tasks and why she committed to volunteer for BOOKBRIDGE.

Sophea, tell us about you: Who are you? How old are you? where do you come from? what do you do, what do you like to do in your free time…?
My name is Keo Sophea. I turned 20 years old this year and I am from Daunkeo city of Takeo province, Cambodia. I am a student of Build Bright University taking a major in General Management and I am currently in year 2 and I will finish it in two years more. During my free time, I like reading general books such as history, management, general knowledge, phylosophy and listening to musics, especially romantic songs in both Khmer and English.

How did you know about BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Takeo?
I got to know BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Takeo when I was a 9th grader at Cheasim High School, that is located not far from the learning center. My schoolmates who told me that there was a newly established learning center with a library where we can come to borrow books. I later on came to use the learning center borrowing books, drawing and helping the librarian to tidy up books during my school break and free time.

Sophea helps little students with their exercises
Sophea helps little students with their exercises
Why do you engage in the learning center?
I decided to engage with the learning center because I like it and because it is a place with lots of books that I can learn from. I can also learn from the learning center staff when I come to help them. I also like kids and I am happy when working with kids at the learning center. I also want to have working experiences so I think I will gain lots of experiences through my tasks at the learning center.

What are your tasks?
I am a local volunteer working full-time at the learning center from 8-11am in the morning and 2-7pm in the afternoon supporting staff in libary works (managing books, instructing kids to behave well in the library and issuing library cards to new users …). I also lead kids who come to the learning center in coloring picture and I support our Japanese volunteer in doing orgami or cleaning the center’s environment and gardening. I also help the staff with managing classroom as an English teacher for kids (Up1 – beginner). When staff is busy I help out at the information desk and also look after student’s bicycles when they are in the classes. I started doing this job in May this year and will be doing this until I finish university if possible.

Educational Quality: Teaching

Actively engaged students in one of our Mongolian learning centers
Actively engaged students in one of our Mongolian learning centers

“The best teachers are those that show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” Alexandra K. Trenfor

Quality in Education is an important topic for educational systems. Monika Nowaczyk is Country Development Manager at BOOKBRIDGE and in charge of the quality of our learning center’s educational offers. In a multi-article blog series she writes the importance of quality in education. In this article, Monika covers the aspect of quality teaching in Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka.

Every one of us has memories of a favorite or beloved teacher from childhood. It might be of the teacher that always encouraged you to try your best, the teacher that gave you extra help after school on a project or a teacher that always made her lessons so interesting you looked forward eagerly to her class. Sadly, many of us also have memories of the teachers that demotivated us, were unfair, whose classes were tedious, or who really didn’t seem to care. It is not an overstatement to say that a teacher can make or break the educational experience for a child. Teachers are the backbone of any education institution and investing in teachers is one of the most important steps in ensuring educational quality.

How do we measure Teaching Quality?

In September 2015 and January 2016, an external consultant was hired to carry out an assessment on educational quality at our learning centers in Cambodia and Mongolia, respectively. One component of this evaluation, was teaching quality, which was assessed through a series of observations, questionnaires, and focus group discussions with teachers, students and Heads of Learning Centers. Teaching quality was assessed through four indicators: Professional Preparation, Lesson Planning, EFL Instructional Approach and Student-Centered Approach.

Professional Preparation and On-going Professional Development

In order to be effective in their jobs, it is important that teachers, like any other professionals, have the appropriate training or post-secondary education in the field. At the BOOKBRIDGE learning centers surveyed in the past year, most teachers have a post-secondary certification in education or English: 81% of learning center teachers in Cambodia and 90% of teachers in Mongolia self-reported to having a degree in education or English, with the majority of those currently without a degree, studying towards one. Only one teacher in each of these countries reported having neither a degree nor to be currently studying towards one.

In addition to having a higher degree in education or English, on-going professional development is vital to ensure teachers keep to-to-date with modern approaches and techniques, have opportunities for personal and professional growth and are able to share their experiences and learn from the experiences of others. In Cambodia and Mongolia, all staff training workshops take place twice a year, and all Heads of Learning Centers have the opportunity to join and engage in a variety of workshops related to teaching and center management. In early 2017, Sri Lankan Heads of Learning Centers will also have the opportunity to join the all staff training in Cambodia. The BOOKBRIDGE Professional Development Stipend will provide additional opportunities for further training.

A learning activity in one of our Cambodian learning centers
A learning activity in one of our Cambodian learning centers

Lesson planning

Lesson plans are an important tool for effective teaching. A simple lesson plan outlines the objectives, activities, exercises, assessments to be implemented during a lesson along with required materials and a plan for the division of instructional time. It allows the teacher to maximize the lesson for most effective use of time and ensures that all components of the lesson are geared towards the achievement of the set objective. In an English lesson, it also helps the teacher to ensure that all four areas of learning (reading, writing, speaking and listening) are covered. A lesson plan can be a complicated, multiple page document, detailing every stage of a lesson, planned minute-by-minute, or it can be a simple half-page of hand-written notes outlining the key objective and activities to be completed.

The results of the evaluation revealed that fewer than 10% of teachers in Cambodia and fewer than 20% in Mongolia regularly use lesson plans, despite this being a requirement or expectation by the Heads of Learning Centers/Learning Centers. Furthermore, observations throughout 2016 by the Country Development Manager, revealed that some lessons are taught without any clear or set objective and teachers simply follow a textbook or have students complete exercises from the textbook rather than plan a lesson.

EFL Instructional Approach

As all BOOKBRIDGE learning centers focus predominantly on English language instruction, a review of the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) approaches utilized by teachers were assessed. This indicator focuses on the various techniques used by teachers to teach English, from traditional to more modern language learning approaches. The instructional strategies most often observed in BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia classrooms were silent completion of grammar activities (94%), translation activities (94%), copying information from the board (91%), and copying teacher dictation (73%). In Cambodia the results were similar with repetition (78%), vocabulary practice (74%) and choral reading (68%) utilized the most often.

Such methods as listed above are helpful for developing a strong grasp of grammar rules and for building vocabulary. However, these methods have been repeatedly proven in research over the past thirty to be less effective in the development of communicative competence. The result is often students who can read and write at an intermediate to advanced level, but are unable to engage in even the most rudimentary conversation.

Little children participating in a learning activity in our learning center in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka
Little children participating in a learning activity in our learning center in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

Student-Centered Approaches

Student-centered approaches to teaching and learning have been around for decades and research in this area strongly indicates that such approaches are more effective in enabling students to achieve learning outcomes, become active learners and critical thinkers and to develop into life-long learners (see a more detailed view on this topic). Such progressive approaches are no longer on the fringe of discourse in education, but applied in mainstream education systems around the world to varying degrees and are a key indictor in the UNICEF Framework on Quality Education. In Cambodia, the MoEYS teacher training curriculum introduces and recommends the use of student-centered approaches for most subjects, while in Mongolia standards-based curriculum for grades 1-12 likewise emphasizes student-centered methodologies. Most teachers in these countries will have had some pre- or in-service training on such approaches to teaching and learning, although with limited direct experience.

The student-centered classroom emphasizes collaboration and students often work in pairs or small groups. The teacher acts more as a facilitator for learning rather than an instructor who holds and then transfers knowledge to the students. Discipline in a student-centered class takes a more positive approach than in traditional settings, with the complete banishment of any forms of corporal punishment. Behavior expectations often set by students and teachers together in a participatory manner.

The overall score for student-centered approach in Cambodia was 41% while in Mongolia it was 56%. As with EFL approaches discussed above, learning center teachers tend to disproportionately favour teacher-centered approaches over student-centered ones. While teachers at our learning centers in Mongolia and Cambodia use traditional EFL and teacher-led approaches the majority of the time, it is important to note that many also apply modern, communicative approaches such as pair and group discussions, project work, role-plays as well as utilizing modern technology and incorporating fun activities like songs and games into their lessons. Improving teaching quality will mean finding ways to support teachers to tip the balance in favour of the student-centered and communicative approaches.

You can read more about student-centered teaching and learning in our blog post here, which discusses in more detail the challenges and obstacles faced at our learning centers in implementing them.

Improving the quality of teaching at our Learning Centers

Our learning centers are full of passionate people, who are committed to educating children and young adults and supporting them to ‘do what they really are.’ How can we support them to ensure they are teaching at the top of their game, using effective and appropriate methods and providing the best quality, supplementary education in their communities?

Investing in teachers is one of the best investments we can make if we are serious about quality. According to the evaluation, 100% of teachers in Cambodia, and 91% of teachers in Mongolia are interested in further professional development. BOOKBRIDGE recently launched a Professional Development Stipend program to support teachers at our learning centers to continue their studies or further their skills. By donating to this fund, you can support teachers to further improve their skills. Applications by Head of Learning Centers and teachers for support under the Stipend Fund are assessed by a selection committee established in each country and awarded based on the merit of application. Please note, we discourage direct support to learning center staff outside of this program.

Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL) or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) courses are perhaps the best and quickest solution to the issue of quality teaching at our learning centers. All of our centers focus on English as their main, if not only, offering. TESOL and TEFL courses, some of which are available online or locally usually through institutions located in the capital city, provide foundational knowledge on EFL and student-centered approaches including communicative activities, lesson planning, effective and positive classroom management and scaffolding for learning. This, along with observations of lessons by qualified, experienced teachers would have a great and immediate impact on the quality of teaching.

Other teachers need to improve their English levels or their skills in other subject areas which they may be interested in offering in their learning centers. Online conversation classes or attending intensive English courses can help them improve and build their skills and more importantly, their confidence.

Quality of teaching is also a topic that needs to be examined and discussed by future Capability Teams as they work toward establishing new learning centers. They will need to work with the future Head of Learning Centers to ensure that recruitment of new teachers is based on fair assessment of qualifications and skills and to provide access to additional training as necessary and if possible before the opening of the center. Teachers also need to be provided with a positive work environment and good working conditions with fair remuneration and benefits such as health or social insurance premiums based on national programs.

How you can help:

Student-centered approaches in Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka

Mongolian children doing homework
Mongolian children in one of our learning centers

Monika Nowaczyk is Country Development Manager at BOOKBRIDGE and in charge of ensuring the quality of our learning center’s educational offerings. A few months ago, she wrote about the importance of quality in education. In this article, Monika covers the related topic of student-centered approaches in Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka (here you find all education quality-related articles).

Education Quality: A Tale of Two Classrooms

In classroom A, students are sitting quietly in neat rows all facing the teacher and listening to her speak. She turns to the board and writes a sentence on the board and all the children carefully copy it into their notebooks. The sentence says, What sport do you play? The teacher then shows the class several pictures of people doing different sports. She says the name of each sport, and the children repeat, in unison. Next she writes on the board underneath the first sentence, I like to play basketball. She then asks a student to stand up, asks the question and the student answers, I like to play basketball. She repeats this question and answer with each and every student in the room. To finish the class, the teacher instructs the students to write three answers to the question. One by one, each student goes to the front of the classroom and the teacher checks their writing.

In classroom B, there is chaos. Or so it appears at first glance. The desks have been pushed into the walls and the students are talking, laughing and gesturing in the middle of the room. They are playing a game. Students pair up and ask each other the target question, What sport do you play? Their partner first does the gesture of the sport, which their partner then tries to guess. If correct, their partner answers the question. They repeat this until they have spoken to at least ten others in the classroom. The teacher circulates and monitors and helps students who are shy or who forget the sentence structure. After this game is finished, the teacher reviews the names of different sports by showing the pictures and asking students to call out the names. Students draw a picture of themselves playing a sport and then hang these up around the classroom. To close the class, the class sings a funny song about tennis.

The above are examples from BOOKRBRIDGE learning centers of how different classrooms are run. Which class would you prefer to be in? Which class would you prefer for your child?

Pre-schoolers taking part in a learning activity in a Cambodian learning center
Pre-schoolers taking part in a learning activity in a Cambodian learning center

Student-Centered Approach vs Teacher-Centered Approach

The term ‘student-centered approach’ (sometimes child-centered) refers to a range of techniques, methodologies and learning activities in which the focus is on the active learning of students rather than direct instruction by the teacher. In the student-centered classroom, the teacher acts more as a facilitator than as an instructor. The student-centered approach encourages more collaboration and is more effective in enabling students to achieve learning outcomes, especially in language learning.

In a teacher-centered classroom, on the other hand, the teacher is the most active person in the room while students are passive, usually seated in rows, either copying from the board, repeating phrases or numbers in unison, or quietly completing exercises at their desks. In this type of classroom, the teacher makes all the decisions related to learning and assessment and there is little room for or attention to individual student needs or interests. Students rarely speak, or only when called upon, and are not given opportunity for critical reflection or creative problem solving.

Evaluation of Education Quality at BOOKBRIDGE

Two evaluations took place over the past 15-months at BOOKBRIDGE; in Cambodia in September 2015 and in Mongolia in January 2016. These evaluations, prepared by an external consultant, reviewed education quality at our learning centers within the UNICEF Framework on Educational Quality. One of the key findings of the report in both countries and a key constraint on quality, was that of a predominant use of traditional teaching methods over student-centered ones.

Student-centered approaches to teaching and learning have been around for decades and research in this area strongly indicates that such approaches are more effective in enabling students to achieve learning outcomes, become active learners and critical thinkers and to develop a sense of life-long learning. Such approaches are no longer on the fringe of discourse in education, but are applied in mainstream education systems around the world to varying degrees and are a key indictor in the UNICEF Framework on Quality Education. In Cambodia, the MoEYS teacher training curriculum introduces and recommends the use of student-centered approaches for most subjects, while in Mongolia the standards-based curriculum for Grades 1-12 likewise emphasizes student-centered methodologies.

“Good teaching is more a giving of right questions, than a giving of right answers.” Josef Albers

Resistance to Student-Centered Methodologies

However, despite progress in developing countries at national and policy level to become more student centered, teachers in public schools and at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Centers are generally resistant or hesitant to move away from traditional teaching methods. There are numerous reasons for this, and the understanding of which will be key a BOOKBRIDGE moves towards improving quality at the learning center level.

One of the first and overarching reasons is the the ingrained teaching culture in the countries in which BOOKBRIDGE operates, a teaching culture that prioritizes rote learning over creative thinking, memorization over knowledge creation and passive students over active ones. Added to this are the personal experiences of most teachers, who grew up within these traditional schools and school systems and have likely only ever experienced learning through teacher-led methods. For these teachers, student-centered approaches are unfamiliar and challenge their foundational understanding of teaching and learning.

Sri Lankan children participating in a learning game in our learning center Bandarawela
Sri Lankan children participating in a learning game in our learning center Bandarawela

Teaching Perceptions in Asia

For many teachers in Asia, teaching means giving information or passing on knowledge to students. Student-centered activities, many of which are naturally fun and interactive, are viewed as a break, a distraction from the real learning that happens when students engage in rote memorization or repetition. Some teachers do not recognize the natural, often joyful, learning that happens in such activities compared with the traditional methods of copying, repeating and memorizing.

For a new teacher, or a teacher new to student centered methods, such methods can seem intimidating and counter-intuitive. Teachers in many Asian countries are used to having, or at least attempt to have, complete control of their class. They view their role as the supreme ruler of the classroom. A passive class of students repeating words in unison or quietly copying words from the board, allows teachers to assert and maintain control. Student-centered activities can seem chaotic as students talk to one another in pairs, move around the classroom or participate in active learning activities outside the classroom, often at their own pace. Some teachers feel they loose control in the student-centered classroom and are fearful of this paradigm shift.

Another reason cited by teachers is the feeling that student-centered activities prevent them from fully supporting their students’ learning. For example, in an activity during which students break into pairs to practice a dialogue, the teacher cannot support each pair concurrently. Students will be speaking the target language without immediate correction from the teacher. The teacher may feel that students speaking the dialogue without their constant monitoring could lead to repetition of errors. However, it is this type of free practice that allows students to build their confidence and gives them more opportunity to practice the spoken language than if they are waiting for their turn amongst a class of forty.

An additional constraint faced by teachers in applying student centered methods are parents, as well as students themselves. Parents want to see evidence that their children are learning, and that they are getting value for their money. Usually this means looking into their child’s notebook to check for pages (and pages and pages) of copied words and completed exercises. Children, especially in higher grades are starting to look towards exam preparation and may view activities that are not strictly and clearly ‘learning’ through memorization and repetition as play and a waste of their study time.

Many teachers, especially in Cambodia, are hired at the learning center as part-time staff. They are paid only for the time they teach and it is not uncommon for them to do their lesson prep in the first few minutes of the class, or to do no prep at all as they are not paid for this time. A teacher-centered class, in which the teacher follows a textbook and students copy sentences from the board or quietly complete exercises is much easier to arrange on the spot, than a student-centered lesson which requires more planning and preparation.

Finally, a barrier to student-centered approaches often cited by teachers is a ‘lack of materials’. There is a misconception that student-centered methods require numerous and various materials and tools, which many learning centers don’t have or can’t afford. However, many student-centered activities (such as pair work, exploration of the outside environment, role-plays, etc.) do not require any additional materials at all and can be implemented with minimal resources.


As student-centered approaches are key to educational quality, engaging learners and ensuring they achieve key learning outcomes beyond memorizing and repeating facts and figures, and more importantly that they develop into independent, critical thinking adults and thoughtful, empathetic members of their communities, a gradual switch to student-centered approaches at our Learning Centers is a must. Overcoming the above barriers will be of top priority but significantly challenging and unlikely to happen within a short timeframe.

Heads of Learning Centers will need on-going support in transitioning themselves and their teachers from mostly teacher-centered to mostly student-centered classrooms. As a first step, completing a TESOL course will greatly benefit the skills and knowledge of many learning center staff and deepen their understanding of student-centered approaches specific to English language and how to apply these with limited resources and time constraints. You can support BOOKBRIDGE larning center staff members to take a TESOL course through our Professional Development Stipend Program.

To transition learning center teachers, Heads of Learning Centers will need to provide regular training and workshops for their staff on student-centered approaches. They will need to facilitate the transition with prepared lesson plans that can only be taught in a student-centered manner. Additionally, advanced preparation of materials will be required. One school in Negombo, for example, set up a special English classroom with all materials for active, student centered, activity based learning prepared and ready for use. Teachers only have to enter the room and select an activity based on the grammar point or vocabulary they are teaching, distribute the materials and monitor the students.

Most importantly, and perhaps of greatest challenge, Head of Learning Centers need to foster internal teaching cultures that focus more on creative approaches to engaging students than on following the status quo. They will need to provide a clear path for their teachers to gradually, but continuous, make the change from traditional teacher-centered approaches to progressive, student-centered approaches through positive leadership, encouragement and modeling. Vannak Pen at Tonloab learning center, for example, restructured the courses during the 3pm-5pm time period at his center in which each student rotates through four classrooms in 30-minute increments. Each room focuses on teaching the daily English objective through different methods: singing, physical movement, arts and reading and writing. Teachers are given a lesson plan and have no choice but to apply a more student-centered methodology. It is very difficult to change teacher’s behaviours, especially if they have been teaching for many years, but if the situation is restructured as in this creative example, they have no choice but to adapt to a new reality.

There are many great examples in our learning centers of teachers implementing student centered activities and projects in and outside of their classrooms. This indicates that despite the predominant teaching culture in each country, there is a strong will amongst BOOKBRIDGE teachers to apply modern, child-friendly approaches and that they are able to recognize how beneficial this is for their students. With ongoing support and encouragement, the teaching culture and approach at each learning center will slowly and progressively shift towards modern, creative, student-centered approaches that prepare and enable our students to do what they really are.

“It helped me to see the world from a whole new perspective”

After his experiences at BOOKBRIDGE Olivier (left) with others founded the social startup AtlasRun
After his experiences at BOOKBRIDGE Olivier (left) with others founded the social startup AtlasRun
Which impact does BOOKBRIDGE create? Olivier Kaeser was BOOKBRIDGE fellow in Cambodia and later attended our Capability Program. Coming from SwissRe he has started his own social enterprise in Cambodia and a start-up in San Francisco. In this interview and video Olivier talks about the impact BOOKBRIDGE has had on his professional and private life.

Who are you?
At the moment, I’m the co founder of a impact driven start up in San Francisco. Before, I was lucky enough to be part of the build up of Swiss Re’s CSR program for many years while doing some other fun and not so fun things besides, like Military service (not so fun) or my Civilian Service with BOOKBRIDGE (fun). I’m a big believer in a collaborative, compassionate and empathetic world where we channel our natural instinct to fight and kill each other towards a sustainable form of capitalism and sports competitions like the FIFA World Cup 🙂 .

How did you get involved with BOOKBRIDGE?
I originally was selected for a Swiss Civilian Service assignment in Cambodia to manage the start up and transition phase of the Ang Tasom Learning Centre and then decided to join the Capability Program to become a more active part in the set up of the Learning Center. So I first was of the Ang Tasom Capability Program team and then stayed in Cambodia for another 5 months as a Fellow after the opening ceremony of the Learning Center

Which 3 words describe BOOKBRIDGE best for you?
Innovative, transforming, impactful.

What are your personal and professional learnings from the fellowship program?
From a professional perspective, it was great to work in an intercultural team that commits to the same goal. The different personalities and cultures made me realize that there are various ways and perspectives about how to move from point A to point B (and that a “detour” to point C during the process can be fun, enriching and a good learning too). The Capability Program covered many aspects of a “traditional” leadership development program while multiplication the learning experience with feasible impact in Cambodia. From a personal perspective, it was an overwhelming experience. I learned so much on so many levels during these 5 months, it is hard to put it in words. It helped me to see the world from a whole new perspective.

How do you transfer these learnings into your daily life?
Thanks to BOOKBRIDGE and Paul from Sonas, I learned a lot about Social Entrepreneurship when I was I Cambodia and I therefore decided to do a Masters Program in this particular field. At the moment, I’m working in the startup Atlasrun in San Francisco which is exciting and I also still have strong ties with the family I lived with in Cambodia. We’re cultivating Mangos together with the idea to produce local jams and chutneys and I just have visited parts of the family that live in Cleveland, Ohio. Yet again, to live in a developing country for 5 months changes your perspective on so many things so the transfer of these learnings into daily life comes pretty “automatic”.

Watch Olivier’s video:

Watch more impact videos on our impact wall.

CAP8 Module 5 – The End of the Beginning

After six months as entrepreneurs in Mongolia, the CAP8 Team reunited for their last module on November 18, 2016. Full of pride for the learning center which they have opened up in Mandalgovi, the team debriefed the investor and shared key lessons learnt. Module 5 marked not only the official end of the Capability Program but also the start of a life-long post-learning experience.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-16-52-51In Mongolia, the CAP8 Team had done a fantastic job in opening up a brand new learning center in Mandalgovi. In module 5, the team convened two months after the opening to evaluate their success and transfer their learnings out of the program to their daily life. Despite the slower than anticipated ramp up of the operations, you could feel the pride and energy in the room.

Emotion and efficiency curve
Emotion and efficiency curve

Emotions and efficiency played a big role for the team in the program. By drawing an emotion and efficiency curve across the six months of their entrepreneurial learning experience, the team realized that the initial NO at the investor pitch in July was an emotional downwards moment but boosted their efficiency tremendously – their vision was at stake!

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-16-51-12In a debrief call with their investors Angela, Fritz and Gerhard from Swiss Re Foundation, the team compared what they had planned and what they had achieved. In a follow up call with their Community Hero Nangaa, the team realized how quickly their vision and views on what has to be done next has also become the vision of Nangaa. What a magical moment!

CAP8 Team Member Wolf receives his certificate with wolf cries ;-)
CAP8 Team Member Wolf receives his certificate – of course with the cries of a wolf 😉

At the same time, the the 9th Capability Program Team (CAP9) set out for their mission to make a difference in Cambodia. In a speed-dating session, CAP9 candidates handed over their key lessons learnt from the program. Among them, the CAP8 Team would have invested more team in the market research phase and in meeting the key stakeholders of the project before they arrive in Mongolia. At the end of the program, all candidates received certificates with personal words from their business coach Nathalie Moral and leadership coach Heike Rudolf von Rohr.

We are grateful for this team. They all decided to continue their monthly calls with their Community Hero and re-unite on September 2017 when the learning center celebrates its first birthday. Not only the team has learnt a lot but BOOKBRIDGE as well. Visit to find our more about this program and follow the impact it will continue to create.

GSE2 kick off with joint vision for Sri Lanka

End of October, 22 candidates from 11 nations set out for their learning journey as social entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. We are very proud of the successful kickoff of our 2nd CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship. The team faces the challenge to develop, implement and evaluate a community-based learning center in Kekirawa, Sri Lanka. Over the course of 6 months, they work together with Sri Lankan counterparts from Kekirawa.

GSE2 Module 1
GSE2 Team light Sri Lankan Oil Lamp in Basel

What a magical moment! On the last days of module 1, 22 candidates lid two candles to celebrate their joint vision to make the world in Kekirawa a little bit better than they have found it. 14 candidates found themselves at the University of Basel. Their 8 counterparts from Sri Lanka celebrated this moment in Kekirawa, Sri Lanka. A video conference allowed both teams to experience this moment together.

In module 1, both team experienced what it takes to unite very different characters from 11 nations towards one joint goal. Starting with lectures on social entrepreneurship, business modeling and world economy in the first two days, the team in Basel was challenged on day 3 to stop talking and start doing. Together with their Sri Lankan counterparts, they developed a joint vision and the first set of their business model canvas. Emilie Barrallon Engeli assisted the team as business coach while Heike Rudolf von Rohr accompanies the team as leadership coach.

GSE2 Sri Lankan Team
Business Coach Eranda guides Sri Lankan Team

In Sri Lanka, the team of 8 candidates around Community Hero Sampath is accompanied by Eranda Ginige as business coach. Eranda makes use of the setup of the learning center as a case to train candidates in setting up their own social enterprises. By that way, the CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship nurtures (social) entrepreneurial thinking and acting not only in the Global North, but in the Global South as well.

GSE2 Module 2
22 crazy faces in module 2

Six weeks later, the team met again for module 2. This time, all candidates joined virtually for a 4h-module. They discussed what they liked about their teamwork so far and made concrete decisions on how to make it better. Following this, each working group updated the team on their current status and the team organized itself for the next phase of the project – pitching the business plan for their learning center to their investor in the upcoming module 3 in January.

What unites the GSE2 team is a strong team spirit and a culture which nurtures exchange and empathy for each other. We are proud of what they team has achieved so far and we keep fingers crossed for their pitch in January.

Are you interested in joining our next CAS? Feel free to contact Carsten at carsten [at] for more information on our 2017 programs.

First English Camp organized in Sri Lanka

Alphabet matching game
Alphabet matching game
Our learning center in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka, has organized its first English Camp for a school on the countryside. The English Camp was held with the collaboration of BOOKBRIDGE Skills Learning Centre Bandarawela on 25th November. A team of the learning center, headed by Community Hero Sujitha Miranda assisted by the Administrative officer P. Satheeshraj, Trainee Teacher Kugasri Ganesh and students R. Madavan, G. Praneethraj and T. Kalairaj conducted the camp with the support of the school’s English teacher Kalpani Morin Perera and staff teachers.

Kosgama Vidyalaya is a rural primary school situated at the border of the Uva province in the Haldummulla division. The student population of 41 is supported by 14 teaching staff. Mr. W. D. Wijeratna serves as the present principal. The school operates with minimal facilities. The entire village does not have electricity. The students never had any chance to experience the world outside of her community.

The kids participated in many learning activities
The kids participated in many learning activities
Apart from course offering such as Spoken English, IT, Accounting, career guidance and life skills, Bandarawela learning center guides its students to engage in many community service activities. Among those activities, the most recent activity was the English Camp at Bd/Kosgama Vidyalaya.

When Sujitha Miranda came to know about this school, the team visited it several times to find a way to support them. Finally the English teacher of the school, Mrs. Kalpani approached them to get help for organizing an English Camp.

The team organized many activities based on basic English lessons such as matching capital and simple letters, matching words with pictures, building words, Balloon Challenge, treasure hunt, etc. The kids enjoyed the activities a lot. The program concluded with a balloon throwing game which brought laughter and fun among the children. The Principal and the staff thanked the Skills Learning Centre team for giving a wonderful experience to their students.

“The Chatty Bunch” – Speaking Club opens in Arvaikheer

Students practice their English skills in Arvaikheer's new speaking club
Students practice their English skills in Arvaikheer’s new speaking club
This fall, our learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia started to offer an English Speaking Club to its students.

“The Chatty Bunch” is a speaking club initiated by Peace Corps volunteers Jenni, Perrin, and Anna. It was kicked off in November and involves students from different schools in Arvaikheer. The club is open to anyone who wants to join and meets twice a month.

We focus on improving students’ public speaking, presenting, debating, acting, and controlling their voices when making speeches. We hope that in the future these young and bright kids will become leaders in the eyes of our community and that they will be able to use their influential voices to make speeches about topics that matter to them.

We are planning many more upcoming activities such as an opportunity for current club students to meet university students who were previous students at the learning center. The final step of our Speaking Club will be a Ted Talks seminar in the spring.

English Festival in Arvaikheer and Chinggis

The organizational team: Ankhiluun, Khandsuren and Uuganaa
The organizational team: Ankhiluun, Khandsuren and Uuganaa
For the second year in a row, our learning centers in Arvaikheer and Chinggis (Mongolia) organized an English Festival and weekend camp for their students. This year’s festival, sponsored by the Arvaikheer Government and BOOKBRIDGE parents, took place in Khentii aimag center and included over 70 student participants. In collaboration with Peace Corps Mongolia volunteers, the two learning centers sought to bring students together in the spirit of friendship, teamwork and positive sportsmanship.

The opening day began with a 60-minute English paper test for 5th to 12th graders. Peace Corps Volunteers from Arvaikheer – Jenni Myung, Anna Buchanon, and Perrin Krisko – designed the tests to focus on critical thinking, creativity and utilization of grammar rather than identifying isolated grammar patterns, common in today’s scholastic tests. The tests were printed by the two Head of Learning Centers, Uuganaa Gantumug and Anhiluun Davaa, but administered by volunteers. While the tests were being graded by the Arvaikheer PCVs, the students relocated to Chinggis Hot’s 2nd School for the Opening Ceremonies.

Students with the tests
Students with the tests
Renchinbyamba, a 12th grader from Arvaikheer, did a short presentation about international football, and then joined his peers for an acapella rendition of Pharrell’s “Happy”. Students then split into multi-age groups and participated in a rotation of five competitive and fun English games led by the Khentii Peace Corps Volunteers. After the award ceremony, all the students went out to dinner together.

After the tests, students joined to watch Harry Potter movie
After the tests, students joined to watch Harry Potter movie
The second day began with a casual game of volleyball and basketball at the Temujin School Gym. After lunch, the students returned to the school to review the English test and go over corrections with the Arvaikheer volunteers. They gave feedback on the test and volunteers gave explanations on any difficult sections. Students were very satisfied with the discussion and even went so far as sharing and peer-grading versions of the test later with their classmates who hadn’t attended the trip. After the test corrections, students came together in the school’s auditorium to watch Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone. The movie was played in English with English subtitles. In the evening, Uuganaa and Ankhiluun led a workshop about leadership and opened up the space to have students reflect and share their thoughts about the weekend.

Happy to have dinner together
Happy to have dinner together
In short, the exchange weekend was a great opportunity for both Arvaikheer and Chinggis BOOKBRIDGE students to continue their English studies as well as encourage community across aimags.

9th Capability Program kicked off to Cambodia!

On the first day, the teams met in a virtual speed dating session.
On the first day, the teams met in a virtual speed dating session.
Here we go! On November 14-16 the first module of our 9th Capability Program to Cambodia was successfully kicked off. The team members from the Global North came together in Leuenberg, Switzerland to get prepared for their 6-months journey that will take them to the set-up of a new learning center in Chreav, Cambodia. But not only the Western team took off: For the first time, Cambodian candidates take part in our Capability Program. Together with Community Hero Ravy the Cambodian team started their journey on the same day.

Both teams met each other only half an hour after the program had started. The atmosphere was cheerful and both sides were keen to learn more about the other culture and the expectations about the program. From now on, the two teams will work together simultaneously on their vision of a learning center for Chreav to little by little become one team.

On the first day, the teams learnt about BOOKBRIDGE, social business theory and their business challenge. The challenge is about creating a social business model for Ravy’s learning center with the goal to serve the people in the community of Chreav.

With different sessions, the participants got to know each other
With different sessions, the participants got to know each other
On the second day, both teams in Switzerland and Cambodia worked on their vision for the learning center and virtually met the investor to learn about her expectations. Then they drafted a first Business Model Canvas. For the upcoming weeks they divided in subgroups that will meet virtually only.

The third day of module 1 was dedicated to the leadership topic. The participants reflected on their individual learning goals, heard about the how, what and why of making business and defined how they wanted to work together as a team.

During the next weeks the teams will work together to prepare the pitch to the investor in February. If they succeed to convince the investor, both teams will finally meet in Chreav, Cambodia in March to set up the learning center and open it.

The Cambodia team's vision for the learning center.
The Cambodia team’s vision for the learning center.
The CAP9 team is diverse and international as no CAP team was before. For the first time, we have a candidate from the United States! The 14 candidates have ten different nationalities. Including the Cambodian team, there are 11 nationalities in a 24-persons team. The Global North team is composed of employees of SwissRe, Swisscom and HILTI. The Cambodian candidates come from private organizations or schools. The team is supported by business coaches Theng Chanthorn, Jorge Cendales and Petra Ewald as well as Boris Billing as leadership coach.

The next Capability Program is scheduled to start in April 2017. If you are interested, feel free to read more or contact Carsten at carsten [at]

“Make sure that the impact is as sustainable as possible”

Constantin (left) with Vannak (center) and Roman
Roman (right) with Vannak Pen (center) and another fellow in front of learning center Tonloab
BOOKBRIDGE does a lot – but what does it actually change in the lives of the people we work with? Roman Twerenbold is from Switzerland and works for an NGO that is active in Nepal. Before, he has worked as BOOKBRIDGE fellow at our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia. In this interview he describes how BOOKBRIDGE has impacted his private and professional life.

Who are you?
My name is Roman Twerenbold and I was a fellow at the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Tonloab in Cambodia in 2015 and 2016. I’ve just finished my Masters Degree in International Development and I am working for an organization that supports livelihood projects in Nepal.

How did you get involved with BOOKBRIDGE?
I joined BB as a fellow during my Masters Degree for 6 months. My activities included co-teaching, developing new teaching exercices, promoting the Learning Center and supporting Vannak Pen, the HOLC in daily management.

Which 3 words describe BOOKBRIDGE best for you?
Connection: BOOKBRIDGE connects people from various backgrounds around a same idea. At the same time, people from different cultures and contexts come and work together for a specific project. Personnaly, I have made friends in Cambodia, through Germany and Sri Lanka. It’s a real family! Our bridgebuilder meeting in March was an amazing experience!
Conviction: BOOKBRIDGE believes in the importance of education and the opportunity for young people to learn and widen their horizon. By handing over the learning center to the community and the local Head of Learning Center, BOOKBRIDGE also believes in equality and empowerment to build a society where everyone’s potential is harnessed and fulfilled.
Innovation: Taking an innovative social business approach is a key aspect of BOOKBRIDGE. By combining learning and social impact at the same time, with a growing importance of the private sector in development, BOOKBRIDGE found a new approach to international cooperation.

What are your personal and professional learnings from the fellowship program?
Personally, I have discovered who I am in a completely different culture. I discovered many beautiful things in Cambodia and most of all, I have made friends that I want to visit as soon as possible. Professionally, since I want to work within international development, I gained on-the-ground experience with the opportunities and challenges of daily operations of a community development project, which is highly valuable. I learned that personal relationships are key as well as building on what is already available.

How do you transfer these learnings into your daily life?
When monitoring projects, I am more aware of the eventual constraints and local conditions but also the opportunities to make sure that the impact is as sustainable as possible. In other words, my professional life will benefit from this amazing experience. On another level, I know that implementing change can take time but even if you fail the first time, you know now how to take another look at a challenge.

Watch Roman’s video:

Watch more impact videos on our impact wall.

Arvaikheer Learning Center is awarded as Outstanding Library

The learning center's students took care of their booth
The learning center’s students took care of their booth

Learning center Arvaikheer is BOOKBRIDGE’s first learning center. Located east of Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar, it has become an important element of the province’s educational landscape. In this blog post Uuganaa Gantumur, Community Hero in Arvaikheer, writes about the award her learning center received for wide variety of books.

Our first activity of this quarter was to advocate the upcoming academic year to our community. Many students and local community members were interested to know more about BOOKBRIDGE events. So we decided to take part in the “Rare Book Exhibit” at the aimag’s (province) central square. Public schools, libraries, and twelve local organizations presented interesting books. Some of our students presented our books wearing BOOKBRIDGE t-shirts and explaining the book’s long trip from Europe (where they had been collected) to Mongolia. The purpose was to help Mongolian students to improve their English communication skills in order to gain better chances in a global society.

Many people from Arvaikheer passed by the booth to discover the book offerings
Many people from Arvaikheer passed by the booth to discover the book offerings

Visitors were very interested in our story and surprised about the wide variety of books: cartoons, children books, picture books, nonfiction books and more. At the same time, we registered members for our library. Over 300 people visited the exhibition.

The book both at the book fair in Arvaikheer
A lot of students helped at the book booth

Due to the generous book donations from Europe, our learning center finally became recognized as a library with rare and interesting books. It was a great encouragement not only for BOOKBRIDGE Arvaikheer but also for BOOKBRIDGE as an international NGO that has contributed a lot to our community. This award is a strong validation of our hard work, dedication, and youth development. Congratulations to our Bridgebuilders and champions!

Help to Sponsor Khmer Lessons for our Fellows!

Donate for Khmer lessons for our fellows!
Watch this video message by Vannak from Tonloab

BOOKBRIDGE fellows support our learning centers by offering free activities and co-teaching classes. They mostly come from European countries and do not speak Khmer, Cambodia’s national language. To interact with children, students and teachers as well as with parents, fellows should speak basic Khmer.

This is why we have started a donation campaign: we want to provide Khmer courses for fellows working at our learning center in Tonloab.

Please support us by donating on!

Former fellows have indicated the importance of speaking the local language to have a better impact with their work. Speaking Khmer makes it easier for them to communicate with students, parents and other members of the local community.

Roman, who has worked as fellow at our learning center in Tonloab, says about his experience: “I have learned a lot about working in a developing country and the challenges and successes of rural Cambodia. I developed my skills in co-teaching and identifying best practices to work together with people from a different culture. But most of all it is about the friends you make. For life!”

Vannak Pen, Head of Learning Center, says about Roman’s fellowship: “I am very glad about Roman’s help: he has not only improved the communication skills of students and teachers and helped to increase income for the learning center but also contributed to marketing, improved teaching methods and our computer software and even did fundraising for more student chairs.”

With your donation, we can cover six months of Khmer lessons for one fellow. Lessons are provided on a daily base with two hours/day to ensure that the fellow quickly gets a basic knowledge of Khmer. One week of Khmer classes costs around EUR 25.

Every donation is welcomed until Giving Tuesday on November 29th. On that day thousands of people in more than 70 countries do good things for their favourite charity or cause.

Donate for Khmer classes for our fellows at!

Watch this message by Vannak Pen, Community in Hero in Tonloab:

„Give up structure and let creativity in”

Raphael speaks about the impact CAP5 had on his private and professional life
Raphael learnt to leverage creativity and accountability by reducing structure

Raphael Raetzo participated in our Capability Program and helped to set up BOOKBRIDGE learning center Angroka (Cambodia). In this interview and video, he explains how BOOKBRIDGE had an impact on him, personally and professionally.

Who are you?
My name is Raphael and I lead the customer care section Head of Customer Care at BILLAG. I am 40 years old, married and have two 2 children.

Which program did you participate in?
I participated in the 5th Capability Program that led to the opening of the first mobile learning center in Angroka, Cambodia.

Which 3 words describe BOOKBRIDGE best for you?
Humaneness, responsibility, innovation.

What are your personal and professional learnings from the program?
Personally, I profited a lot from working with the people in Cambodia. It made me humble and more content with the things I have. I Today, I am more frugal than before when everything was about getting more and bigger.
Professionally, I learnt that less structure means more freedom, creativity, innovation. As a unit leader, I used to structure all tasks before delegating them to my employees.I thought that leading a team means to organize tasks as good as possible before giving them away. However, this way I actually inhibited my team from taking accountability and becoming creative. In the Capability Program, I learnt that the less structure I give to people, the more efficient the team carries out their tasks and works together.

How do you transfer these learnings into your daily life?
Of course, one doesn´t change from one day to another. However, in my daily work I now try to think more of the goal rather than of the ways achieving it. Shortly after the Capability Program I had to lead a team in a crisis project. We only had six weeks to implement it. Though time was very short I decided to only define the goals and to leave the rest up to the team. Unlike in previous projects I didn´t define details of the project or an organizational hierarchy, I just accompanied team. The results were amazing: the team managed to organize themselves, took initiative and finished the project earlier than expected. I realized that just by giving them the freedom to do things their own way they could do what they are best in. Stepping back and letting space for creativity and accountability leveraged their skills in a way I hadn´t imagined. Though it wasn´t always easy to give away control yet stay informed on the project’s progress I learned that giving more responsibility to people results in more efficiency.

Watch Raphael’s video:

Watch more impact videos on our impact wall.

The HR Innovation Award is ours!

Rebecca Winkelmann, Managing Director at WHU Executive Education, receives the award in the name of WHU and BOOKBRIDGE

More than 100 applicants wanted it. And we got it! We are proud to receive the prestigious HR Innovation Award by Germany‘s biggest HR fair Zukunft Personal for the General Management Plus Program together with our partner WHU Executive Education. On behalf of all of us, Rebecca Winkelmann and her team received the award on Tuesday, October 18 in Cologne.

The HR Innovation Award features innovative services and solutions in the field of HR. Service providers in the field of software, recruiting, further education & e-learning as well as start-ups had been invited to apply. They get exposure to visitors and media at the opening of Germany‘s biggest HR Fair as well as media coverage in prestigious German journals like Süddeutsche Zeitung and Personalmagazin.

The WHU General Management Plus Program offers you a unique combination of theory and practice. Professors at WHU will teach you the fundamentals of general management in interactive sessions: strategy, leadership, finance, change management and entrepreneurship. At the same time, you set out to build up a worthwhile, tangible business in one of Asia’s emerging economies. Guided by, you will develop and implement a business plan for a learning center as a fully independent social enterprise.

The team of WHU Executive Education in front of the winning panel with our program.

The jury valued our unique and innovative approach to foster entrepreneurial thinking and acting in a virtual agile team setting. WHU is the only business school worldwide that offers you an opportunity to act as a real entrepreneur and create a worthwhile, tangible business as part of our executive program. Through individual and team reflection sessions, we ensure the transfer of learning into your daily work.

More than 126,000 community members in Cambodia and Sri Lanka have been touched by you and the GMP+ so far. More than 30 candidates from leading companies like BSH, Henkel, Evonik and Bertelsmann alumni turned into change makers in their own organizations. See our impact wall for a summary of key learnings out of the program.

All this would not have been possible without the continuous support and belief of the teams at WHU and BOOKBRIDGE as well as all participating companies and candidates. We would like to thank everyone for contributing to the success of the WHU General Management Plus Program. We are excited about the award and we will keep fighting for our vision of a world where people do what they really are!

Would you like to join our next program with WHU starting in January 2017? Download our program materials and contact Carsten in case of any further questions.


Carsten Rübsaamen
carsten [at]



Moving towards our second Learning Center in Sri Lanka

Monika from BOOKBRIDGE (left) and Sujitha, Community Hero in Bandarawela, presented BOOKBRIDGE's vision
Monika from BOOKBRIDGE (left) and Sujitha, Community Hero in Bandarawela, presented BOOKBRIDGE’s vision
We are very excited to be moving towards opening our second learning center in Sri Lanka with a program starting in the next week. Our most recent addition to our family of Community Heroes, Mr. Sampath Sri Senawatte, was recruited last month to open his learning center in North-Central Province, near the town of Kekirawa. This is great news for BOOKBRIDGE and also for our first learning center in Sri Lanka, the Skills Learning Center in Bandarawela, run by Sujitha Miranda. Sujitha will now gain a local colleague to share and exchange ideas with.

On October 8, at the Ranajayapura Meeting Hall, we facilitated a community meeting for the residents of the town. The purpose of this meeting was to introduce BOOKBRIDGE and the process of setting up a learning center as a social business in the community, introduce the local Capability Program that will run in tandem with the European program starting on October 25th and, very importantly, to collect information on local community needs and wants in the field of education.

To find out the needs of the community, students drew their vision of their future
To find out the needs of the community, students drew their vision of their future
The turn out for the meeting was beyond our expectations with approximately 220 participants joining initially. This made it difficult to facilitate a participatory style meeting and after the first session, the younger participants were sent home in order to focus more on the assets and gaps in education and training in the community with parents. We learned, however, that in this community it would have been difficult and divisive to not open the meeting to all residents. We also learned that the community is very enthusiastic and eager for a learning center. In the next weeks, Sampath will work on the findings of the meeting to identify the needs and skills of the community of Kekirawa.

What Pre-Schoolers Need. Visiting Gecko&Garden Pre-School in Phnom Penh

After the visit the team reflected on the impressions gained
After the visit the team reflected on the impressions gained
This year, several of our learning centers in Cambodia have expressed their interest in setting up pre-school English programs in their communities. While pre-school may seem like a simple and easy program to set up as children are small and their level of English will not require a highly advanced teacher, in reality, pre-school requires specialized knowledge and understanding of Early Childhood Development and Education as well as ensuring the duty of care for very young children.

By Monika Nowaczyk – We were very fortunate that Gecko & Garden International pre-school in Cambodia opened its doors to BOOKBRIDGE and allowed four staff members from our learning centers to observe and participate in the school activities for a week in September. Community Heroes Vannak, Charanay, Sothika and Sopheak spent one week in Phnom Penh, observing and supporting classes in the morning and reflecting on their observations in the afternoon. This was the first chance for them to see high-quality, play-based teaching and learning in action. They were very impressed by the teachers at G&G, by their skills, their creativity and their patience with the children. They learned about positive discipline techniques and how to create lessons that ensure that all learners’ needs are met. As Vannak said, “I loved my time at Gecko very much. Gecko teaches children how to share, how to be independent. It has wonderful teachers and great facilities and materials and the students feel like they are at home.”

The importance of play-based learning
“Play is the highest form of research” Albert Einstein
Early childhood education (ECD) in the form of pre-school or kindergarten programs is an important first step into schooling for children aged three to five years of age. In such early learning settings, children learn social skills like how to cooperate, share and be part of a group. They learn vital pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills that help them when they enter primary school to be successful at reading, writing and mathematics. They develop fine and gross motor skills as well as independence and emotional management.

Adapted to children's needs: the learning area
Adapted to children’s needs: the learning area
However, educators who are inexperienced in ECD programs sometimes take a purely academic approach when implementing pre-school programs; they treat pre-schoolers like big kids, putting them in adult-sized furniture, expecting them to sit still for up to 2 hours at a time, looking at the board and copying text, repeating the teacher or attempting to solve mathematics problems beyond their capabilities. However, children at this age have very different development needs and abilities and the methodologies and approaches in ECD settings need to take these into account.

Scientists make new discoveries through testing ideas, trying new things, exploring the world, thinking, reflecting and so on. They do this in a LAB. Children make new discoveries through testing ideas, trying new things, exploring the world, thinking, reflecting and so on. They do this through PLAY. When children are focused on play, they do not even realize they are learning and their learning is natural and joyful. If you have ever watched a 3-year old discover a new insect or focus deeply on a picture they are drawing, you know the pure happiness they have in their discoveries and achievements. Because children at this age learn best through play, pre-school programs should be built around this natural tendency.

Balance of Playing and Teacher-led Activities
A play-based curriculum does not mean allowing children to play by themselves for the entire time they are at school. Rather a balance of free play and guided play, combined with teacher led activities like singing, dancing, reading stories, exploration and so on should be provided in short time periods. Children at this age have short attention spans and need a change of focus approximately every 15-30 minutes.

What pre-school shouldn’t be, is the standard chalk-and-talk approach seen in classrooms of older children, in which a teacher stands at the front and students passively listen and copy. Children need physical activity and movement and much research supports that this actually helps to improve their learning.

Guided Play
Guided play is a key element in the play-based classroom. Guided play is different from children playing freely on their own as the teacher initiates the activity and sets a time limitations as well gently guiding children toward a specific learning outcome. The teacher, however, does not lead or direct the play and facilitates only when necessary. For example, the teacher may initiate a tower building activity, asking the children to try to build a tower as tall as they can. The children are free to choose which blocks they use, how they stack them, whether they work in pairs or on their own. As they experiment, fail and succeed in their attempts, they learn how to best build their tower.

Four Community Heroes from our learning centers in Cambodia joined the field trip
Four Community Heroes from our learning centers in Cambodia joined the field trip
The teacher can ask questions to stimulate their learning, to guide them in a new direction and to support them to complete the task. By asking open ended questions such as “What would happen if you put more blocks in the base of your tower?” the teacher is not telling the children what to do, but is inviting them to discover the answer on their own.

Play-based learning does not mean children can’t learn literacy and numeracy skills either; this approach to ECD does not eliminate learning how to count or learning the alphabet. However, the way these skills are taught is through play. Children aren’t made to sit for long periods copying and writing letters. Instead they learn through drawing pictures of the letters, tracing them in the air, on each other’s backs, through a card matching game or by going outside and identifying different objects that start with the sound of each letter. And by learning through play, through using all the senses and adding physical activity where possible, children actually learn more effectively than if they were to sit and memorize by rote.

Allow Children to Learn in the Best Way they Can: Through Play
The four BOOKBRIDGE staff saw clearly the power of play in young children’s learning. As Sothika wrote upon reflection, “What I enjoyed the most was to see kids learning through playing. Since I was young, as a Cambodian kid, I was forced to learn and not to play more. I was instructed to study and work hard with less encouragement. But here, I saw something powerful to teach kids by playing. They learned through playing. They are encouraged, instructed, admonished and explained in a polite way.”

Children have 12 years of formal school, during which they will sit at desks for long hours, listen to teachers, copy from the board, memorize facts and figures and stress about examinations. Until they start Grade 1, the best we can do for them is allow them to learn in the way that they are exceptionally good at: through play.

Sri Lanka: Student-centered Teaching Methodologies

Group activities are a central part of the classes conducted at Bandarawela, Sri Lanka.
Group activities are a central part of the classes.
“I haven’t followed any course at any institution in this style. This is something new. We improved a lot here. This is what we need for our community to bring changes to uplift our life status” says Mr. Raviram – an IT teacher in a Government school and one of the students at Skills Learning Centre in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka.

Student-centered learning process including many activities and games, role-plays and club activities are the keys for the above statement. Skills Learning Centre is the first BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Sri Lanka, initiated on 9th June 2016. Being the first learning center for Sri Lanka, it has a responsibility to lay a strong foundation for the future BOOKBRIDGE learning center network. This is not a tough task for Skills Learning Center since it has a strong backing from its GMP+3 team and the entire Bridge Builders community.

The Skills Learning Centre in Bandarwela, Sri Lanka.
The Skills Learning Centre in Bandarwela, Sri Lanka.
Six months ago, everyone in the BOOKBRIDGE team had a question in mind, how and where this learning center would going to be initiated, since at that period the Head of Learning Centre, Sujitha Miranda, was hunting for a suitable location and was struggling with selections. Later in June 2016, when her GMP+3 teammates arrived, all the questions were undoubtedly cleared when they saw the large center painted with the BOOKBRIDGE theme and colour, orange. With the grand opening, the untiring marketing efforts of the GMP+3 team and the pre & post media coverage, Skills Learning Centre was able to reach not only in to the Bandarawela Community but also to the whole Badulla district communities.

The learning center began its operations on June 15 but the classes commenced on June 25 with only 23 students. Gradually, the number of students increased. Today, Skills Learning Centre operates with 70 Students and 9 Library Membership holders. The noteworthy feature of this learning center is that most students came to via word-of-mouth. This was achieved only as the result of the unique teaching methods followed in this center.

At the speaking club students debate about different topics.
At the speaking club students debate about different topics.
Skills Learning Centre offers Spoken English, Personality Development, Life Skill development and IT courses. Sujitha plans for some language and skill development course in the near future. A variety of students, starting from kids to adults, young professional and parents are following the courses.

All the courses are conducted in a student-centered learning process. Students engage in group activities, role-plays, debates, speeches and listening. Laptops and tablet PCs are used in every learning session. Every class has a laptop permanently kept. Students explore knowledge using the modern technology. Television with more than 50 world channels is available in the class. Children can watch good English TV programmes until the class session begins.

Word of the day, Build a story and Round Robin are some of the special sessions students love to join:

With "Build Stories" students improve their spontaneous thinking ability in Bandarwela, Sri Lanka
With “Build Stories” students improve their spontaneous thinking ability.
Word of the day: This is one of the effective methods to teach new words to the student. Each student brings a new word to the class with pronunciation, meaning and example sentence. Then he shares this in the class.

Build Stories: When the teacher starts a story with a small incident, students has to build and continue the story one after other. This improves the spontaneous thinking ability.

Round Robin: One student starts to talk about a small incident. After one minute, the next one has to continue the discussion with the word the previous one stopped at. Each one has to speak for one minute. This practice helps the students build their speaking ability.

At the Social Awareness Club students organize field trips to find out rural educational problems.
At the Social Awareness Club students organize field trips to find out rural educational problems.
Club Activities: Speaking Club and Social Awareness Club
The adult students engage in club activities too. They form a speaking club and social awareness club. The speaking club gets together once a month and conducts special debating sessions. The awareness club members meet once a week and speak about the educational issues they see in the rural communities. Once a month they organize field trips to find out rural educational problems.

The GMP+3 team members join the classroom sessions and organize monthly calls to strengthen the learning center. With the continuous backing of the team, Skills Learning Centre is striding forward towards its vision – Make your future shine.

Interview with Narangarav Jambaltseren

Narangarav Jambaltseren is Community Hero in Mandalgovi
Narangarav Jambaltseren is Community Hero in Mandalgovi
Narangarav “Nangaa” Jambaltseren is our new Community Hero in Mandalgovi, Mongolia. Together with our 8th Capability Program, Nangaa opened the 12th BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Mongolia on September 14. We talked to Nangaa about her professional background and what goals she has for the learning center.

Nangaa, who are you?
My name is Narangarav Jambaltseren. I graduated in English and have a education study master degree. I have four younger sisters and three children. I have worked at the Children and Family’s Development Center of Dundgovi province for 10 years. I’m a Scout leader of my hometown, too.

Why did you apply for BOOKBRIDGE Community Hero?
When I was child I didn’t have the chance to learn English in my community. I had to wait until I could study in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. I really want to help young teenagers in my community to learn English when they are in the secondary school. I’m very happy to be part of BOOKBRIDGE because it helps the Mongolian teenagers and rural communities to develop.

Your learning center has just opened. What are your plans for the next months?
I plan to run English classes, life skills clubs, an abacus course, day care service and Scouting.

Quality Improvement at Tonloab

A typical learning activity at Learning Centre Tonloab
A typical learning activity at Learning Centre Tonloab

Our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia has been making strenuous efforts to improve the quality of its teaching and learning. In this blog post, Vannak Pen, Head of Learning Center, gives an overview of the changes he has implemented.

In the beginning, the learning center perceived quality only as available textbooks and teachers for running classes. However, quality education requires more than textbooks and teachers. Vannak has realized this and has implemented a number of important changes concerning lesson planning, curriculum development (i.e. course outline), teacher meeting & training, technology adoption, teacher punctuality, student learning motivation, student discipline, and students’ learning outcomes.

Teacher meeting and training: Vannak holds meetings with teachers on a frequent basis to discuss various issues of concern such as teaching techniques, curriculum and student discipline. Through a number of meetings, teachers have agreed to implement a structured lesson plan recommended by BOOKBRIDGE. Vannak admits that preparing a good lesson plan and implementing it takes a lot time and is not easy. However, the first positive results can be observed: before the adjustments, students just sat passively in class just listening to the teacher. Now they actively engage in learning activities thanks to the teachers who implemented more engaging teaching methods and follow their lesson plans.

Curriculum development and course outline: in the beginnings of the learning center, textbook lessons had a certain amount of hours for being taught. As this approach did not work each section of the lesson is now allotted a certain amount of time. Not all sections in one lesson are followed and related sections are linked for one single teaching point.

Vannak doing research on the internet
Vannak doing research on the internet

Technology adoption: the adoption of new technologies had a positive change to quality as well. Teachers and Vannak use the internet to look for course-relevant information and integrate platforms like YouTube in their teaching. They not only look for for English songs but also games, texts, exercises and pictures for teaching vocabulary.

Punctuality: teacher punctuality is a common problem in Cambodia. Vannak is sure that his learning center is the best role model in the community for all other state schools to follow. All teaches at the center now respect punctuality. They come and leave on time.

Students’ behavior and discipline: the students’ behavior is mainly influenced by their families and conditions at state schools. This makes it very challenging for Vannak to achieve behavior improvements, especially as students only spend a few hours at the learning center. Collaborating with the parents is practically useless but Vannak does not give up and has actually seen some improvements.

Students’ learning outcomes: students are required to take tests several times a month. According to Vannak, tests and exams are not necessarily a means to measure learning outcomes, but also motivate students to continue studying. They also serve as a good base for suggestions for improvements during students’ evaluations.

Learning Alphabets for Word Spelling Efficiency

New methods facilitate alphabet learning
New methods facilitate alphabet learning
Our Mobile Learning Center Angroka is piloting a new method to teach English alphabet to beginner students.

Initially, teachers followed the conventional method to teach A to Z using examples of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet. According to Head of Learning Center Sothika Khoeun, this method can be less engaging thus having less learning efficiency. The method only helps students to remember letters and translate example words. However, it will not teach them spelling patterns or compositing letters to form words. That’s why Sothika has adopted a new method inspired by VSO English alphabet teaching book that is available at the learning center’s library.

Logic approach to alphabet learning

The new helps student to learn not only individual letters (consonants and vowels), but also the logic of how to use/blend individual consonants and vowels to form words. Students do not learn in chronological order from A to Z consecutively. They learn a certain number of related letters together at a time and then learn to blend them in order to create common patterns of word formation.

For example: A, B, C and T are learnt at one time. Then students start to blend these four letters. The pattern that is followed is easy to remember making it easier to learn the spelling of other similar words. This way, the pattern ‘AT’ is the base for B+AT=BAT and C+AT=CAT. Following this method, students can best memorize and recognize letters as well as common patterns of the blending letters in order to form words. It also facilitates writing, reading and spelling words. After reaching letter Z, students learn the alphabetical order as part of the summary of the whole learning process.

Similar to Khmer alphabet methods

Sothika says that the new method is similar to Khmer alphabet teaching methods. After having adopted the new learning pattern, he has started another new approach: students compare each English letter with a Khmer letter that has a similar or the same sound. This helps students to better remember the pronunciation of English letters. Another idea is to teach consonant blends that make up sounds similar to Khmer consonant blends, for example sn, bl, tr, etc.

Though the center’s teachers find the new method still unfamiliar, Sothika believes that more efficient. Also, it is an attractive new learning approach for the community and potential students. Together with promotional marketing strategies, he hopes to increase the learning center’s competitive edge. His current challenges are training teachers and providing good teaching material. After successfully implementing the new method at learning center Angroka, Sothika’s goal is to adopt it for learning center Angtasom. He also hopes that the community and local primary schools will become aware of it and integrate it in their teaching methods.

Quality in Education

by Monika Nowaczyk, Country Development Manager at BOOKBRIDGE and education specialist

Why quality?

Young girl with Khmer book
The most important reason for ensuring quality at our learning centers is our students: the children, the young adults and others we are aiming to empower through complimentary educational opportunities. It is not enough to collect money or books. It is not sufficient to provide materials, a modern environment, courses and other offerings without concurrently planning for and ensuring all of these are delivered in a manner which supports, motivates and develops the young minds that attend. The ultimate aim of any education program is the development and achievement of its students.

It is not enough to get kids into schools, but to provide them with quality, outcomes based instruction.

In education quality is not only desirable, but imperative. Quality in teaching and operations contributes to overall program effectiveness. This in turn contributes towards the impact we are aiming to achieve. Without thinking carefully about the quality of our learning centers, and proactively managing and continuously improving it, we risk not having an impact at best and causing harm at worst.

For example, children attending classes in unsafe environments risk injury, students attending non-motivating classes could be discouraged from learning and children frightened by traditional discipline methods, are at risk of dropping out.

Finally, ensuring quality at our learning centers protects our investment whether that be time, money and resources. We can channel funds into beautiful classrooms, plentiful and modern resources, but if the quality of instruction, curriculum and other key elements is not conducive towards the achievement of educational outcomes, we will have failed.

Cambodian student in front of alphabetWhat is quality in education?

There are many ways to define quality in education. For decades in the development sector, quality was measured primarily quantitatively through rates such as primary school enrollment and completion. This ‘bums on seats’ approach focused on getting children into and through primary school. The Millennium Development Goal for education adopted in 2000, sought to ensure universal primary schooling by 2015. And many countries in the developing world did well to reach, or at least make significant progress towards, this target, with 91% primary enrollment rates in developing regions in 2015 up from 83% in 2000 [In Cambodia enrollment increased from 82.7% in 1997 to in 98.4% in 2012; in Sri Lanka the rate dropped from 99.8% in 2001 to 94.3% in 2013; in Mongolia the rate increased from 81.1% in 1995 to 95.2% in 2013]

Such rates, however, do not speak of the quality of the education children receive when they get to school. The more recent Sustainable Development Goal on education is much broader and seeks to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. It’s not enough to get kids into schools, but to provide them with quality, outcomes based instruction.

While discussions about the measure of quality in education are not new, there are no universally accepted set of standards or guidelines that define exactly how it is to be measured and achieved nor which can be applied to all learning institutions in any culture.

However, there are two frameworks which provide guidance on the overarching key requirements for ensuring student’s physical, mental, intellectual and psychosocial needs are met. The UNICEF and UNESCO frameworks, two separate documents but which cross over in many areas and are both informed by the rights based approach, suggest five key areas that require support. These five areas or dimensions are interconnected and can influence one another:

  • Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities
  • Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities
  • Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials
  • Processes through which trained teachers use child-centered teaching approaches in well-managed classrooms
  • Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society.

Young boys readingOur lessons learnt

BOOKBRIDGE started as library project, collecting and delivering books to organizations in Mongolia. From this, the institutions grew to include educational offerings, usually in the form of English courses, IT and free activities aimed at community engagement. Eventually, we began to establish learning centers as independent social businesses headed by a Community Hero who became the Head of the Learning Center (HoLC).

As a new organization, mistakes were made and lessons were learned. The HoLCs were left to develop courses on their own without guidance on how to effectively plan and build curriculum. Few guidelines were given regarding recruitment of teachers, course development, building codes or organization management. Teaching methods and approaches were left up to the local team and in almost all learning center follow traditional, rote-learning methodologies long abandoned in developed education systems and known to be less effective in language teaching and learning than more communicative approaches.

The result has been that while most of our Heads of Learning Centers and learning center staff are committed, driven and passionate individuals determined to have a positive impact in their communities, they sometimes lack the knowledge and skills to ensure the quality of the educational offerings at the centers. The teams of our Capability Program, who are instrumental in the set up of the learning centers, likewise often lack in-depth knowledge about educational services to guide local entrepreneurs in the set up and start up of education centers.

Sreydieb explains to little studentsThe way forward

As we continue to support local entrepreneurs to open and operate learning centers now in three countries, what is needed at BOOKBRIDGE is a quality framework to ensure a standardized understanding of and approach towards quality. Over the past few months, we have been working with the Heads of Learning Centers to get their inputs towards the development of such a framework and will trail it by the end of this year. Developing this document in a participatory manner will ensure buy-in from our learning centers and Country Teams. It will also provide clear guidance to Capability Program team members and new HoLCs during the start up phase of operations.

Mongolian Team meets for All-Staff-Training

Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE team
Happy about the reunion: Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE team
Our Mongolian team met for its All-Staff-Training in Selenge province in the North of Mongolia. 13 of our Mongolian community heros attended plus Amar Purev (Country Manager for Mongolia), Tunga Munkhjargal (Assistant for Mongolia), Monika Nowaczyk (Country Development Manager) and Agatha, linguist and BOOKBRIDGE fellow.

Before coming to the training, most of the participants took the bus to Sükhbataar in a 6-hours ride to visit Lazzet Fazal’s learning center that had opened last October. Three Community Heroes couldn’t take part in the training as one learning center had to temporarily closed due to lack of room and one Community Hero had been resigned by the government. Narantuya Dashdeleg from Ulziit-Horoo had stayed at home to look after her sick husband.

Uuganaa Gantumur (Arvaikheer learning center) and Battuul Alexander (Dalanzadgad learning center) shared the experiences they had made during their stay at Franconian International School. Especially Uugana’s sharing was very informative as it showed that they had learnt a lot at the school and are using it at their learning centers. For example, together with her students Uugana improved the center’s rooms to create a learning-friendly atmosphere – without spending a lot of money.

Battuul Alexander, Lazzet Fazal and Maralmaa Jargalsaikhan
Battuul Alexander, Lazzet Fazal and Maralmaa Jargalsaikhan presenting workshop results
Monika did sessions about education quality at the learning centers and monitoring and evaluation measures.

Amar conducted a training on human resource management. The participants discussed the topic and highlighted its importance for their learning center operations.

Uugana did a session on teaching adult classes with a focus on keeping students motivated and to attract new participants.

Bayarjargal and Sete came from Mongolian Scouts Association to give training session. Bayarjargal facilitated a workshop on how to work with fellows which was warmly welcomed by the team.

As Mongolia is such a large country and it takes a lot of time and money to visit the other learning centers, the All-Staff-Training is all the more important for the Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE team. Besides the lively discussions during the sessions, the team participated in socializing activities like trips to the countryside and joint meals. The participants were very happy about having seen each other again after the last training and with the output of the training itself.

Our Learning Centers’ Progress in Numbers

Three years ago, BOOKBRIDGE opened its first learning center in Cambodia. Our goal was to offer entrepreneurial opportunities to people in rural Cambodia and to improve access to education. Today, six local entrepreneurs run learning centers as social enterprises. Their goal is to increase access to quality education and skill training in underserved communities in rural Cambodia by employing an entrepreneurial approach. To control these goals let us take a look at the numbers: which progress have the learning centers made in the first six months of this year?

The sustainability rates of learning centers Tonloab, Takeo and Angroka (in the graphs named “Mobile”) are very encouraging as they reach 100% (see graph 1). If these rates continue, the overall numbers of this year should be positive compared with the two previous years (graph 2). Concerning our learning centers in Siem Reap, Ang Tasom and Tani, the sustainability rates are lower (between 50% and 70%). After a longer term of stagnation, we are very proud of learning center Takeo: sustainability rate has risen from 71% in January to 112% in June.

Graph 1: Sustainability rate of our learning centers over the first six months of 2016
Graph 1: Sustainability rate of our learning centers over the first six months of 2016
Graph 2: Sustainability rat of our learning centers from 2014 to 2016
Graph 2: Sustainability rat of our learning centers from 2014 to 2016

New ways to increased sustainability
To increase sustainability rate, each learning center takes on different approaches: Tonloab plans to reach 107% until the end of the year. Takeo is confident that they can increase the number of students in paid courses and free activities, and they will open new kindergarten classes. Tani will meet with directors and teachers in local primary schools to promote the center’s services and to distribute flyers to students. Tep Sothy, Head of Learning Center Tani says that getting a van for transporting young students from home to the center is a competitive advantage. Also, offering sports and fun learning activities outside the classroom in the yard can motivate students and serve as a positive signal to the community, he adds. Library activities such as drawing, coloring and singing have the potential to appeal to students as well.

Sothika Khoeun, Head of Learning Center Ang Tasom and Mobile says: “We are optimistic to increase our sustainability rate to 150% in the next six months. We are strengthening our capacity, both quality of education and teacher’s capacity. We are building relationship with parents and the community through several programs and events. That way, we expect to gain more students and the course fee might be higher than today. At the same time, we need more help and support from BOOKBRIDGE country team as we practically start from scratch.”

Number of Students
As graph 3 shows, the numbers of students enrolled at learning centers Tonloab and Ang Tasom have been the highest of all learning centers (over 200). The slight decrease might be due to summer break. For the other learning centers, enrollments have been lower (between 40 and 100 students).

Graph 3: Number of students enrolled at our learning centers over the first half of 2016
Graph 3: Number of students enrolled at our learning centers over the first half of 2016

As the major cause for the stagnating numbers, Takeo and Tonloab have cited high competition with other schools that use more effective marketing activities to attract students. Tonloab hopes to win new students via friends and peers of already enrolled students and offering fun learning activities. Takeo wants to strengthen teaching quality and introduce awards for top students to rise student numbers. Tani names missing transportation for students travelling home or to Phnom Penh for extra studies during school summer break as main causes for the stagnant growth.

Sothika Khoeun (Ang Tasom) explains: “Student enrolment rate remains stagnant for a number of reasons, namely (1) teacher turnover, (2) poor quality of teaching and classroom management, (3) no new learning activities, (4) losing confidence of the community due to the change in the management of the learning center, (5) the fact that the community places their trust on one person but not on educational quality. To meet these challenges I need to enforce marketing and teaching quality in order to get more students. To increase sustainability rate, we plan to open new kindergarten classes in the morning.”

Library Visitors
As showed in graph 4, the most visited library has been the one of Tonloab with an average of 130 daily visitors. Libraries in Takeo and Siem Reap have been used by more than 40 daily visitors whereas the ones in Tani and Ang Tasom and our mobile library show an average of 10 visitors.

Number of daily library visitors by month in first half 2016
Graph 4: Number of daily library visitors by month in first half of 2016

Part of the reasons for the low numbers for Tani are that the new librarian has been busy with book labeling and learning how to bring the library to life. Also, our library is competing with the other library located in the high school. At Angtasom the former librarian felt less motivated after the Head of Learning Center had resigned. As far as the mobile library of Angroka learning center is concerned, it is only open on Saturday morning as there is no full-time teacher who can take charge of it.

Participation in Free Learning Activities
Graph 5 shows the number of students participating in free learning activities at the learning centers. Due to room and staff limitations, learning center Tonloab cannot increase the number of participants though Vannak believes in free learning activities as integral part of the attractiveness of the center. Angtasom wishes to offer more activities and events to attract students from primary and high school. Takeo is finding new activities to get students to come to the center, also to attract them to paid courses.

Number of participants in free learning activities first half 2016
Graph 5: Number of participants in free learning activities first half 2016

Though these numbers are encouraging for the most part, the learning centers still face challenges. A big wish of our Community Heros was to get more and better support from BOOKBRIDGE Country team. The team is currently considering to set up support mechanisms in order to help the learning centers to achieve a higher sustainability rate, more student enrollments, more daily library visitors and more free learning activities.

Sorting 45,000 books in two days

What do you need to sort 45,000 books in two days? Lots of people and a strong purpose! More than 100 book champions from around Europe donated quality English books for our learning centers. 50 UK scouts sorted, packed and sent them off to Asia last weekend at Hargreaves Scout Camp.

For the fifth year in a row, scouts from 2nd East London and their friends gathered at Hargreaves Scout Camp to support our learning centers in improving the job and life chances of young people in Mongolia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Book champions from all other Europe – individuals, schools and companies – have donated more than 45,000 books.

Everyone contributed his/her best to finish in time. What looked like a big pile of books on Friday evening got sorted and packed until Sunday morning. Compared to the previous year, we had many more quality books donated. At the end, we managed to ship 30,384 books. All unusable books were donated to British Heart Foundation. A Win Win for everyone who helped!

The first container has already left to Mongolia. It will arrive end of August and serve our newest learning center in Dundgobi as well as all other learning centers. The books for Cambodia and Sri Lanka will be complemented by donations from our book champions from the Franconian International School and shipped by end of the year.

We would like to thank Vicky, Kay and Alan from 2nd East London as well as all scouts and their families involved. The Sorting Event would not have been possible without the support from our book champions around the world. Special thanks to Kuehne + Nagel for all your logistical support and HILTI GB for opening up your HILTI Centres as collection hubs.

Do you want to experience the atmosphere at the Sorting Weekend? Don’t miss the great video recorded and edited by Book Champion Leigh from 2nd East London. The next Sorting Event will take place July 22-23, 2017 at Hargreaves Scout Camp. Mark it in your calendar.

What impact do we leave on our book champions? Listen to the answers of George, Wendy and Juneilya below. Have we also left a mark on you and your life? If yes, record a little selfie for our impact wall and send it to us at .

What if the investor…

What if the investor ties such strong conditions to the investment that you would rather walk away than take the money? Our 8th Capability Program Team had to deal with this question after their investor pitch on July 14, 2016 in Zurich.

Following 10 weeks of research on the needs of the people living in Dundgobi, Mongolia, the team developed a professional business plan for their social enterprise. Community Hero Nangaa and her team played a key role in giving the team the input they needed to come up with a convincing value proposition.

Accompanied by business coach Nathalie Moral from, the team did two rounds of mock pitches before meeting their investors. Everyone was convinced that the investor pitch would be a moment of pride or as Wolf put it: “We will earn the fruits for our hard work tomorrow”. Instead of the pre-pledged EUR 20,000, the team was targeting EUR 24,000 as total investment.

But things came differently as planned. Following a very professional pitch, the three investor representatives from Swiss Re started asking critical questions on the pricing of the courses, the influence of the learning center on the environment and the role of digitalization. Most challenging proofed to be the condition to finance the renovation of Nangaa‘s building out of a bank loan in Mongolia at an interest rate of 24% per year. By that way, Nangaa would participate in the risk of her learning center and not only benefit from an upgrade of her property.

Investors Angela Marti, Fritz Gutbrodt and Gerhard Lohmann from Swiss Re

The team put in a lot of efforts in convincing the investor but was left with a condition which they did not want to accept for the high interest rates in Mongolia. The leadership session on Friday with Heike from helped the team to analyze what has happened and reflect on what could have been done differently.

As renovation works had to start soon, the team decided to work on a thorough feedback document to the investor. Key part of the document was how to better finance or share the risk of the 5 rooms refurbishment with the community hero (Nangaa) who is also the owner of the rooms. The team proposed Nangaa to receive a discounted rent over 10 years with stronger contractual framework to create risk-sharing mechanism for the refurbishment works

The 8th Capability Program after the investor pitch
The 8th Capability Program after the investor pitch

It took two days for the investor to answer that they “feel comfortable with the information provided and [the] Option [] seems to be a very viable possibility addressing our concerns.” The team was full of joy given the effort they put into the business plan and the pitch. Community Hero Nangaa received the news in a video call. She was “she is absolutely ecstatic about today’s good news”.

While the actual pitch went differently than expected, it was a great proof or the team and its vision. They continued to fight for their idea and succeeded in bringing Swiss Re Foundation as investor on board. Congratulations to all for this great achievement!

CAP8 Vision set in Module 1
CAP8 Vision set in Module 1

Within the next 10 weeks, the team will implement its business plan in Dundgobi, Mongolia. A lot needs to happen besides the renovation of the building. We keep fingers crossed and look forward to opening up our new learning center.

100 days after the Summit

100 days have passed since 75 enthusiastic bridgebuilders met for 4 days in the Black Forest. In this blog article, we review what has happened since then and invite all bridgebuilders to make a selfie on the impact which BOOKBRIDGE has had upon them and their lives.

75 bridgebuilders from 21 countries gathered at Langenhard in the Black Forest for our 3rd BOOKBRIDGE Summit. As diverse their backgrounds and experience, as much you could feel what unites us all – the passion to make an impact as a Family of Bridgebuilders.

Joyous, colorful, engaged: the BridgeBuilder Summit joined 70 participants from all around the world
Joyous, colorful, engaged: the BridgeBuilder Summit joined 75 participants from all around the world

A key moment for me was when we sat around the fireplace on Friday evening. Instead of running an entertainment program, all Bridgebuilders were invited to contribute something to the evening – a song, a game or a statement. I will never forget when we all sang the BOOKBRIDGE Song for the first time.


BOOKBRIDGE Circular Singing at 2016 Summit from BOOKBRIDGE on Vimeo.

The agenda for the Summit was created by the participants themselves. Out of the inputs in the application form, we created 9 workshops around topics around our Vision 2020. Different from the last Summit, bridgebuilders themselves prepared the workshop and members of the BOOKBRIDGE Team supported them.

What has happened since then? First, all workshops results were saved and made publicly available for all bridgebuilders on Teamwork. Second, the BOOKBRIDGE Team followed up on the different workshops in their Team Time on May 9. Third, the team members responsible for the workshops (see pictures below) have been following up on the results (see Teamwork notebooks for more detailed updates)

Summit Workshop FollowUps

What have we learnt from the Summit? The Summit is a super important event to bring together our Family of Bridgebuilders to get to know each other, have fun and discuss current challenges. This time, we had 5 Community Heroes with us which allowed us to share and discuss ideas directly with those who are working with our communities. In addition, it was a wide decision to let participants propose workshops topics and put the preparation and execution in their hands while we as the BOOKBRIDGE Team ensure the FollowUp. If you want to dive deeper into the Lessons Learnt, review our feedback and lessons learnt notebook on Teamwork.

The next Summit will take place in May 10-13, 2018. As we may expect 100 participants with our growing network until then, we will most likely stay at EOS Gruppenhaus close to Offenburg, Black Forest, Germany. From the feedback by all participants, we decided in the team to reduce the number of workshops from 9 to 6, get a second moderator besides Carsten and allow for more networking and free time in-between agenda points. Finally, we also aim at inviting more Community Heroes from Asia. The idea came up to have a have a Summit in Asia soon as well.

Thanks to the individual contributions by our Bridgebuilders, we were able to conduct the Summit without a financial burden for our Foundation. Total costs of EUR 6.548 were covered by participation fees of our bridgebuilders and BOOKBRIDGE paying for their respective teams. BOOKBRIDGE Foundations sponsored the participation of 3 bridgebuilders in the Summit.

Summit Expenses

Would you like to stay in touch with regard to the next Summit? Book May 10-13, 2018 in your calendar and watch out for news at .

In case of any further questions on the Summit, feel free to reach out to Carsten at carsten [at] .

Cambodian Team meets for Staff Workshop

Led by Sothika from Angtasom, the participants discussed best practices
Led by Sothika from Angtasom, the participants discussed best practices

For three days, the staff of all BOOKBRIDGE learning centers in Cambodia gathered for the third time for a joint workshop. During the biannual “All Learning Center Staff Workshop”, we discussed the fellowship program, Vision 2020 for our learning centers, the Learning Center Quality Framework, and challenges the centers are facing.

The workshop lasted from 1st to 3rd July with 12 participants from five learning centers plus the country and global support teams. Besides the main topics mentioned above, we also reviewed our objectives set for 2016 during the last workshop, shared our best practices and learned the key takeaways Vannak Pen from learning center Tonloab had collected during his visit to Franconian International School in Germany.

Sharing and discussing learning center’s best practices
Sothika Khoeun and Vannak Pen, Heads of Learning Centers Angtasom and Tonloab, led the session by sharing their best practices in terms of paid course offerings, free activity offerings, and library management. This was followed by all Heads of Learning Centers sharing and discussing their best practices:

  • recruiting the right qualified staff to support the daily work of HoLCs (librarian and full-time teachers) who have connections to local authorities and local education institutions
  • focusing on kindergarten offerings
    providing free English classes in primary schools once a week by volunteer teachers from around the area to promote the center’s social activities as well as to market the paid course offerings
  • offering free supplementary classes for slow learners
  • monitoring teacher performance in a constructive way
    promoting the learning center’s work and image in the community by working closer with local authorities, state schools and the community through activities and projects
  • improving communication with alumnis of our Capability Program to initiate projects for further developing the learning centers
  • conducting self-assessment
Vannak, Head of Learning Center Tonloab, shares his experiences from his visit to Franconian International School
Vannak, Head of Learning Center Tonloab, shares his experiences from his visit to Franconian International School

Vannak’s learnings from Franconian International School
As first Cambodian Head of Learning Center to visit BOOKBRIDGE partner Franconian International School (FIS) in Germany, Vannak shared his training experiences with his fellow Heads of Learning Center and presented the innovations he has implemented at his learning center after returing from his trip. Compared to FIS, Vannak said that his learning center lacks materials and tools to implement engaging student-centered teaching methods. He added that students at FIS are more disciplined in the library and in class than his students. After returning to Cambodia, Vannak conducted a series of meetings with teachers and together they agreed to structure each teaching session into four sub-sessions/rooms: core English based on textbook, drawing, entertainment, and practicing by playing.

Fellowship Program
Facilitated by Program Support Officer Yourngchantreara “Ra” Sao, the learning centers created a list of benefits the fellowship program brings to the centers and developed a list of suggestions for improving it. Lists were then signed by everyone to ensure their ownership and responsibility over the program and to implement key changes. This ideally will help increase the contributions of the fellowship program towards sustainable outcomes for the learning centers in areas such as course quality, management and leadership, business competitiveness and profitability, sustainability and impact, etc.

Teacher Observation Exercise
Facilitated by Country Development Manager Monika Nowaczyk, the participants did a teacher observation exercise. The goal was to show the importance of teacher observation and how to do it effectively and constructively. In addition to the lesson plan teachers are expected to prepare, the Heads of Learning Centers are encouraged to implement teacher observations on a regular basis and ideally integrate it into their curriculum.

Facilitated by Monika (right), the staff discussed education quality
Facilitated by Monika (right), the staff discussed education quality

Learning center course quality framework
Monika also led he next topic, quality in education. She first asked the participants to imagine what good and bad quality in education looks like. Then participants split in groups and drew two pictures to compare good and bad education quality. This was followed by thinking of quality education standards that students, teachers and learning centers alike should have and follow. Then everybody received small pieces of paper containing ideas that had to be grouped into four categories namely (1) ideas already being implemented at the learning center; (2) ideas that they found great and that need to be implemented as soon as possible; (3) ideas that are great but hard to implement due to a lack of resources or knowhow; (4) ideas that apparently are not useful or necessary at all.

Participants worked in groups to visualize good and bad quality education.
Participants worked in groups to visualize good and bad quality education.

All inputs and ideas will be reviewed together with those coming from our learning centers in Mongolia and Sri Lanka as well as from other stakeholders such as the BOOKBRIDGE Board, Global Support Team and former fellows. Based on the results, we will develop a BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Quality Framework and share it with the learning centers. Also, we will create a BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Self-Assessment Checklist until the next staff workshop.

Collecting and grouping ideas for education quality
Collecting and grouping ideas for education quality

To support our learning centers in implementing it, we will develop a support mechanism to help them to achieve education quality standards. We also plan to create other quality improvement programs such as BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Processional Development Stipend Program, BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Student Scholarships, and BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Quality Improvement Funds. The learning centers are encouraged to develop their own proposals and projects and to request funding by BOOKBRIDGE Quality Improvement Funds.

Facilitated by Country Manager Sokhan Khut, the participants reviewd their objectives for 2016
Facilitated by Country Manager Sokhan Khut, the participants reviewd their objectives for 2016

BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Vision 2020
Facilitated by Country Manager Sokhan Khut, the staff reviewed our BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Vision 2020. This counted especially for the 10 characteristics our learning centers are to have in 2020 as compared to those of today. The vision 2020 is designed to give centers the strategic direction for their objectives for this year.
When asked which impact or change they want to see in their community and especially in their students as a result of the vision, they answered that students

  • take initiatives and do projects to solve community problems
    become clever, brave and knowledgeable citizens in the community
    connect themselves with the outside world (people in the capital and abroad)
  • read a lot and perceive reading as part of their life
  • having studied at our learning centers can find jobs everywhere else
  • are able to communicate in English especially with foreigners
  • Parents have trust and confidence in learning centers
  • students become a role model and inspiration in the community, etc.

Reviewing 2016 learning center objectives & action plan
To ensure that the objectives set during the 2nd All Learning Center Staff Workshop will lead to the realization of the Learning Center Vision 2020, participants discussed the suitability and practicality of the objective-setting form given and the checklist to monitor the progress of their action plan and objectives. Some changes were made to the form and everyone agreed on a common checklist. Objectives and action plan will be reviewed at the next staff workshop that will take place in six months.

Challenges of our learning centers
Key challenges the learning centers are facing were discussed in groups to find possible solutions. Some of the challenges were

  • learning Centers do not have adequate staff mainly due to financial constraints
  • students retention and drop-out
  • fierce competition from other private and NGO schools
  • teachers lack technical knowledge of students-centered methodologies or teachers fail to apply their knowledge
  • of students-centered teaching methods
  • learning Centers lack teaching materials
  • learning Centers do not have sufficient classrooms, etc.
Discussing challenges and solutions
Discussing challenges and solutions

Open discussion
During the open discussion, everybody shared their feelings about the workshop and its outcomes. One staff member from learning center Takeo said that her parents and friends don´t have a good perception of her work at the center as she does not seem to be better off materially. Nevertheless, she said she still loves working at the center and doesn´t want to leave. She added that she was hoping for a higher salary and job promotion.

Head of Learning Center Tani said that he felt overwhelmed with the workload when he set up the learning center. Head of Learning Center Tonloab added that it is very hard for him to lead and manage his learning center in the right way as he doesn´t have enough staff to do the work. The librarian from learning center Angtasom said that at the beginning he was confused with the fact that the center charges a course fee but is a social enterprise. It took him a while to understand the purpose of it and is now able to explain it to other people.

The atmosphere of the entire workshop was generally positive. Everyone participated with enthusiasm and courage to ask questions and to challenge others’ points of view in a constructive way. During the common meals, we could further improve our bonds and friendship. The staff is encouraged to keep on communicating with each other after the workshop to further discuss and share their experiences, ideas and approaches. The workshop has definitely empowered all participants and given them opportunities to learn thinking more critically of their own problems and challenges and how to better figure out solutions that work for their respective learning centers.

Introducing Tep Sothy from Learning Center Tani

Tep Sothy is Community Hero in Tani, Cambodia
Tep Sothy is Community Hero in Tani, Cambodia
Tep Sothy (right) is our Community Hero in Tani, Cambodia. In March, we opened our sixth Cambodian learning center in Tani that seeks to serve the educational needs in the community. In this interview, we would like to introduce Sothy to you.

Sothy, who are you? Please tell us about you and your background?
Before I lived in Tani, I lived in Kampot provincial town. In 2002 I decided to move the whole family to Tani town because I had to implement the tasks for my job at ECYC. Here, I saw that the people in this community are different from other districts in the province of Kampot because they prefer to learn rather than to do any other business. They also really want their children to be officers in offices rather than the workers in on the fields.
You see, these were the reasons why I decided to move a family of five, my wife and my three children (two daughters and one son) to Tani. Another important reasons was that I don’t want my children to the extremely hard work on the fields as I had to do when I was young.

Why did you decide to apply at BOOKBRIDGE as Community Hero?
During the severe civil war in Cambodia between 1989 and 1992, my parents decided to send me to a refugee camp that had been set up by UNBRO and UNHCR along the Thai border. This way, they hoped to give me a better chance by attending English courses. I Therefore I became a professional of English as what I wanted to be was teaching the English language. I really want to teach the next generation this international language in order to light the way for them to get to know the world through reading, speaking, writing and listening.

You see, what I detest is the ignorance which covered Cambodia after The Angkorean Period that made Cambodia as well as Cambodians fell into excessive cheating and suffering. I founded a school but had difficulties to expand it and to meet the community needs. When I saw how BOOKBRIDGE supported Cambodian learning centers in a cooperational way together with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Cambodian Scouts as well as local communities I decided to apply as Community Hero. This way, I hoped to have better chances for me to develop my obligations to serve Cambodian society.

Which offerings (courses, activities) do you plan for your learning center?
As an English teacher and IT as well, I always had the plan to offer English and IT courses to the people in my local community. I want to offer as many classes as possible by organizing comfortable and fully-equipped rooms with qualified teachers that commit themselves to serve without complaining.

In the future I want to work on challenges like lacks in public transportation as well as curriculum updates through self-development and internal and external cooperations. At this point I would like to confirm that we still need more human resource support such as management skills and teaching techniques and donations to develop our learning center.

Looking back at your preparations for the opening of the learning center in March, what was the most difficult challenge?
We were under high time pressure. We had to decide which tasks had to be done, which were the most important ones and how we wanted to do them. It was also difficult to work with people with different backgrounds without training in advance. Also, it turned out that the local situation were different from the task conditions.

What were be the most important tasks for your first months as Community Hero?
To get information related to the tasks and to contact the contractors as well as comparing the local teamwork for prices and qualities in order to push the process of renovating the building forward. I also invested much time in finding helpful people.

Fabian raises USD 10,000 for Tani Learning Center in Cambodia

Tep Sothy, Head of Learning Center, thanks Fabian for his commitment
Tep Sothy, Head of Learning Center, thanks Fabian for his commitment
Fabian, our very first fellow placed at our learning center in Tani, Cambodia, has raised a staggering USD 10,000 in just a couple of weeks. The money has been completely invested into renovating and equipping four new classrooms. As a result, two more classes could have been opened increasing the sustainability rate of the learning center. Not only due to this donation, Fabian has left a footprint on the center that will last.

Fabian has participated in our 7th Capability Program that led to the opening of our 6th Cambodian learning center in Tani. After the program was over, Fabian spent three months as BOOKBRIDGE fellow at the learning center.

One of the four new classrooms that were equipped with Fabian's donation.
One of the four new classrooms that were equipped with Fabian’s donation.
At this critical nascent stage, having a CAP7 candidate as a fellow at the Learning Center was a huge help. Fabian has been working very hard and had to face some challenges working in a different culture with people from different backgrounds. However, he managed to overcome the challenges, progress further and generate concrete results for the learning center. With some help he and Tep Sothy, Head of Learning Center, worked together well.

Fabian (left) with his team members during the initial workshop.
Fabian (left) with his team members during the initial workshop.
Thanks to his commitment and the great teamwork of the leraning center’s team, now four newly renovated classrooms are ready for more new courses, gravel has been laid in the front yard and a slide has been added to the playground. Fabian has also helped with setting up an accounting and bookkeeping system, online and offline marketing as well as introducting discounts for disadvantaged students. He also helped to introduce learning and reading activities.

Fabian has now returned to Lichtenstein where he reunited with his familiy and friends. Thank you for your incredible help, Fabian, and all the best for you!

Illiteracy Initiative started in Tonloab

Vannak leads students to learn by playing.
Vannak leads students to learn by playing.
BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Tonloab has always been a role model. Due to its innovative learning approaches that are very new to the Cambodian educational system, it can provide our other Cambodian learning centers with good practices. Besides implementing student-centered learning activities, the center also manages to solve problems with the community. These approaches help to realize our Learning Center vision 2020 and yearly goals.

Vannak Pen, Head of the learning center, has been implementing a number of student-centered learning activities that have definitely given the learning center a head start. Students are very engaged in learning while having fun at the same time. Among those activities are learning by singing (singing club); learning by playing (new educational games); learning by expressing (speaking club); students learning functional English they will use at home or at their parents’ businesses; engaging parents and earning their trust; in-class teaching session structured into different sub-sessions (Core English based on textbook, drawing, watching video & singing, and practicing by playing), and more.

Vannak does a short video clip to promote the learning center's speaking club.
Vannak does a short video clip to promote the learning center’s speaking club.
Tracking student’s progress by filming
Vannak has integrated some of these new approaches into his learning center’s curriculum. To track student’s progress but also to promote the center’s offerings, Vannak films these activities. Thanks to these learning activities, he expects the students’ learning effectiveness to increase so that students will be able to use English better in class and their daily life. However, the challenge remains. The pragmatism, efficiency and quality of the implementation have yet to be optimized so that results can be be maximized. Vannak says that students are happy with the new fun learning activities and enjoy learning together with their peers. They have already started to speak more English with their friends although this is just the beginning. Also, being filmed makes them proud and might contribute to their learning motivation.

Students work in team in the newly introduced speaking club initiated by Vannak.
Students work in team in the newly introduced speaking club initiated by Vannak.
Illiteracy initiative started
Regarding solving a problem of Tonloab’s community, the learning center has introduced a social and educational initiative to fight the persistently high illiteracy and semi-literacy rate in rural Cambodia. Vannak is currently piloting supplementary literacy classes free of charge for slow learners in the community who might drop out of school to early thus not having sufficient skills to find good jobs, especially when looking at our competitive, globalized and integrated world. This initiative will help to improve the center’s social impact on the community – one of the main goals of our learning centers.

The incremental changes Vannak is doing try to realizing sustainability, growth and quality not only for learning center Tonloab but for all BOOKBRIDGE Learning Centers. We are very excited about them and hope that Tonloab’s initiatives can be a good example for our other learning centers.

GMP+3 opens first learning center in Sri Lanka

On June 9, the group of 13 candidates accompanied Sujitha Miranda and the Sri Lankan team in the opening ceremony of the first Bookbridge Learning Center in this Asian country, with the aim of making a difference in a rural region famous for its tea plantations.

Vision of the Skills Learning Center

Sujitha Miranda, our local hero in Sri Lanka, has a dream: offering equal opportunities to the children and youngsters of Bandarawela and its surrondings, a rural region located in the Uva province. Together with her, the GMP+3 team has been working over the last five months in order to make this dream come true.

Taking into account the outdated educational system and the highly competitive environment, we had to develop a different value proposition. And we found it: qualitative education, based on practical knowledge and modern teaching methods, affordable for everyone willing to learn. The offering goes from English and IT for all ages to the new “Find yourself” course, with focus on the self-development of the young school leavers. In addition, a complete library will provide the community with access to English books.

On June the 5th, the team took a train from Colombo to Bandarawela. A 10 hours trip which meant not only an opportunity to enjoy the impressive landscape, but also to start putting some ideas in order.

Just arrived in Bandarawela, we run to the learning center. First emotions arouse. Happy to meet Sujitha and the team personally, impressed by the work done on the building – which the previous week had only floor and walls – although concerned as well… Would this be enough for the opening ceremony? Three intense days upfront to get it ready!!

Marketing on a tuk uk

In this little time, many things occurred: street marketing, school visits, media contacts, appointments with local companies to get the right partners on board, and day and night work on the building; we even had time for some intercultural experiences… Many lessons about entrepreneurship were learnt as well in practice: stretching very (very) much our comfort zone, dealing with emotions and disappointments – like when we knew that the books would not arrive on time – and staying flexible, among others.

Finally, the opening day arrived. Dressed in the traditional sarong, we welcomed more than 70 attendants, including Mr. Mihimal Munasinghe – Secretary to Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure – the main representatives of the Sri Lanka Scouts Association, TV and press journalists, other stakeholders, school principals and, of course, the children.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 15.11.09
Children attending the opening ceremony and first applications.

At the end of the day, Skills Learning Center achieved the first subscriptions and even a sponsorship. And by the time this post is being published, the books have already arrived. Great success for the first Bookbridge learning center in Sri Lanka!!

From a professional and personal point of view, this has been a lifetime experience for all of us. As our colleague Sima, from GMP3, mentioned after the ceremony: “We are not longer the European and the Sri Lankan teams; we have become one team.”

This article was written by GMP+3 Candidate Maria Pastor. Thank you, Maria!

BOOKBRIDGE opens its first Learning Center in Sri Lanka

Proud about their success: the European and Sri Lankan team before the opening
Proud about their success: the European and Sri Lankan team before the opening
We are very proud to announce the opening of our very first learning center in Sri Lanka. Congratulations to Community Hero Sujitha, the GMP+3 Team and our partner The Sri Lankan Scouts for this historic milestone!

One year ago, Sri Lanka was still a dream. Following a field visit in September, we proudly celebrated our first Sri Lankan Community Hero. Since January, the team of our 3rd General Management Plus Program developped a compelling vision for the learning center: to make the future shine for the people in Bandarawela. Two months later, they pitched their business plan to an external investor – with success! Three weeks later, they found themselves in Bandarawela to implement the business plan on-site, leading into an opening ceremony attended by ministers and members of the Sri Lankan parliament: Hon. Ravindra Samaraweera, Minister of Labor and Trade Union Relations, Hon. Vadivel Suresh Member of Parliament, Hon. Chaminda Wijesiri Member of Parliament and Hon. Harin Fernando, Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure.

Sujitha Miranda thanked everybody for their contributions to the learning center
Sujitha Miranda thanked everybody for their contributions to the learning center
“SKILLS Learning Center” offers life skill courses according to the locally-felt community need for a minimal fee. The center is designed to meet the needs of the Bandarawela young generation to discover their talent and develop their personality in order to become a self-determined member of the community.

SKILLS Learning Center will provide high-quality and personalized education, with a strong focus on language based training across all levels, personality development classes, as well as courses for new media (Internet and the usage of social media in daily lives).

The learning center is run by local teachers, who are supported by a team of senior executives from the WHU Dusseldorf, the BOOKBRIDGE foundation through its network and the Sri Lankan Scouts Association.

The first students have signed up for the course offerings. Among them, students can develop their personal vision on what they would like to do in their lives. We keep the fingers crossed for Sujitha, her team and her learning center!

Applications open for 4th WHU General Management Plus Program!

Do you want to broaden your horizon, act as a real entrepreneur and create your own business from scratch? Then join our next GMP+ General Management Plus Program and profit from an exceptional learning experience.

GMP+ provides you with hands-on general management knowledge and gives you the chance to develop professionally and personally. The next program GMP+4 starts in January 2017.

The General Management Plus Program at a glance:

  • Participating in this program will show you how to lead people and teams in an intercultural context and you will enhance your knowledge in strategy, leadership and finance.
  • You will develop a business plan for entering a new market and learn how to think and act entrepreneurially.
  • Your time investment: 18 program days spread over 6 months, including sessions at WHU Campus Düsseldorf and the implemenation of the business impact project in an Asian country.
  • You will receive a WHU Certificate of Attendance (incl. 10 ECTS) after successfully completing the program.

Questions left? Please contact Carsten Rübsaamen carsten[at]

For detailed information on the program format, exact dates please download the program brochure.

If you would like to apply please complete the application form.

Michael-Braunschmidt-Bosch-Siemens-Hausgeraete“I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in this excellent program! I had the chance to enhance my entrepreneurial thinking while working on setting up a worthwhile, tangible business in an intercultural and challenging environment!”
Andreas Probst
, Senior Project Leader
 B/S/H/ | Program participant

Constantin gains experiences in working in Asian culture

Constantin with children at the learning center.
Constantin with children at the learning center.
Like an adventurous explorer, BOOKBRIDGE fellow Constantin has travelled far all the way from Munich, Germany to live and work in Cambodia. Being 19 years old, Constantin is very young, yet fearless. Never having been to Asia before he worked at our learning center in Takeo for the last six months. Though things were not always easy, Constantin made his way and has learnt a lot about how it is to work and live in an Asian country.

Constantin’s fellowship started in November 2015 and ended in May. He has already returned to Germany where he is now preparing for his undergraduate studies at university. For this, his fellowship experiences can be a good input. Just having graduated from high school last summer, Constantin decided to take a year gap to do a fellowship with BOOKBRIDGE in Cambodia to gain more hands-on experiences in living and working with people from a different culture. Although still quite young, he was very committed and showed great empathy towards the people he worked with.

Constantin attends a meeting with the center's teachers.
Constantin attends a meeting with the center’s teachers.
Constantin made great efforts to bring music (piano) and sports (football) to our learning center in Takeo. The results were mixed as these topics were relatively new to the people in the community of Takeo. Also, the learning center had to deal with other important issues by that time such as organizational management, business sustainability, course management and quality. To reach out to the students turned out to be challenging showing that the learning center has to invest more engagement in bringing the value of music and sports classes to the students. However, it was worth trying it and brought important learnings for future projects.

Besides, Constantin was also very helpful in to coach the Head of Learning Center and her assistant with respect to strategic management and leadership skills. He also managed to raise money to purchase a beamer for the learning center that is now being used very frequently. In addition, Constantin also helped with the local marketing, internal meetings, social media, teacher meetings and much more.

Staff and students give to Constantin a certificate of appreciation and a cultural gift
Staff and students give to Constantin a certificate of appreciation and a cultural gift
Though Constantin has already returned to Europe, he is still in touch with the Head of Learning Center and the staff to support them from afar. Thank you, Constantin, for supporting our learning center in Takeo and becoming another bridge builder!

GMP3 Team wins EUR 20,000 for our first learning center in Sri Lanka

Bea Bättig invested EUR 20,000 on behalf of HILTI Employees into our first learning center in Sri Lanka
Bea Bättig invested EUR 20,000 on behalf of HILTI Employees into our first learning center in Sri Lanka

After two months of intensive research in the community of Bandarawela, the GMP3 Team around Community Hero Sujitha successfully pitched the business plan to their investor. We interviewed investor Bea Bättig from HILTI FOUNDATION on why she invested into the team.

You could feel the excitement in the room when Bea Bättig from HILTI FOUNDATION entered the lecture hall at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. The GMP3 Team in Europe and Asia had worked hard since January to come up with a viable business plan for BOOKBRIDGE‘s first learning center in Sri Lanka.

The GMP3 Team built their pitch around their vision “to make the future shine in Bandarawela”. Using the picture of a diamond in the shape of Sri Lanka, they outlined their business plan to improve the job and life chances of school children, young adults and adults in the community of Bandarawela, Uva Province, Sri Lanka.

Bea Bättig was impressed by the team spirit and the effort which the 20 candidates at WHU and in Sri Lanka have put into their pitch and the business plan. She agreed to invest into the learning center and outlined three conditions. The team received the response with great excitement and set off to prepare the implementation of their business plan on-site in June.

Bea, why did you decide to invest in our first learning center in Sri Lanka?
“Access to quality education is key to success in life. I really like BOOKBRIDGE‘s thoughtful approach in not only including people from Europe, but also people from the local community. Together, they can develop an impactful concept for the local community.”

What do you expect from your first learning center in Sri Lanka?
“I expect from the learning center to complement existing educational offerings in the community in a purposeful way. The offerings should fit to the real needs of the local people. I do not want an European approach but the best-possible solution by co-creating with the local community. From my experience in working with the community of Monaragula, 1 1/2 hours east of Bandarawela, many people cannot read nor write. We have to contribute to improving the education system with our learning center.”

Listen to the statement by Bea on why she supports BOOKBRIDGE. It is available in German only.

Bea, Social Investor from BOOKBRIDGE on Vimeo.

The end of the beginning in our 7th Capability Program

CAP7 Team in Module 5
CAP7 Team in Module 5 at Leuenberg, Switzerland

What an entrepreneurial learning journey! The candidates of our 7th Capability Program had to change the assumptions of their business a couple of times. In all this change process, they sticked to their initial vision. The joint purpose turned them into a high-performing team and made them setup a successful new learning center in Tani, Cambodia.

Nobody would have predicted the outcome and impact of our 7th Capability Program when the team first met in October 2015. Starting with the mission to expand our mobile learning center in Angroka, Cambodia, the team ended up in setting up a new fully-fledged learning center in Tani, Cambodia. As different as the outcome may sound, as close kept the team to its initial vision of a developing a self-sustainable, high-quality and accessible educational institution for next-generation leaders.

The team has been exposed to a lot of change along their entrepreneurial learning journey. Three weeks after start of the program, the local entrepreneur quit her job as her husband asked her to come back home and take care of her children. Nobody would have expected that. The team had to re-evaluate the support from the local community and decided to rather move to a completely new place than investing into relationships which had been affected by the decision of the local entrepreneur to leave.

Experiencing the power of a joint purpose
Experiencing the power of a joint purpose

Weeks of intense research on potential target communities followed and finally led to the selection of our new Community Hero Sothy Tep in Tani, Cambodia. In a rapid prototyping approach, the team developed a business plan from scratch and convinced an external investor to not only trust them, but also invest 50% more than initially planned. Four weeks later, the team found itself in the Cambodian heat implementing their business plan. The numbers speak for themselves. Sothy and his team kicked off operations with 103 students in the first month.

End of April, the team got together again in Tani, Cambodia and Leuenberg, Switzerland to evaluate the success of their worthwhile tangible business and transfer the learnings into their professional lives. The investor was positively surprised by the kick off of her investment. CAP7 Candidate Fabian decided to extend his stay in Cambodia and volunteer as a BOOKBRIDGE Fellow until mid June at the learning center.

Candidates took away a lot of learnings from this exceptional journey as a team of entrepreneurs. First, they all experienced how a joint purpose can turn a group of diverse people into a high-performing team. Second, they all acted as real entrepreneurs in an unknown environment with a high degree of uncertainty. Third, each candidate learnt a lot on how to collaborate with counterparts from a totally different culture by creating a worthwhile tangible outcome in a very short time.

Module 5 marked the end of the beginning. Candidates now go back to their organizations and apply what they have learnt in the program as entrepreneurs. Everyone is looking forward to the next update call with Sothy and his team in June. Until then, we keep all fingers crossed for our new learning center in Tani.

From Volunteer to Full-Time Staff: Sopheak

Sopheak provides a typical free learning activity
Sopheak (right) provides a typical free learning activity
To many BridgeBuilders, Sopheak Tok is an old friend: Despite of her young age, she is with BOOKBRIDGE since several years. Starting as a volunteer in our learning center in Takeo, Cambodia in spring 2013, she became the center’s librarian one year later. Today, she is assistant to the Head of Learning Center. In this post, she writes about her way and personal development that has been closely connected to BOOKBRIDGE.

I am Sopheak Tok and I am turning 22 this year. I graduated from High School in 2011. I had to stay home for one year to help my family do farming and I sometimes run my own small business in order to save some money to continue my study at university. Then in early 2013, I went to university and I studied TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). In March 2013, I was looking for a school to improve my English, and then one of my classmates introduced me to BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Takeo. I was so glad to study there with different students from around the town. One month later, I discovered that they were looking for volunteers and I was happy that I became the first local volunteer in April. Three months later, I planned to continue my volunteer work for another nine months. Luckily, at the same time the learning center needed a librarian to work fulltime. I was selected because from my work as a volunteer I already knew a lot about how to do books check-in and check-out and leading students in activities like cinema club, reading, drawing, singing and so on. So over time, I was promoted to higher positions.

Sopheak moderating the English debating club
Sopheak moderating the English debating club
Working for the learning center, my English has been improved a lot, especially speaking and writing. I know how to work with others and share my English knowledge by teaching basic English to students. I have also learnt a lot of organizational skills, f.e. how to keep the center clean and how to organize books on the shelves. Moreover, I can deal with it when kids make noise in the class or library.

Besides these tasks, I luckily was still able to manage my work and study time. For example, I had to work 6 hours a day from 7 to 11 am and then from 2 to 4 pm. After that, I took some time for self-study, homework, or assignment from university. Also, I had the opportunity to work with fellows or foreigners. In fact, when I first joined the learning center, I was working with two fellows, Marco and Susann. This couple inspired me to work harder, and I was curious to learn new things from them. In the meantime, volunteers from other countries who were already working in Takeo wanted to offer free activities at the center. They were Christ, Kates, Garlane, and Stainley from American Peace Corps. I felt a bit more confident and comfortable speaking with foreigners, which before I was not.

Sopheak uses student-centered activities in her English classes
Sopheak uses student-centered activities in her English classes
In 2014, a girl from Switzerland volunteered at the learning center for six weeks. She taught me a lot how to make the cinema club more interesting and get more students. She also showed me what to do to be prepared before, during and after watching the movie, what materials were needed¬¬, when, where, how long, what type of movie. We had so much fun working together, but we also took some personal time together after work to have a chat, eat out, and exchange cultures. She also taught me some English speaking.

In 2015, we had a native English speaker from American Peace Corps, Garlane, who then co-taught with me for two terms. She shared her techniques and how to do a lesson plan every class. While we were teaching together, our students were happier and enjoyed learning with us. Students’ parents also trusted learning center more because they knew their children studied with an English native speaker.

At the same time, a fellow from BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Angtasom, Malin, came to work with us every Tuesday. We were very close because we shared the same interests. And she was my first vegetarian foreign friend who seemed to give me a lot of trust. She encouraged me to read more books and make more friends. We also spent some personal trips together during holidays and she also experienced homestays with my family. We cooked Khmer and European foods and sweets together with students. She was amazing to me and we are still in touch since then.

Sopheak is in charge of the cinema club (here with young students)
Sopheak is in charge of the cinema club (here with young students)
For the last six months, I have changed so much as I have learnt a lot from Constantin, our new fellow. He shared his skills in playing the piano and playing sports. I learnt from him that it is popular in a developed country like Germany. He taught me how to use modern technologies like TV, computer, beamer, etc. We also exchanged our cultures and hanged out together through trips and parties at Learning Centre, and we ate and danced together with staff and students. I have also learnt how to sum up the expenses and income to make the learning center sustainable. I am very lucky to have worked with him.

Sokoeurn Touch, the former Head of Learning Center, has taught me to be punctual, hard-working and to make decisions, and has given me great advice based on his experiences.

It has already been six months since Sreydieb started her job as the new Head of Learning Center in Takeo. She loves and treats me like her sister. She always shares with me her personal feelings. She is kind and caring to me. We do the same routine work every day like cleaning, organizing books, check in and check out, teaching students, and so on. I feel warm and have fun co-operating and working with her.

BOOKBRIDGE has many new things to share from their learning centers in Cambodia and Europe like organizing and conducting meetings, workshops, and sharing experiences.

My live has changed and improved a lot: I am now financially independent and self-reliant when it comes to room rent, meals, and studies thanks to my good salary. More and more people have known me, especially children, and they like me a lot. So, I do hope that I can work for the learning center as long as I can because I get so many valuable experiences.

There are a lot of things I want to see at the center in the next five years. I want to see more students in the community to choose us for studying English. I want the center to look modern with a nice and comfortable learning environment, each room being equipped with modern technologies and creatively decorated with pictures, posters, and slogans. I hope students will be able to use their English to study, work and communicate with foreigners. Teachers and staff will have a healthy relationship with one another and have more commitment to work as a great team. I envision them being well-paid, skillful, well prepared, organized, punctual, and honest and have clear roles and responsibilities with their tasks.

More people in the community will give more trust to our learning center because we can offer good services and care and ensure security and safety for their children whenever they are at the center. For example, we will have a cleaner to help keeping the rooms clean and hygienic, a librarian to help taking care of books and leading students to read more, and full-time teachers to help providing different activities including learning clubs and activities such as speaking, writing, listening, reading, debating and critical thinking to spread knowledge to more students in the community. We will have someone good at marketing to help reflecting how well the learning center is doing in terms of marketing. We will have a receptionist who offers information to walk-in potential customers asking about school fees, etc. Besides, each class must have a balance between income and expense. Lastly, the learning center will have its own little cafeteria that sells healthy food and drinks to students as well as a security guard and a nursing system for students or staff suffering from an accident.

Welcome, Tep Sothy, to Learning Center Tani!

Tep Sothy is Head of Learning Center in Tani, Cambodia
Tep Sothy is Head of Learning Center in Tani
Tep Sothy is Head of Learning Center in Tani, Cambodia, our youngest learning center. Tani Learning Center opened its door in mid-March to welcome students and children in the community of Tani. In this post, we would like to introduce him.

Sothy has been working the Cambodian and European candidates of our 7th Capability Program over the last couple of months to set up the center. When asked what motivates him to open a learning center, Sothy says he aspires to educate young generations in his community and provide them quality education and knowledge to lay the foundation for their further studies and higher education. In addition, he also wishes to provide a place for the people in the community to access books and English courses to improve their job and community needs as well as to further educate their community fellows.

Sothy believes that in the next 5 years from now on, his learning center will thrive and gain support from the community. He envisions infrastructure extensions, f.e. a garden, benches, broad internet access for students and visitors as well as a little café. He would like to offer a bus to transport young students from their homes to the learning center. He also hopes that students cannot only study at the center, but also can work there after completing their studies.

Sothy has been a key figure in Tani community for 10 years. He has close connections to the community, local authorities, and state schools. He is widely recognized as English teacher. He has run his own English schools in 8 different rural communities in Kampot province since 2002.

Like many other Cambodians at his age, Sothy’s studies were adversely hindered and marred by the civil war. As a war refugee he was rescued by UNHRC and UNBRO. In one of the refugee camps in Thailand, he studied English and Thai for 4 years in the 1980s before he started to work for UNTAC in Kep city in 1993. From 1995 to 1997, he worked as translator and hotel manager in Phnom Penh. Besides, he taught Khmer language to volunteers from American Peace Corps and VSO in Tani for many years. Sothy now has a chicken and mushroom farm in Tani.

Sothy has two daughters and one son, two of whom still go to school. His oldest daughter has graduated from high school and is currently working in Phnom Penh; she wishes to go to university some day soon. For Sothy, education has always been an important value be it as refugee in Thailand, as English teacher for young Cambodian or as a father of three kids. We are glad to have him as Community Hero in Tani!

7th Capability Program successfully closed

The local team meets up virtually with the European team for one last time to hand over work and bid farewell.
The local team meets up virtually with the European team for one last time to hand over work and bid farewell.
Our 7th Capability Program has officially ended with a successful fifth module. As the very first Capability Program containing Asian and European candidates, it has been a great success. Our learning center Tani is now up and running offering education to students and children in the rural community of Tani. It has been a very challenging 6 months, but it was worth it, and everyone deserves credit for his/her contributions.

CAP7 Module 5 took place on April 26 in Cambodia and in Switzerland: whereas the local team met at our newly opened learning center in Tani, the European candidates gathered in Switzerland. The goal was to reflect on what the participants have achieved over the last couple of months as well as the progress made on the ground.

European candidates in video conference with Community Hero Tep Sothy
European candidates in video conference with Community Hero Tep Sothy
In the morning, the local team got to look back at the program’s history from Module 1 to 4. Then, Tep Sothy (Head of Learning Center) gave an update on the achievements and progress the learning center has made to date in terms of numbers of classes and students, construction, finance and profits, staff recruitment, marketing and future plans. After that, he guided the local candidates around the entire learning center premise, which is the most significant tangible achievement from the capability program.

Tep Sothy gives candidates a tour of the learning center
Tep Sothy gives candidates a tour of the learning center
Then, given the progress updates and sightseeing tour, the team reflected on their vision for the center they jointly had set during the 1st module and discussed the things in the vision statement that they had turned into reality since then. This was followed by a reflection on what the participants wished to see at the learning center Tani in 6 months’ and in 2 years’ time considering the center being successful. After defining open issues and next steps, the whole team evaluated the program and brainstormed issues to be improved in the programs to come.

The local team discusses the parts of the learning center vision statement having been turned into reality.
The local team discusses the parts of the learning center vision statement having been turned into reality.
For the last time, the European team met with the Cambodian team to hand over the work but also to say good-bye to each other. Participants received a certificate as a reference for their participation, but also as an appreciation of their contributions. Though the big distance between them, they will stay in contact via email and status calls with the learning center. We are very grateful and proud of you, CAP7!

8th Capability Program kicked off to Mongolia!

A simple but challenging task. The CAP8 Team show team effort towards a joint goal by bringing a stick to the ground.

On April 27-29, 2016, we successfully kicked off our 8th Capability Program to Mongolia. For the first time, we are not only fostering entrepreneurial thinking and acting in the Global North. By conducting the same modules in Mongolia with 7 local candidates, we also build business and leadership skills in the Global South. Nobody will forget the magical moment when both teams shared their vision for the learning center in Dundgobi, Mongolia.

Preparations for our 8th Capability Program had already started in spring 2015 when Country Manager Amar spotted Narangav as a potential new Community Hero for a community-based learning center in her hometown of Dundgobi, Mangalgovi Province, Mongolia. One year later, 13 talents gathered at Leuenberg to team up with 7 local candidates who held their workshops in Dundgobi, Mongolia. As entrepreneurs, candidates had to immediately learn how to handle the diverse set of stakeholders involved in the setup of their venture. Following a short speed-dating with their counterparts and alumni of the program, they immediately started to set a joint vision for their time as a team of entrepreneurs.

CAP8 Vision
A magical moment: Community Hero Narangav presents the Mongolian vision for the learning center.

The magic happened on day 2. Following an introduction into BOOKBRIDGE and their role as entrepreneurs, the candidates immediately started to take action by developing a joint vision for their venture. Given that the team at Leuenberg and in Dundgobi worked on this task in parallel, you might have expected very different results. However, when Community Hero Narangav presented her vision for the learning center, you could see the smiles on the faces of the team at Leuenberg. Both vision matched perfectly with each other and resulted in a great foundation for the work as a team of entrepreneurs across cultures and time zones.

7 talents from the Global South in Dundgobi, Mongolia
7 talents from the Global South in Dundgobi, Mongolia

The business challenge is to create Narangav‘s learning center for the community in Dundgobi, Mongolia. Until mid June, candidates will work in virtual teams to understand and map the needs of the local community. In our virtual module 2, they will finalize the business plan for their venture and prepare to pitch it to their investor. If the pitch is successful, the team is bound to meet up in Dundgobi, Mongolia in September to implement ehri business plan. This will also be the first time when both teams meet physically after five months of virtual teamwork. Finally they will assess their first impact and key learnings from the program during module 5 in November.

13 talents from the Global North at Leuenberg, Basel, Switzerland

The team from the Global South is composed of 13 candidates from HILTI, Swisscom, Swiss Re, Trafigura and one private individual. Their origins are Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, South Africa, Russia, the UK and the Netherlands. They are joined by 7 talented local candidates from Dundgobi, Mongolia. The local candidates work for government or private organizations. Their goal is to apply the learnings from setting up a learning center as a new venture to their own businesses or startup ideas. The team is supported by Nathalie Moral from mavia and Amarsaikhan Purev as business coaches. Heike Rudolf von Rohr acts as leadership coach to harvest the learnings of the candidates.

The next Capability Program is scheduled to start in November 2016. Feel free to read more or contact Carsten at carsten [at] if you are interested in participating.

Construction work for Learning Center Bandarawela started

We are proud to announce that the construction works for our learning center in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka, have started successfully. It took some effort to get the permits to set up the building but Community Hero Sujitha Miranda finally managed to get all documents. The workers have to hurry up as raining season will start soon in Sri Lanka. The learning center will open in the beginning of June. It is set up by Sujitha, the Sri Lankan scouts and a group of motivated leaders from our 3rd GMP+ program.

Changes to Arvaikheer Learning Center after visit to Europe

This March, Uuganaa Gantumug, Battuul Alexander and Vannak Pen visited the Franconian International School (FIS) in Erlangen, Germany. During the two-weeks internship, the three Heads of Learning Center learned a lot about modern teaching and learning methods. Being back to Mongolia, Uuganaa started to implement what she had seen and learnt at the FIS. In this article she writes about the changes she has made to her learning center in Arvaikheer.

I am Uuganaa, the manager of Arvakheer BOOKBRIDGE learning center. I have led this center since it was founded in 2008. Recently, I had the chance to go to Germany to see typical school activities at the FIS. Franconian International School surprised me with a very child-friendly environment. Battuul, Vannak and me had a great time to observe the cultural differences and to learn teaching methods from international teachers with different backgrounds. After I had returned to my hometown Arvaikheer I had a lot of energy to do things differently. And I started to implement the things that I had learned during my trip. My students were amazed.

1. Changes to studying environment

First I changed my teaching environment using internal resources. At FIS, I have seen how we can change the learning environment and the classroom using the resources we have. When Elaine (librarian at FIS) came with some of her students to Mongolia two weeks ago, they helped me to implement my idea on the ground:

2. More technology in everyday teaching

I don’t use technological teaching method very often during my classes. However, my class is focused on student-centered teaching. After I visited the FIS I thought that it would be a great idea to attract kids through technical improvements. Now regularly use listening sessions, videos and teaching songs. There is also a very useful website that Celia offered to me. It is one of the most important things to encourage kids to learn: Especially after these activites they like to discuss in English. They love it! I also felt that my teaching method has changed a lot due my new experiences!

Mongolians meet Teachers from German School

Vannak Pen, Uuganaa Gantumur and Battuul Alexander at the FIS's library
Vannak Pen, Uuganaa Gantumur and Battuul Alexander at the FIS’s library

In March, three of our Community Heroes from Asia visited our partner Franconian International School (FIS) in Germany: Battuul Alexander, Community Hero in our learning center in Dalanzadgad, Mongolia, Uuganaa Gantumur from our learning center in Arvaikheer (Mongolia) and Vannak Pen from our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia, spent two weeks with the teachers, librarians and students at FIS which is located in Erlangen, Bavaria.

FIS is partner of BOOKBRIDGE and takes care of collecting and sorting English books for our learning centers in Asia. The exchange started two years ago when Elaine Smith, librarian at FIS, invited BOOKBRIDGE Community Heroes for the first time to Erlangen. In these two articles, Battuul and Uuganaa share their impressions and learnings from their time at FIS.

Together with Uuganaa Gantumur (left) from Arvaikheer learning center Battuul (right) visited Franconian International School
Together with Uuganaa Gantumur (left) from Arvaikheer learning center Battuul (right) visited Franconian International School

By Battuul Alexandar – Let me share with you the highlights of my time at FIS starting on Februar 29. The first day, I had a tour with Uuganaa and Vanak in the school including all libraries and met the secondary school team and ESL teachers. In the afternoon I observed an ESL class and participated in a workshop called “Total physical response and teaching proficiency and storytelling” where I learned about how to observe students, their feelings and how to help them individually.

The second day, I visited 2nd and 3rd grade classes to discuss about fashion and what people wear in Mongolia. It was so wonderful for me to share Mongolian culture and customs with the students. They were really excited and asked many questions about our culture and housing. The most interesting and funny thing was that they couldn’t imagine that in Mongolia the temperature goes below minus 30°C in the winter.

Battuul with FIS students during activities in the school's library
Battuul with FIS students during activities in the school’s library

The next topic we talked about was traditional games and national sports in Mongolia. We played a game with goat ankles. They really liked it and got excited to play this game with me. The ankle bones were so interesting to them and they asked me how to get this bone from animals, how often do we play this ankle bone game etc.

Next days I observed ESL classes called “Active learning versus passive learning” and “Student-centered language learning activities”. I could take new ideas and methods. The teachers methods were very simple but at the same time very interesting and interactive. I knew some of the games and we use the playing method in our classes in Mongolia but the difference is that we don’t use it regularly. We talked about our challenges in Curriculum Development at my learning center to Carolyn Gedling who is Curriculum Development Director at FIS. She gave us some useful advices.

Battuul with Celia Andrews, ESL teacher at Franconian International School
Battuul with Celia Andrews, ESL teacher at FIS

In the library class, I very much liked the activity to read books to students regularly and having discussion and drama session after reading books. I want to try to implement this activity at my learning center every week.

I really liked the active learning method which was taught to us. Active learning method means that students choose their own method how to learn in classes. The teacher can offer them three kinds of choices and they can choose one at the start of the lesson. Uuganaa and me we were asked many questions about Mongolia and we were happy to share the information with the students in several sessions.

One major difference I saw was that students at FIS were encouraged to think critically and to learn to be creative. They learn new things in many different ways. That’s what I want to implement this in my learning center.
After a week we meet Carolyn again and she gave us some useful materials and good advices on our reflections. I’ve learned from Carolyn’s classes how to keep students talking in English and how to use 5 Why’s methods to improve the students’ critical thinking.

I’m so glad that I had this wonderful opportunity. A BIG THANK YOU to Elaine and to the FIS team to make it possible. I felt very comfortable to work there and I have learned important methods, got new ideas and inspirations from FIS teachers. It gave me encouragement to make some positive changes, to do my best to make a difference. The environment of the school was fantastic and activities were taken just for the students and their improvement. I really hope to see and visit them again.

To our fellow Community Heroes: If you have the opportunity to go to Europe and visit a school there preparation is key and the most important thing for your stay. We are so lucky having had such a good opportunity. However, to make the best out of this opportunity lies in our hands. It’s not about having good language skills but about active communication, right attitude and setting goals, what do you want to learn at FIS leads to successful internship. Let’s be prepared and work hard to improve our skills!


Notes from a Mongolian Teacher’s Diary

Learning from Carolyn Gedling, curriculum developer at FIS: Uuganaa, Battuul and Vannak (from left to right)
Learning from Carolyn Gedling, curriculum developer at FIS: Uuganaa, Battuul and Vannak (from left to right)

By Uuganaa Gantumur – During my stay at FIS I wrote in my diary things I learned there. I would like to share some points with you to show you how helpful and useful our stay was.


  • We should take time to teach each other. For example: A Cambodian teacher teaches to Mongolian teachers one of their own methods with working kids at their respective learning center. This would be a good way to learn from each other.
  • All sessions should be kept for the next guests visiting from the learning centers.
  • Divide into groups to observe classes according to their teaching experiences. For example, some teachers only teach for beginners but others for high school students. Identify the teacher’s level before the training!
  • More practical sessions
  • We all should share our ideas and materials when we are back to our countries. I started to teach my colleague Buyanaa after I came back from Germany and our training style changed a lot. The diary was very useful to get ideas and remember things, too.
  • Some gaps in the plan were great because they gave us time to receive feedback for our classes.


  • All the sessions were very constructive and helpful
  • Use more technology in the class. For me, it is a really good idea instead of preparing a lot by myself.
  • FIS was a very strong and helpful environment to improve our speaking skills.
  • Teachers were so friendly and liked to share ideas! Also, Elaine gave a really good introduction to the school and its focus.
  • Learned a lot of library ideas such as banned books, book of battle and blind date with books. I thought that a library is only a place to borrow books.
  • I got inspired a lot by FIS school’s environment so after my trip I started to decorate my training environment using internal resources.
  • Students can do a lot of things by themselves such as researching and being creative.
  • All teachers are facilitators and mentors
  • A child-friendly atmosphere is very important
  • Elaine is a super coordinator!
  • We net many people and shared lots of ideas
  • We could personally meet students and classes and talked about cultural differences
  • Our host families were awesome!
  • It was great to meet the authors of books
  • There were many extracurricular activities and clubs that FIS offers to students
  • Like FIS, we should establish a community service project, a creer day and a fashion show

Being at the FIS was a great experience for me though I have been teaching for 15 years. It was a lifetime chance! Thanks to BOOKBRIDGE, Elaine and this great school!

Sothika Khoeun is new Head of Learning Center Angtasom

Sothika Khoeun is new Head of Learning Center in Angtasom
Sothika Khoeun is new Head of Learning Center in Angtasom

By Yourngchantreara Sao “Ra”, Country Manager Assistant in Cambodia

Welcome aboard! Sothika Khoeun is our new Head of Learning Center in Angtasom, Cambodia. Sothika says: “I hope to see the learning center become a leading, renowned center for students from local schools and universities alike to learn and research as well as a reputable English school in the community, the same way a reputable school in Phnom Penh is known to the people in the city.”

Concerning his decision to take the position as Head of Learning Center he recalls: “When I saw the announcement, I thought the requirements exceeded my qualifications. However, I was curious about the job as a local entrepreneur which was relatively new to me. I challenged myself to try it out and experiment it with my experiences and skills.”

Sothika joined BOOKBRIDGE in February 2016. Since then, he has developed a marketing plan and is already executing his action plan. Being committed, hard-working and passionate about his learning center, Sothika wants to see it thriving to earn trust from the community. He faces challenges such as educational quality, financial sustainability and maintaining the center’s competitiveness. Part of his job will be to resume the work of the previous Heads of Learning Center in Angtasom.

Sothika has a university degree in English Literature from Phnom Penh University. Before joining BOOKBRIDGE, he worked for a number of local and international NGOs for a total of 8 years covering topics such as research, health and translation. In addition, he has been teaching English for more than 10 years in Phnom Penh. He is a father to four children, two of whom go to school making education an important value to him. Welcome to BOOKBRIDGE family, Sothika!

Cambodian Team at BridgeBuilder Summit and Leadership Week

Vannak Pen, Community Hero in Tonloab (left), discusses challenges of his learning center
Vannak Pen, Community Hero in Tonloab (left), discusses challenges of his learning center

By Yourngchantreara Sao “Ra”, Country Manager Assistant in Cambodia

Taking place for the third time, this year’s BridgeBuilder Summit has featured a more diverse participation from Cambodia than ever. Whereas in the last years, only the country managers from Cambodia and Mongolia could join the summit for cost reasons, this time the participation from Asia was greatly extended: Besides Sokhan Khut and Amarsaikhan Purev, Country Managers for Cambodia resp. Mongolia, also Country Manager Assistants Yourngchantreara Sao “Ra” and Tunga Munkhjargal could participate. We could also invite four Community Heroes from our learning centers in Cambodia, Mongolia and – for the first time – Sri Lanka.

For the Cambodian team, the summit was a great opportunity to connect with the new BridgeBuilders (book champions, fellows) as well as to reconnect with existing ones. They came from a total of 20 countries! How are you, BridgeBuilders? We from Cambodia already miss you!

We have learnt a lot at the summit in the beautiful black forest in Germany. Besides the exciting experience of seeing snow for the first time, we could attend many good workshops which are highly relevant to our work. Of course, we could also participated in many fun team-building activities and great conversations with fellows, book champions and participants of our Capability Program. We really enjoyed to learn and grow with them together! We had an amazing time interacting, talking and sharing with one another and creating the unique BOOKBRIDGE Song Video together with Musikverein Wittelsbach. A big thank you to fellows Ruby and Alex as well as Community Hero Vannak for this musical bridge between all of us! We love it!

The summit was a beautiful experience for us, and we have had so many memories and stories to tell back home. We hope the next Summit will be featuring even more diverse bridge builders from Cambodia and Asia. What about inviting one or two students from the learning centers?

Cambodian Team joins Leadership Week in Switzerland

Community Hero Sujitha with Sokhan Khut and Carsten Rübsaamen
Community Hero Sujitha with Sokhan Khut and Carsten Rübsaamen

Before the BridgeBuilder Summit, the BOOKBRIDGE team gathered for Leadership Week in our office in Basel, Switzerland. The increased participation from Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka ensured that the needs of the communities at place are better reflected in our work.

The Leadership Week was a good opportunity for the Cambodian team to discuss burning strategic and practical issues facing BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia at large and our learning centers in particular. During the week, we discussed our Vision 2020, educational quality, the learning centers’ sustainability and independence, and overall BOOKBRIDGE’s structure. Our team has contributed many inputs and gained a lot of insights. This helps us as a team to find pragmatic ways to address many challenges we face in our work in Cambodia.

More expectations are mounting for our team and learning centers alike. During the workshops we decided on several results to be achieved until 2017. For the team spirit and motivation alike, it was very important to come together for one week and meet our colleagues from Mongolia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Germany, and Switzerland. We had a great time and could grow together as a team – something that in an international team like ours doesn´t happen so often as travelling is expensive and very time-consuming. After the Leadership Week, we had the opportunity to meet many BridgeBuilders from around the world at BridgeBuilder Summit in the black forest. It was a very intense and productive time leading to some exhaustions (especially in the evenings) but everyone felt very energized and motived seeing all the BridgeBuilders pulling the same string.

Roman Leaves his Mark on Learning Center Tonloab

Roman with the kindergarden students of the learning center
Roman with the kindergarden students of the learning center
By Yourngchantreara Sao “Ra”, Country Manager Assistant in Cambodia

Roman has left a footprint we all treasure, especially the team of our learning center Tonloab (Cambodia). Having spent six months as BOOKBRIDGE fellow at the learning center, he is now back home to Switzerland. We wish Roman all the best and hope to keep in touch with him from afar. Let’s keep building bridges!

After having learned about BOOKBRIDGE and the fellowship announcement last year, Roman decided to apply for the fellowship seeing that it was relevant to his master studies in Denmark and his future career. His fellowship started in April 2015 and ended in February 2016. Roman returns to Europe as he has to complete his studies and reunite with his friends and family.

Students received certificates for their language skills
Students received certificates for their language skills
Roman has supported the learning center in Tonloab in many ways: he helped to create new classes and to improve the IT course management. He developed and implemented students-centered teaching techniques, raised funds in Europe for the setting up of a new English class and teaching materials and assisted Vannak Pen, Head of Learning Center, in advancing his financial and leadership skills. Roman also consulted the BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia team. In doing so, he could build a very positive relationship with Vannak and the teachers at the center.

Looking back at the last months, Roman says: “I have learned a lot about working in a developing country and the challenges and successes of rural Cambodia. I developed my skills in co-teaching and identifying best practices to work together with people from a different culture. But most of all it is about the friends you make. For life!”

Vannak (right), Head of Learning Center, with Roman (very right) in the center's library
Vannak (right), Head of Learning Center, with Roman (very right) in the center’s library
Vannak Pen says about Roman’s fellowship: “I am very glad about Roman’s help: he has not only improved the communication skills of students and teachers and helped to increase income for the learning center but also contributed to marketing, improved teaching methods and our computer software and even did fundraising for more student chairs.”

Uncertain certainty

by CAP7 Candidate Fabian, fellow at our learning center in Tani, Cambodia

Admittedly, if you would have asked me at the beginning of last year to picture the Kingdom of Cambodia, I would have struggled. My knowledge of the former French colony was limited to the reports I had seen in the media: the infamous border dispute in the north of the country, the well known cultural heritage sights in its centre, and the famous mass grave in the south. This may also have been the case if you’d asked many other Europeans. Yet, reducing the Southeast Asian country to such images doesn’t do it justice at all.

I was to be proven wrong. In fact, from the moment I left the airplane a further feature of the country burned itself onto my memory. It’s hot – unbelievably hot. Of course, absolutely every European should know that, but just knowing something doesn’t mean you are prepared for it. I’m sweating. The traffic jams on the streets of Phnom Penh lets the prospect of a hotel shower recede far into the distance. I’ve only just arrived but already feel exhausted.

CAP7 Candidate and Fellow Fabian fighting with the heat in Cambodia
CAP7 Candidate and Fellow Fabian fighting with the heat in Cambodia

The joy of being reunited with the team helps me to forget the trials of the journey. After the bumpy ride through the south of the country we can hardly wait to get off the bus. We have arrived, and finally we are able to reap the rewards of six months’ hard work! The doors open and the heat, which we have banned from our memory, slowly makes it back into the cool bus. I look at the building in front of me and can hardly believe my eyes. Only a few weeks before, this very same place was a sorry sight to behold, dilapidated and decaying – and today it stands shining in new splendor! It feels as though all the pent-up stress I have been carrying with me over the last months has been lifted like a weight from my shoulders.

But this sense of inner peace wasn’t to last long. In the middle of the night I suddenly wake up by the sound of piglets screaming for their lives. I had forgotten about the slaughterhouse next door, and it seems as though the man who operates it is doing everything to prevent that from happening. He has been going about his work with the relentless punctuality of a machine – and indeed, he may well have become a machine by now due to the repetitive, gruesome nature of his task.

My early enthusiasm soon gives way to disillusionment. Now the downside of the speed at which this place has been built reveals itself: defective workmanship. I should have known as much and yet hope again pulled the wool over my eyes. Pressure is mounting. Idleness is a luxury and we can’t afford it any more. From now on I’m putting my words into action! Frustration is just as motivating as joy: right now, this seems to be the fate of an entrepreneur.

We’ve done it! The Learning Center is open, and the opening ceremony was a great success. For the second time in a week I feel the weight lifting from my shoulders. I am completely convinced that this won’t happen again. I am now making the most of the relaxed atmosphere and enjoying the last days with the other members of the team – bound together as we are by a six-month rollercoaster ride of emotions.

I was wrong – it has happened again. The work has only just begun. It may be a matter of course in Europe, but it is completely incomprehensible in Cambodia: accounting. To my own surprise I feel more relaxed and confident after the great electricity crisis that I will overcome this hurdle too. But I am yet unaware of the fact that folders are nowhere to be found in Tani. I take this in my stride and decide to combine the shopping trip for office supplies with a weekend trip to the capital. A relaxed state of tension may well be the second phase in the life of an entrepreneur.

Another silver lining – I couldn’t have asked for a better host family. They put tremendous effort into communicating that the sister, who is approximately my age, is unmarried. I grin and respectfully reject the offer, pleased to have been welcomed into the family’s intimate circle so early on. The bathroom here is even more rustic than the one in the previous week’s hotel. There is no sink, no hand-held shower, no toilet paper. How do people finish their business around here? I decide I don’t need to know the answer to that question and instead vow to be more prepared from now on. The heat is still unbearable making itself visible in the enormous pile of sweaty clothes in my laundry pile. Thus, when I glance over to my host family, I begin to warm to the idea of a beautiful Cambodian wife.

It is as though European priorities have become blurred. Not quite half Cambodian, but yet at the same time not quite a true European any more. Caught between the two. Understanding both worlds but nevertheless being unable to mediate between them. Work is more relaxed, and there is more laughter, even though the hasty reconstruction measures are starting to come back to bite us. It began with those first cracks in the suspended ceiling and now the plaster is starting to loosen. Not a problem – we will not fall at this hurdle, not after coming so far, after achieving so much. May I introduce: uncertain certainty.

Tani kicks off with 103 students in the first month

CAP7 Team in TaniWe are proud to announce the opening of our new learning center in Tani, Cambodia. The CAP7 Team around Community Hero Sothy Tep has worked very hard since the investor pitch in February to implement the ambitious business plan. The efforts paid off! 103 students have registered for the course offerings within 2 weeks.

The CAP7 Team had only 6 weeks to turn their ambitious business plan into reality. In February, they convinced Bea Bättig from HILTI Foundation to increase the investment amount from EUR 20,000 to EUR 30,000. The condition of the buildings invested by the local community made the additional investment necessary to meet quality standards.

CAP7 Opening Caran d‘AcheA lot had already happened in Tani when the team arrived on March 5. However, the team still had to work a lot in order to meet the milestone of the grand opening on March 12. And they made it! Many community members came to witness this very special moment. Caran d’Ache and Faber Castell supported the opening with a donation of great pens. And Swisscom provided 11 used laptops as well as gifts for the officials attending the ceremony. Thank you!

Two weeks later, 103 students have signed up for the courses already.The learning center offers English courses, English conversation classes, video lessons, computer courses (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop) as well as a library and a playground. We are amazed by this rapid development!

CAP7 Cutting of the RibbonWhile European CAP7 Candidates have left Cambodia, CAP7 Candidate Fabian prolonged his stay and serves as a Fellow in Tani. Read below his first reflections after two weeks in Cambodia. The text titles “uncertain certainty”.

End of April, the CAP7 Team meets again in Basel, Switzerland and Tani, Cambodia to evaluate the success of their learning center as well as reflect on the key lessons learnt of their entrepreneurial learning journey. We are proud of what the team has achieved and keep fingers crossed for Sothy and his team!

BOOKBRIDGE wins Swiss Marketing Trophy!

Marc from Contexta and Carsten from BOOKBRIDGE proudly present the Swiss Marketing Trophy!
Marc from Contexta and Carsten from BOOKBRIDGE proudly present the Swiss Marketing Trophy!

Yes, we did it! We won the Swiss Marketing Trophy in Lucerne. A big Thank You to Marc, Dennis and the entire team at Contexta who has been supporting and believing in us since the very beginning.

Communication in the non-profit world is not easy. All non-profits seem to fight for funds. In Switzerland, people are used to big advertisements displaying kids in different parts of the world in need for help. And Swiss people donate. CHF 1.7bn in 2014. You can imagine that non-profit organizations spend quite a lot of money on marketing to acquire funds.

We take a different approach. We do not need to invest in marketing to acquire funds. Through our entrepreneurial model, our learning centers as well as BOOKBRIDGE are selling their educational services. 12 out of 16 learning centers are financially self-sustained. We are writing our 3rd consecutive year with year-end profits. A huge milestone for a non-profit!

This does not mean that communication is not important. From the very beginning, we placed emphasis on what is your key message as well as how do we come across. However, it took us 5 years to find out how to describe what we are doing in a very simple way. And we are still learning every day to make our message clear.

It all started very small with our logo designed by John & Gina in Frankfurt back in 2010. When we were not able to continue the collaboration, Carsten met Nadine from Contexta in Bern, Switzerland. Nadine was intrigued by our cause and has been supporting us with her great team since then for free! We are so proud to have Contexta as our partner!

IMG_6941We are proud that all these efforts have paid off. At the Swiss Marketing Day in Lucerne, Switzerland, we were awarded the 2016 Marketing Trophy for Non-Profits along with our marketing agency Contexta. We were recognized for our unique business model and the way how we communicate it across different channels.

We received a big trophy, a great HD camera and a voucher for CHF 10,000 in media services over the next year. In addition, we are featured in the Swiss journal Handelszeitung. Hopefully, more people and companies become aware about what BOOKBRIDGE is about and join our Family of Bridgebuilders.

The Marketing Trophy is the result of a 5-year collaboration between Contexta and BOOKBRIDGE. We would like to thank all people at Contexta who have been supporting us, especially Nadine, Marc, Roman, Stocki, Falvian, Merlin, Dennis, Isabelle, Tanja, Monika, Susanne, Lionel, Dominic, Christian, Lea, Silvia, Sabine, Annina and many more!

We are proud of our partner Contexta and our achievement with the Swiss Marketing Trophy!

Multi-Stakeholder Meeting at Tani Successfully Conducted

Over 30 stakeholders participated in the meeting
Over 30 stakeholders participated in the meeting
On January 20 we organized a multi-stakeholder meeting for our learning center in Tani, Cambodia. The meeting’s goal was to bring together the stakeholders of the learning center in order to learn about the community’s needs for education and training. Conducting stakeholder meetings at our learning centers is very important as it ensures the support, collaboration and advocacy from local authorities, community members, students, teachers, parents, and local state schools alike.

The meeting took place at the local high school where our new learning center Tani is situated. The 31 participants consisted of a representative from District Office of Education, villager chief, school principals, teachers, students, our Head of Learning Center, and the Cambodian BOOKBRIDGE team. During three interactive sessions the participants discussed the needs and wishes of the community regarding the learning center’s offers.

Community Hero Tep Sothy answers the questions the stakeholders have
Community Hero Tep Sothy answers the questions the stakeholders have
The first discussion dealt with the community’s wishes for children and others and what the community’s students want to become in the future. Among them were:

  • mastering English to get a good job
  • vocational skills relevant to employment needs in the community
  • computer skills at all levels
  • learning center sustainability and quality to complete students’ studies
  • well-equipped standard learning center with learning outcomes for students moving to the city
  • students equipped with ability to catch up with their peers in the capital
  • affordable private schooling
  • becoming a lawyer and English teacher in the community
  • people in Tani having a good job
  • offering certificates and transcripts to students at different levels
  • children becoming good citizens
  • students getting well educated

One of the local partners in Tani, the school principal, comments on the focus of the learning center
One of the local partners in Tani, the school principal, comments on the focus of the learning center
Session 2 consisted of discussions about the resources needed for fulfilling these wishes:

  • English teachers
  • English schools
  • Institutions
  • Parents
  • state teachers of all subjects
  • state schools from elementary to high school
  • location provided by community for education program
  • highly qualified teachers
  • students’ commitment
  • sufficient supplies of water and electricity

Country Manager Sokhan Khut (left) lead the meeting and summed up the results
Country Manager Sokhan Khut (left) lead the meeting and summed up the results
During the last session, the participants talked about the skills and trainings they will need to compete on the job market and to fulfill their wishes and dreams. Their answers were

  • English at all levels
  • various computer courses and computer repairing
  • practicing communication skills in classroom
  • support for poor students
  • encouragement for students
  • morality issues
  • problem-solving skills
  • coordination
  • writing, reading, communication and critical thinking
  • personal financial management
  • self-confidence
  • teaching methodology and inspiration what works for the community
  • skills that fit market needs

The meeting ended with a wrap-up by BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager Sokhan Khut. The meeting was very helpful for BOOKBRIDGE as it enabled us to see the community’s needs and get direct input for creating offerings that really matter. Indeed, this kind of consultative meeting is essential to get the community engaged right from the beginning.

New Learning Center opens in Tani

On March 10, we open our 6th learning center in Cambodia. The new learning center is located in Tani and targets children and youth in Tani region. The learning center will offer English courses, English conversation classes, video lessons, computer courses (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop) as well as a library and a playground.

On March 10 at 7.30am the learning center will open its doors. Everybody is invited to come and visit!

Click here to see full invitation flyer

Learning center Tani will open its doors on March 10, 2016

Learning Center Arvaikheer looks back on 2015

Uuganaa's students in front of the learning center
Uuganaa’s students in front of the learning center
BOOKBRIDGE learning center Arvaikheer (Mongolia) is the first learning center BOOKBRIDGE established. Since 2009 it has changed a lot and transformed into an important educational institution in the province capital Arvaikheer. Uugantsetseg “Uuganaa” Gantumur, Head of Learning Center in Arvaikheer, has been awarded several times for her outstanding engagement. At the end of last year, the Mongolian government recognized her as “Outstanding Person in Society”. In this blog article she looks back at 2015.

The last few years have been very successful for BOOKBRIDGE learning center Arvaikheer but the last year was particularly good. Our child-friendly environment now includes more skilled teachers and a wide selection of books for students.

Uuganaa Gantumur during an English lesson
Uuganaa Gantumur during an English lesson
Community activities in 2015 included

  • At the learning center, we have a scout group that regularly participates in community activities. The scouts helped to organize the opening ceremony for our province’s first Special Olympics, a sports competition for children with disabilities. The event included 45 scouts, 50 athletes with disabilities and 30 adults.
    Nearly 70 scouts regularly participate in community activities organized by two local teachers.
  • 27 Scouts were trained as Patrol Leaders during an international camp in Nairamdal, and two teachers went with them.
  • We hosted a community English class in collaboration with Interesting World, a children’s newspaper.
  • 15 students and me volunteered their free time to provide translation services for a meeting with parents and sponsors from World Vision Singapore.
  • Each month, we host an English Olympic exam for students so they can track their increased knowledge over time.
  • Our students organized a New Year’s party. Everyone had a great time dancing, playing games and receiving awards.
  • I led a kickoff event for the first-ever Summer Scout Camp in our province. The program was developed by senior students of BOOKBRIDGE, 40 local scouts attended.
  • 4 scouts represented Mongolia at the International Scout’s World Jamboree in Japan.

English teacher Buyandelger (center) with her outstanding students in 2015
English teacher Buyandelger (center) with her outstanding students in 2015
Training overview

  • Our learning center provides eight classes at different ability levels. Payment is managed through parent contracts.
  • BOOKBRIDGE Regional English Olympics were held in Arvaikheer and included students from Khentii province. Over 170 students, 4 teachers and 5 Peace Corps Volunteers participated.
  • 15 students have participated in regional English Olympics exams, earning medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.
  • Golomt Bank and BOOKBRIDGE sponsored an English Olympics event for 12th grade students. Over 50 students participated representing all schools in Arvaikheer.
  • With the help of a Peace Corps Volunteer, 18 BOOKBRIDGE students were trained as Peer Leaders for a summer camp. 4 of them served as Assistant Teachers for the camp.
  • One of our top BOOKBRIDGE students, Munkhchimeg, received a national scholarship from the Zorig Foundation.
  • 3 BOOKBRIDGE students participated in the National Mongolian English Olympics.

The learning center made a big party for its students to celebrate the successful year 2015
The learning center made a big party for its students to celebrate the successful year 2015
Besides the recognition of my work one of my employees, Buyandelger Ochirbat, English teacher at the learning center, was honored with a gold medal as one of the Best Young Teachers in Arvaikheer province. Perhaps most exciting was being awarded as Child Friendly Organization by our local government. It is through our sustainable work and the support of the BOOKBRIDGE learning centers worldwide that we were able to achieve such a successful year. We’re eager to do even more in 2016!

What is impact in education?

Altaa, student in Mongolia
Altaa, former student at Arvaikheer Learning Center in Mongolia

Why should we talk about impact? Very simple. Because impact is our right to exist. We started BOOKBRIDGE because we believe that we can help people in making a choice on what they do in their lives. Hence, we need to make ourselves aware on whether we contribute to this ambitious goal with the work we are doing on a day-to-day basis.

What is impact in education? Difficult question. We believe our learning centers do have impact. Currently, we are telling stories around what we believe is our impact. We are proudly talking about Altaa, a student at Uuganaa‘s learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia, who had the chance as the first one in her family to study and become a teacher. We are proudly telling the story of Vannak in Tonloab, Cambodia who gave up his job as teacher to run his learning center as a social entrepreneur, reaching out to more than 50,000 community members in 2015. And we are talking about the alumni of our Capability Program who start worthwhile and tangible initiatives within their organizations in Europe, thereby prototyping the future of business.

In 2014, we started a discussion with our learning centers on where they see themselves in five years from now. Based on these results, the BOOKBRIDGE Team developed a LOGIC Model on how we aim at creating impact:

Table Social Impact

But how to assess this impact? Here it becomes even more difficult. Not because we don´t believe that education has impact. But that it it hard to track down due to two simple reasons. First, impact in education is a long-term endeavor. If you start learning English now, you may earn the fruits only in a couple of years from now. Second, education happens anywhere anytime. Each human being is educated day in day out by a multitude of people – parents, teachers, colleagues and even advertisement. It is very difficult to say who has caused what effect.

How to make a start? I still remember when we started our first learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia. In October 2009, I met with a leading researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. My question was on how to lay the foundations so that we can talk about impact in 5 years. The answer was depressing for me at that time. I was proposed to conduct a large-scale survey comparing the level of English language skills of students in Arvaikheer with a community which does not have a learning center. Funds needed for this amount hundreds of thousands of EUR. And the result? Would this help our learning centers to develop themselves further? I was not sure at that time.

Five years later, we learnt a lot of lessons and decided to pilot a different approach. Instead of producing huge piles of data, we aim at creating an environment in which impact becomes part of the daily discussion. Instead of distributing questionnaires in a top-down approach, we start with our Community Heroes as key change maker in their community. We engage them in a regular discussion with your community member as well as fellow Community Heroes on the impact which you create.

Sounds promising. But how do you do it exactly? Twice a year, our Community Heroes meet with your most important target groups in their learning center and make them reflect on the impact they feel the Community Hero has created on them, their lives and the community you all live in. The results of these meetings are shared and discussed with the other fellow Community Heroes during the bi-yearly staff trainings. This allows our Community Heroes to learn from each other and identify best practices for your learning center.

At a global level, we compare the impact of our Community Heroes across the countries they live in. We share these results openly with you and discuss them with our Family of Bridgebuilders at the bi-yearly BOOKBRIDGE Summit. We are convinced that an open and regular sharing of our impact brings us closer towards our mission to empower you to do what you really are. We are looking forward to this learning journey together with you.

Enough theory. Let’s get our hands dirty and look at the results of our first impact assessment workshops. In the following chapters, we share the results of 3 pilot learning centers which participated in the very first pilot workshops held with members of their respective communities. For our pilot, we chose parents, children, young adults and learning center staff members as key target groups. We publish the results as we got them. They serve as a basis for our workshop on impact assessment at the BOOKBRIDGE Summit in March 2016.

Step #1: Community members draw a picture of their community
Community members are grouped by target group around separate tables. As a first exercise, they draw a picture of their community on a big piece of paper (A0, flipchart size). All participants from one stakeholder group draw one big joint picture on the community they live in.

Pictures drawn by parents

The following pictures were drawn by 8 parents in Dalanzadgad, Mongolia, 8 parents in Tonloab, Cambodia and 5 parents in Takeo Town, Cambodia.

Pictures drawn by children and young adults

The following pictures were drawn by 8 children and young adults in Dalanzadgad, Mongolia, 14 children and young adults in Tonloab, Cambodia and 11 children and young adults in Takeo Town, Cambodia.

Pictures drawn by learning center staff members

The following pictures were drawn by 2 staff members in Dalanzadgad, Mongolia, 8 staff members in Tonloab, Cambodia and 6 staff members in Takeo Town, Cambodia.

Step #2: Most important impact types discussed
As a second exercise, Community Heroes invited the participants to think about the impact your learning center has had on them personally as well as on the community. The discussion was kicked off with the following three questions:

1. What has changed in your life due to the learning center activities?

2. Give an example of a positive impact of the learning center in our community.

3. Give an example of negative impact of the learning center in our community.

Community Members reflected upon these three questions first individually and then in their respective stakeholder groups. Each stakeholder group presented their key results. The Community Hero noted down the 5 most important impact types from the discussion. They serve as a basis of a discussion on how to strengthen the impact of the learning center in the community.

Dalanzadgad, Mongolia

  1. This is the good and right place to study English in this town.
  2. This place gives children and community to educate themselves in a positive way.
  3. Both students and parents can attend free activities and stay for reading in their free time.
  4. Learning center makes them happy and makes new friends to them.
  5. The learning center and foreign volunteers help local people to know more about external world it means other countries culture and tradition as global.
  6. English skills of students have improved a lot
  7. English teachers at the LC have become far more confident in their teaching
  8. Parents have more interest to send their children to the LC to learn English
  9. Students have better self confidence
  10. More organisations are working in partnership with the LC

Comments by Community Hero Battuul:
“We are really happy to open new world for children and community people. It is very nice to see that our customers are feeling good when they are staying here. The most of them come every day and having fun except learning many things. It is nice to see their good results and changes by learning English. Our volunteers help us a lot in here. We can share our knowledge and make friends by this place. “

Tonloab, Cambodia

  1. Students have chance to use and study with modern teaching materials
  2. We have the guideline to prevent’ the children securities
  3. We try to use more modern teaching materials to support learning and teaching
  4. The learning center will give the students’ chances to contact or communicate to the world
  5. All students from poor and rich family can study at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Tonloab

Comments by Community Hero Vannak:
The learning center has the fellows and good teachers. The learning center has the scholarship program. The learning center has reduced the rooms for Tonloab primary school’ teachers. Students’ security need to be safe while leaving the learning center at night. BOOKBRIDGE is a part of Ministry of education that help students at rural areas get to know quality English and Computer.

Takeo Town, Cambodia

  1. Knowledge, skills and (financial) benefits
  2. Pride and trust
  3. Quality concern
  4. Policy and incentives
  5. Building relationship

Comments by Community Heroes Sreydieb and Sopheak
The impact types are identified based on the summary of answers from different stakeholder groups. The heading given to each impact types are based on the outcome of the summary of the answers. So actual impact type might have been different if different people identified them

These are the results of our pilot workshops so far. Not bad, right? We will discuss the results at a workshop at the Summit and think about how to continue.

How did our Community Heroes like the pilot workshops? We asked them about their satisfaction in the survey and this is what they answered.


What can we learn from this pilot? Our Community Heroes also gave us a lot of advice on how to continue after the pilot:

  • It would be good to have some options of tools and methods to be used for the workshop.

  • The tools and methods used are considerably good, but mapping the community looks difficult for the participant and they don’t really understand it.

  • It is the best way to get enough information from students, parents and teachers.

  • I did not conduct the pilot impact assessment by myself, but Country Manager did it and I observed and noted down how he conducted it with the participants. I prepared materials and logistics needed for conducting the pilot impact assessment as well as invited people to join it.Guideline is complicated, but it is not easy to follow. I did not really understand what I should do, but I found it not that complicated when I saw what CM did during the implementation of pilot impact assessment. I would be helpful to make it more simple and easier to implement since we did not have much time to do it.Drawing maps of the community is also good, but it does not really give much info to know about what impact we create if compare to questions to the stakeholder group member about positive and negative impacts.Questions used for the second exercise should be more specific (it sounds too vague for me).
  • Yes I have. During the workshop we talked about many good results and impacts of learning center. They can talk and write about results but it was not easy to draw the picture its changes. So they tried to do the main results and impacts of the learning center. The next time it would be better than this.

  • People are busy so survey was the best method. I have meet 14 people to have a panel discussion. 13 people were questioned according to survey. Next time Bookbridge send us certain survey template.

How much time did it take them to prepare, conduct and evaluate the pilot? On average, Community Heroes spent 19 hours preparing the pilot (min 3 hours and max 32 hours), 18 hours to conduct it (min 1 hour and max 50 hours) as well as 10 hours to assess the results (min 1 hour and 35 hours max).

CAP7 wins USD 30,000 investment into Sothy‘s Learning Center in Tani

Kicking off the investor pitch with a traditional Cambodian Greeting
Kicking off the investor pitch with a traditional Cambodian Greeting

Had the team known what they don’t know when they started on their learning journey as entrepreneurs back in October, everything would have turned out different. On February 4, the CAP7 Team convinced Bea Bättig from HILTI FOUNDATION to invest USD 30,000 in Sothy‘s Learning Center in Tani, Cambodia – this is USD 10,000 more than initially pledged.

Exciting months lie behind the CAP7 Team. In October 2015, our 9 European and 7 Cambodian candidates started with a joint vision to turn our micro learning center in Angroka into a fully-fledged learning center and expand the micro learning center concept developed by the CAP5 Team to potentially three more locations.

End of November, Kadet handed in her resignation as a Community Hero. This decision made the local partner change the initial commitment for the building. The team only had a couple of weeks to evaluate alternative options and chose to move away from Angroka completely.

Under pressure diamonds are formed. Within 4 weeks, guided by experienced business coach Joanna Hafenmayer from MyImpact, the team had found an alternative partner in the community of Tani, about 24km South of Angroka. They launched a call for applications and found Sothy as a dedicated and motivated local entrepreneur to run the learning center.

On February 5, they pitched their business plan to Bea Bättig from HILTI Foundation. Due to the change of the partner and the location, the team pitched for USD 30,000 instead of EUR 20,000 to kick start operations. And they won! The investor agreed under conditions to grant the investment.

Jumping into the air after a successful pitch
Jumping into the air after a successful pitch

Following the pitch, the team started to plan the implementation phase. A lot needs to happen within a very short timeframe. The opening of the learning center is scheduled for the week of March 7 – only 4 weeks from now.

Guided by Leadership Coach Boris Billing, the team reflected upon their key learnings since module 1. The emotional curve contained lots of highlights and lowlights providing fruitful grounds for key lessons learnt when working in a virtual and agile environment.

Another highlight was a joint dinner with alumni from CAP5, CAP3 and CAP2. We all met in a Cambodian restaurant in Zurich. The mobile learning center was of course a topic. However, more importantly, the alumni shared their key moments in Cambodia and created a lot of joy in the CAP7 Team towards their next module in Cambodia.

We keep fingers crossed for implementation of their business plan in Cambodia!

CAP7: Local and European Investor Pitches won

Cambodian candidates of CAP7 with the local investors (first and second from right)
Cambodian candidates of CAP7 with the local investors (first and second from right)
Two weeks ago, the Cambodian and European teams of our 7th Capability Program have successfully pitched their business plan for our new learning center Tani in Cambodia. They managed to convince both the European and the local investors: the latter will provide a building local collaboration whereas the European part will give a 30,000 USD loan. This is a big step forward for the learning center. Both Cambodian and European participants have worked hard and very closely together to develop a sustainable business model for the center.

Despite this success, there are many challenges to be met: the building and other facilities are to be renovated, furnished and decorated within a month before the European candidates arrive in Cambodia. They also have to take care of a business operation system, business development, management system, teacher recruitment, human resources management and curriculum development.

The local investor pitch took place for the first time on 2nd February at the local high school where learning center Tani will be situated. The local team from Cambodia consists of Sokhan Khut (BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Cambodia) as facilitator, Sothy Tep (new Community Hero and head of the learning center), the Program Support Officer, the Trainer Head of Learning Center Takeo, and a local NGO manager from Angroka.

Local investors listen to Sokhan Khut and Sothy Tep presenting the business plan
Local investors listen to Sokhan Khut and Sothy Tep presenting the business plan
Community Hero Sothy and Sokhan Khut led the team in pitching the business plan to the local investors in hope of getting their approval for the use of the building as well as for collaboration critical to the establishment, development, operation and sustainability of the center. The local investors consist of the high school principal and the deputy chief of District Office of Education. The team had worked hard for the pitch and was very happy have convinced the investors. Afterwards it reflected on the outcomes of the pitch and what could be improved in future pitches to provide lessons learnt for other Capability Programs to come. They were also shared with their European counterparts to prepare the European investors pitch.

The European investor pitch took place on February 4 at BOOKBRIDGE headquarter in Basel. It was joined virtually by the Cambodian team. Two representatives of the European team presented the business plan to the investors who were eager to learn about the project. The investors challenged both Cambodian and European candidates with well-thought questions but finally got convinced of the business plan. Their decision to invest $30,000 in the new learning center put a big smile on everyone’s face.

The Cambodian team pitching the business plan
The Cambodian team pitching the business plan
Now the teams have a big collective job to do: setting up the learning center. One of the major challenges is communicating in a culturally diverse and geographically divided team that works on two continents. In module 4 of the program both teams will met for the first time and cooperatively set up the learning center. They hope to make it a great place for the target groups, children, students and community members from Tani.

10 Key Facts about our Learning Centers

Small is beautiful. If you look at the results of the recent survey among our 16 Community Heroes, you will be thrilled by what each one of them invest in improving  job and life chances in rural areas of Mongolia and Cambodia. As we want to be transparent around what we are doing, we are happy to share 10 key facts around our learning centers with you.

Since the start of BOOKBRIDGE, we have setup 16 learning centers in Mongolia and Cambodia. We are proud of our Community Heroes running them. With the exception of Kadet Mam in Ang Tasom, Cambodia, all Community Heroes are still running their own learning centers. Sokoeurn Touch in Takeo Town transitioned into a government job in February 2015 but still teaches at the learning centers and is involved at a strategic level.

But how do our Community Heroes run their learning centers? Why do they do it and what makes them proud of? What are their plans for the future? We ran a survey among all 16 Community Heroes from November 2015 to January 2016. In this blog article, we share the key facts and results out of this survey openly and transparently with you.

First and foremost, each learning center is unique. What they share is the process on how they were setup: in close collaboration with local community members in our Capability Program. They differ in what they offer and who they target as key stakeholders in their respective communities.

Key Fact #1: Our 16 learning center divide up into 9 entrepreneur-run and 7 government-run learning centers.

Types of learning centers

Out of the 16 learning centers, 9 are run by independent local entrepreneurs and 7 are run with the government as the key client. The local entrepreneurs have full freedom in what they offer and need to earn their salaries by paid courses. The government-run learning centers have restrictions in their paid course offerings. The local government pays for them to be financially self-sustained.

Government-run learning centers can only be found in Mongolia. This is due to the fact that the Mongolian government offered us to collaborate very closely in 2011 and 2012. However, when legislation changed in 2013, our learning centers faced restrictions in the course offerings.

Entrepreneur-run learning centers is how we started in 2009 with Uuganaa as our first Community Hero in Arvaikheer, Mongolia. This is also the type of learning center which we have decided to focus on since 2013. The government may still co-invest in a learning center but the entrepreneur should be free in how to run the center. Otherwise, it is not their learning center and the entrepreneurial idea gets lost.

Key Fact #2: We reached out to 196,000 community members in 2015.

What a big number! Our 16 learning centers touched the lives of 196,000 community members in 2015. This means 12,200 community members per learning center. Incredible! The following chart shows how community members split up by learning center. READ means visitors and users in the library. LEARN means participants in the free activities and workshops which each learning centers offers. EARN describes the number of students participating in the life skill courses offered.

As you can see in the graph below,

  • 166,425 community members visited and used the library of our learning centers
  • 18,206 community members participated in workshops and activities
  • 11,392 community members are students in life skill courses

Hence, our learning centers are doing an amazing job to sensitize their communities for the value of education and to provide a space in the community where people can meet and discuss – all is free of charge and open to everyone.

You might wonder why Lazzet, Khisgee and Narantuya in Mongolia have not reached out to any community members. Lazzet  only opened up her learning center in January 2016 as she gave birth to her child in December. Our learning center in Baganuur operated by Khisgee is currently renovated and not operating until the new building is ready. And Narantuya‘s learning center in Ulziit Hooro is hosted in a house made out of wool which can only be used during the summer months.

Key Fact #3: 12 out of 16 learning centers are financially self-sustained.

Isn´t this great news? Partly yes, partly no. Our 7 government-run learning centers in Mongolia always show sustainability rates of 100% as the government pays for whatever the learning center cannot earn to be sustained. We see the government as our key client in this case.

Among our 9 entrepreneur-run learning centers, 6 have already reached break even. Uuganaa, Battuul and Ankhiluun in Mongolia even show great profitability rates of 117%, 120% and 220% in 2015. Sanith in Siem Reap, Cambodia and Lazzet in Chinggis, Mongolia only started their learning center in November 2015. Sokoeurn with Sreydieb and Sophia in Takeo Town achieved 86% sustainability rate in 2015.

Time to reach break even varies between 1 month and 6 months. Isn’t this amazing? Businesses in Europe usually take 2-3 years to come to that point. However, the challenge for most learning centers is to move from financial self-sustainability to profitability. Only then they can re-invest and pay back the loan.

Key Fact #4: We have invested USD 131,558 into our entrepreneur-run learning centers since 2013. USD 2,300 have been paid back so far.

Investments in learning centers

Investing in a learning center is a high-risk investment. Why? Because you invest in an unknown market and in people and cultures you don’t know. We are proud that our learning centers have started to pay back the original investment. We use the pay backs to invest into the setup of more learning centers.

All Community Heroes receive an interest-free loan of EUR 20,000 to setup their learning center. At the end of each year, we look at the profits generated. 1/3 of the profits is used to pay back the loan, 1/3 is re-invested into the learning center and the last 1/3 is put back as a reserve. The graph shows the revenue/profit rate of those learning centers having received a setup loan.

Profits and losses of learning centers

In 2015, we have started to receive the first paybacks from our investments. USD 2,300 may sound small given the total investment of USD 131,558 but it is a great start. Every Dollar counts! And we have it in our own hands. The better we mentor our Community Heroes, the better they run their learning centers.

Key Fact #5: 67 staff members work in our learning centers.

Our 16 learning centers provide jobs for 67 teachers and librarians. Some learning centers only have one or two staff members but many of the entrepreneur-run learning centers have as much as 8-10 people on their payroll. In total these 67 staff members correspond to 28,6 FTEs (full-time equivalent).

Paid staff members and FTEs by learning center

Who are these 67 staff members? The following table shows staff members per learning center. Please note that teachers and librarians as well as other staff members like cleaners are paid for their services. Local and international volunteers, called BOOKBRIDGE Fellows, support the development of the learning center on a voluntary basis.

Type of staff members in our learning centers

Staff members have been working at the learning center for an average of 2 years. Our longest standing staff member is Buynaa Ochirbat from Arvaikheer Learning Center, the first we opened. She has been working at the learning center for 6 years. Starting off as a librarian, she became a teacher after some years.

Half of our learning centers employ their teachers by fixed working contracts as well as as freelancers teaching part-time. At six learning centers, all staff members receive fixed working contracts. Two learning centers work with freelancers only.

11 out of 16 learning centers provide health insurance for their staff. At the remaining 5 learning centers, it is up to the staff member to decide whether to be health-insured or not.

13 out of 16 learning centers invest in further education of their staff. They offer regular trainings, staff exchange programs with other learning centers or mentoring programs.

Key Fact #6: English, IT and kindergarten are the most popular educational offerings, supported by a large variety of activities offered and ambitious plans for the future.

All learning centers offer paid courses to the local community with the goal to improve the job and life chances of the community members. Here is a list of paid courses offered by our 16 learning centers as of January 2016:

  • English courses for a large variety of target groups and learner levels
  • IT courses
  • Kindergarten
  • University entrance exam classes
  • Korean language classes

Besides these courses, the learning centers offer a wide range of activities. We asked each Community Hero for their three most important activities in the last 6 months. Here is a list of what they have told us:

  • After-school library activities with kids coming to practice their English
  • Adults coming to the library and reading books for kids
  • 13 students participated in the 2016 BOOKBRIDGE Calendar Project
  • Educational games like “I Like You” and “Jump in and jump out”
  • Movie Club
  • Playing soccer
  • Karaoke
  • Contributing to District arts, School arts, Martin arts festival and brass plate arts festival
  • Mobile library created for summer camp students so that they can borrow books
  • Speaking Club
  • Creativity Club
  • Competition for Halloween in six local secondary schools
  • Sports day with all students
  • Training with girls club students on communication skills and relationship building
  • Olympics in Dundgobi
  • Trip to reindeer families with mobile library
  • Volunteering Days to serve disable children
  • Teenagers’ club to do community service
  • Scout club with around 30 students
  • Books exhibition at Bulgan local library
  • Mobile library with scouts offering fun activities, games, and small competitions
  • Origami classes
  • Daycare program
  • Window to the World Program with participants from Switzerland, Australia and the Phillipines
  • BOOKBRIDGE English Olympic with 168 students from learning centers Chinggis and Arvaikheer
  • Preparation of risk management workshop for all learning centers in Mongolia
  • Special Olympics for disabled kids with scouts helping to prepare it

All learning centers plan to expand their activity and course offerings in the first half of 2016. Here is what they have put as their goals:

  • IT course
  • Workshops on personal goal setting in life
  • Workshop on environmental care
  • Chinese course
  • Advanced level English classes
  • Speaking Club
  • English and IT courses
  • Children‘s English Camp
  • Exchange program with Germany
  • Paid English course for business and government workers
  • Olympics for intermediate and advanced level students
  • Spelling bee for beginner students
  • Game club
  • Kindergarten
  • University entrance exam courses
  • Readers‘ Club
  • Girls‘ Club
  • Elementary computing classes
  • Workshop on child abuse
  • Stipends for children from poor families
  • Scout club
  • Adults‘ club

Key Fact #7: Each learning center has on average 6,956 English books, 371 local language books and 6 computers.

Over the past six years, our book champions have collected, sorted and shipped 104,000 English books to our 16 learning centers. On average, each learning center has 6,956 English books. Since 2014, our learning centers order new books each year with our book champions and share their satisfaction. For 2016, the centers seek 13,000 English books, primarily in the categories “information” and “fiction”.

371 local language books on average seem to be pretty low compared to 6,956 English Books. However, you need to take into account that there are far less books available in Khmer and Mongolian than in English. Also, our learning centers need to buy local language books on the market while English books get delivered for free – thanks to the support of our book champions and Kuehne + Nagel.

Each learning center has on average two computers for staff use and four computers available for public use in the library. 6 learning centers offer IT courses and are equipped with IT rooms. In addition, learning centers are equipped with tablet computers (39), TV (8), DVD players (6), CD players (3), beamers (2) and video recorders (1). Our learning centers in Chinggis and Takeo Town even have a piano.

Key Fact #8: All learning centers interact with each other on at least a monthly basis.

Our learning centers interact frequently with each other. Half of the learning centers talk to each other on a daily (2) or weekly (6) basis. The remaining learning centers interact at least on a monthly basis with each other.

Interaction among our learning centers

It is great that they interact but how? Most learning centers meet each other at the bi-yearly staff training and communicate via Facebook. 4 out of 16 learning center also participate in a staff exchange program. 3 Community Heroes use personal visits to other learning centers to learn and stay up to date. Since last year, we also regularly meet on ZOOM video calls to increase our network activities.

Type of interaction

Key Fact #9: All learning centers partner up with organizations from all sectors.

Our learning centers are community-based, run by locals for locals. This means that the learning centers are not another private tuition school but they serve as a platform for the entire community to come together and tackle the challenges they face.

We are very proud that all our learning centers work together with partners from all sectors. The most important partners are government and local schools followed by local NGOs and local businesses. Type of collaborations range from joint activities to joint courses and joint projects to welcoming partners as clients in the course offerings.

Partnering with local stakeholders

In the future, all learning centers would like to win more partners. 10 learning centers plan joint activities or projects with the local government. All learning centers aim at increasing their bondings with local schools. 10 learning centers would like to collaborate more intensively with local NGOs and local businesses.

Key Fact #10: Governance structure is in place at 12 out of 16 learning centers.

At 12 out of 16 learning centers, a formal board is involved in making strategic decisions in the learning center. On average, each board has 3 members. Number of board members range from 1 to 10.

Board Members include by number the BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager (10 learning centers), the Community Hero her/himself (6 learning center), friends and family (4) as well as the local government (1) or a local NGO (1).

Boards meet every month in 4 cases, every 3 months in another case and once a year at 4 other learning centers. At two learning centers, the board meets when there is demand for a meeting.

Half of our learning centers record the board meetings in a written way while the other half does not take notes of the outcomes of their meetings.

Time to say goodbye! Roman leaves Tonloab

Vannak and Roman on top of Bayong Kor Mountain
Vannak and Roman on top of Bayong Kor Mountain

After half a year at our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia, fellow Roman says good-bye to his colleagues and friends. In this blog post, Roman reflects on his last days in Cambodia.

It is now time for me to say goodbye to my home in Tonloab. Spending half a year in a learning center in rural Cambodia was definitively the best experience of my life. But before I am going back to cold Europe, let me take a look back at the last weeks here in Tonloab.

As a student of development and international relations, I have analysed my work and the learning center from a particular angle. Throughout the last weeks, I came up with the idea of writing a report of the successes and challenges of the daily operations and recommendations for BOOKBRIDGE as a whole. Being “on-the-ground” for an extensive period of time was a unique opportunity to gain even more knowledge about the learning centers. This is also useful for BOOKBRIDGE as a whole. As I have mentioned before, sustainable initiatives (if possible) were at the heart of my efforts throughout these six months. Much time and a lot of discussions with Vannak (Head of the Learning Center) were needed.

During Christmas time, I launched a fundraising campaign with friends and family to finance new chairs to establish a new classroom. This room has indeed potential to be used more effectively. The reasons for establishing a new classroom are two-fold: high demand and financial returns. Firstly, demand for English courses at the center, especially among the older students, has grown during the last months and some rooms became a bit crowded. Secondly, more income would secure and sensibly increase the sustainability rate. Vannak, Constantin and I made a one-day trip to Phnom Penh where we bought the chairs – and the new classroom became operational in two days! It made me very happy to see how all the students and staff were excited about it.

A new classroom for the learning center
A new classroom for the learning center

The fundraising initiative also permitted the purchase of a long-term investment: new teaching material consisting of student books, work books and most of all class audio CDs. Teachers have expressed their interest for these class audio CDs, which will make classes more interactive and enrich them with more native speaking exercises. These CDs are not available in Cambodia and much too expensive in Europe. After searching for a while, I found a very affordable set in Korea. Since Monika (BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Sri Lanka) had a contact there, we could ship them to Cambodia. Within only 1,5 weeks, the package arrived in Tonloab. It was like Christmas all over again!

We also made some interesting improvements in the classrooms: teachers suggested to move the whiteboards to another wall so that the children get less distracted by what is going on outside. Class management was hereby improved. Within two days, the learning center changed quite a bit and made a huge step forward both in terms of quantity (new classroom) and quality (new English material and new disposition within the classrooms).

Vannak already prepared a new flyer campaign for the learning center for students after Chinese New Year, which is widely celebrated in Cambodia.

Brand-new English teaching material for every level!
Brand-new English teaching material for every level!

These last weeks were also an opportunity to do some sightseeing in Takeo province. Constantin and I visited the Pre-Angkorian temple and the beautiful pagoda in Angkor Borei. The fastest way to reach this quiet little town is to rent a speed boat from Takeo City. During the trip, endless rice fields, hard-working but always smiling farmers surrounded us. The beauty of rural Cambodia enchanted us even more when we reached the Phnum Dar temple overlooking never ending rice fields. Vannak, Constantin and I also visited the magnificent Phnum Bayong Temple above Tonloab where we prepared a surprise for the upcoming BridgeBuilder Summit in March in Germany. This will be a good opportunity to share experiences and best practices and keep BOOKBRIDGE moving forward. As you see, my journey with BOOKBRIDGE is not quite over yet.

I can summarize my six-months experience in just four sentences:

  • Learn by doing: I have learned more in these six months than in four years of studying.
  • Get to know the people: you can learn from them as well.
  • Take everything as an experience: let things happen.
  • Act as if you are part of the community: the more you act from within the community, the better are the chances for success.

I am leaving Tonloab with my heart full of memories, the feeling that we have accomplished something and knowing that Vannak will lead this learning center to new heights. He is definitely one of the persons that has an impact on me, along with all the Cambodians I have met.

One day, I will be back for sure and, even if I am looking forward going home, I am sad to leave Tonloab.

Good luck BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Tonloab and thank you for everything! I will miss you!

Mongolian Students about Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year)

Ankhiluun Davaa (lower row on the right) did a big new year's party at her learning center in Chinggis
Ankhiluun Davaa (lower row on the right) did a big new year’s party at her learning center in Chinggis
New Year is celebrated in many different ways. In Mongolia, it is called “tsagaan sar” and takes place around a month after the holiday is celebrated in the Western hemisphere. Two students of advanced English classes at our learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia describe how they perceive and celebrate tsagaan sar.

Tsagaan Sar
It is always interesting to talk about our traditional holiday called tsagaan sar. It used to be a herder holiday many years ago. The Mongolian government announced tsagaan sar as a public holiday in the 1980s. Tsagaan sar is celebrated at different days that change each year because of the lunar calendar. It has to be first day of spring. Tsagaan sar means white moon in English. In other words it is believed as a holiday after the harsh winter.

The time before tsagaan sar is always very busy: we clean up home and yard, prepare new clothes for greeting, buy gifts and make at least 1500 buuz (wheat pancake with minced meat).

Now I would like to talk about the three days tsagaan sar lasts. The previous eve is called bituun. On this day people have to eat until they are full. The main dish is buuz and meat loafs. Milk tea and airag are served to customers. The white color is important so that tsagaan sar dishes are airag and dairy products. Wrestling competition is on TV this day and we are looking forward to hearing winners of tsagaan sar wrestling.

The first day is shiniin negen. Especially for host of family seeing new year sun will bring good fortune. All people have to greet old people early in the morning. We have also another custom about greeting the husband or wife; pregnant woman don’t greet each other. When we greet we hold a blue fabric that is called Hadag. Young people hold dear hands under old ones. When men greet they change each other’s snuff bottle. For kids tsagaan sar is the time they get gifts from every family.

The second and third days are the same. During these days, people are always busy with visiting their relatives and friends. Finally, tsagaan sar is the main winter holiday. Many people believe that if tsagaan sar has been abundant and joyful the following year will be great.

Traditional and modern: Community Hero Battuul Alexander (center) with some of her students dressed up for the celebration
Traditional and modern: Community Hero Battuul Alexander (center) with some of her students dressed up for the celebration
Tsagaan sar in my life
For every Mongolians, tsagaan sar is one of the most important and biggest national, traditional holidays. I would like to share my experience about how my family celebrates tsagaan sar. I think this celebration has so much customs and beliefs than your forecast. Basically the main symbolism of the holiday is everything becoming white, like milk. But it there is more meaning than these words. So this Mongolian new year.

I think the preparation of tsagaan sar is very difficult. Before the holiday we must clean everything in your home and prepare about [literally!] thousands of dumplings, special meals and of course desserts. It so hard but it makes us more happy and looking forward to tsagaan sar. During these works, we should contemplate the past and removing bad memories from our minds. Then hoping for the future and a better year to come.

Tsagaan sar eve we call Bituun. This day has a lot of taboos and ethics. In Bituun we should prepare ourselves like a new person. Our heart should be innocent and our mind should be bright, too.

As for me and my family we celebrate it greatly. My grandparents are the eldest in my big family. So we visit their home. Then we visit our uncle and aunts. And you need to invite guests and receive them. Never forget to let your guest go without little gifts! We have to always respect each other. There is some responsibility about ethics and rituals of holiday.

At last but not least tsagaan sar is every Mongolians and my favorite celebration. This day we are proud of to being Mongolian and making delightful our new year.
Happy tsagaan sar and best wishes!

Piano classes, electronic music and business development

Constantin gives a piano lessons to a student
Constantin gives a piano lessons to a student
Constantin is BOOKBRIDGE fellow at our learning center in Takeo, Cambodia. Having arrived in October, he will work three more months with the local team to improve the learning center and its offers. In this blog article he writes about his first steps in Cambodia and how piano classes, electronic music and business development perfectly fit together.

My journey to Cambodia has started at the end of last October. On my first day I got picked up at the airport by Ra and was shown around Phnom Penh. We bought a simcard for me, and I got to stay in a tropical looking guesthouse. As my fellowship only began in November, I had the great opportunity to travel around Phnom Penh and get a first impression of the exotic buildings and culture this country has to offer.

After a few days in Pnom Penh, Ra and I headed to Takeo City, where the learning center is located. After a bumpy two-hour ride we arrived and were warmly welcomed by the heads of learning center, Sreydieb and Sopheak, and all the teachers and students. I couldn’t remember all their names at first (I’m quite confident with that now though). I also got introduced to my guesthouse, which was said to be located just a five-minute ride away from the learning center, but to be honest it feels more like one minute – maybe because of the strong community feeling the people have here.

Discussing roles and responsibilities
Discussing roles and responsibilities with Sopheak (left) and Sreydieb (first from right)
In the first two weeks Sreydieb, Sopheak, Ra and me conducted a couple of workshops on defining everyone’s roles and responsibilities, my goals for the coming six months and also on giving some key facts about the Cambodian culture and the past development of specifically this learning center. I set my goals and activities to establish extra courses in sports (mainly football) and music, such as piano lessons and self-made electronic music, and attracting more students through marketing initiatives regarding that. I also support Sreydieb and Sopheak in terms of strategic planning and facilitating organizational development and to help teachers and staff with desired learning quality improvements.

Asami giving piano lessons
Asami giving piano lessons
After a few weeks, I decided to donate an electric piano with proper keys to the community with the support of my family. I bought it in Phnom Penh and transported it to the learning center. The students were quite excited when they first saw the new piano. To make them become more familiar with it I played a couple of songs for them first and created short presentations. A couple of weeks later I had already organized the first taster courses, and initially about ten students signed up for it and began to have their first piano lessons – and in most cases even their first personal musical experience.

Concerning the advertisement with posters and flyers the focus was on „play your favorite song and sing along to it“ rather than classical piano courses, because I experienced that Karaoke is an essential part of Cambodian culture. As regular studying and practicing is quite a decisive factor in learning to play the piano, the strategy behind course enrollment forms, where students have the option to pay in advance and get a discount, was to indirectly force students to come more frequently and regularly. Though, the challenge is and will remain, just like with many English courses to make the vast majority of students calculate the difference and realize the advantages of that concept.

Co-teaching with Roman and Vuthy
Co-teaching with Roman and Vuthy (center and left)
In the coming weeks I will start to apply the co-teaching/mentoring method, which is commonly practiced by fellows with the English courses, on the piano lessons and teach Sopheak to learn the piano to become a teacher and perhaps take over the lessons one day. Simultaneously, Asami, a volunteer from Japan working for JICA, started supporting me in my efforts and gives piano lessons to a couple of students. When I leave in May, chances are good that she can continue to give lessons as well as to take over the piano teacher mentoring of Sopheak as she will stay about two years in Takeo.

In terms of football I joined a lot of football matches by chance. So far, I played with students on the learning center’s football field, the high schools pitch or at the learning center in Tonloab with fellow Roman whenever I could. At the beginning of my fellowship one goal was to organize proper football courses with skill drills and tactics. However, it is challening to reach an adequate number of students, to find the time and sustainability in general. Could occasional events or a BOOKBRIDGE football club possibly be easier to organize? We will see! In addition to physical activities like football or ping pong, we expanded the range of free learning activities at the learning center and conducted workshops on environmental pollution and SMART-goal setting for our students.

Constantin (left) with Vannak (center) and Roman
Constantin (left) with Vannak (center) and Roman
While the Pilot impact assessment was conducted in Tonloab, I met Roman, another fellow from Switzerland, and the BOOKBRIDGE team from learning center Tonloab for the first time. I experienced the daily work and challenges in particularly this learning center and joined Roman in his co-teaching efforts in a couple of classes. We also re-recorded the BOOKBRIDGE song and processed/edited it with my knowledge in electronic music production and Roman’s video editing skills. In my opinion it is very important to connect fellows on the ground as the exchange of experiences and advices can help to understand the challenges, possibilities and responsibilities of one’s work better.

I decided that I will also join some English classes and increase my efforts on improving the learning quality in the next couple of weeks. I must say that I am very fortunate to be a part of BOOKBRIDGE and glad for the opportunity to work in such an interesting culture and with such friendly people, whom I am happy to offer new and broader educational opportunities.

3rd GMP kicked off successfully – to Sri Lanka!

Both teams in Sri Lanka and Europe share their vision for the learning center
A magical moment – both teams in Sri Lanka and Europe share their vision for the learning center and light a Sri Lankan Oil Lamp at the same time
We are excited about the successful kickoff of our 3rd WHU General Management Plus Program (GMP+). Over the next 6 months, a team of 14 candidates from Europe will work together with 7 candidates from Sri Lanka to create a community-based learning center in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka. For the first time, the modules do not only take place at our partner’s campus, WHU in Düsseldorf, but also in Sri Lanka, guided by business coach Eranda Ginige from Social Enterprise Lanka.

Last week, the 14 candidates gathered for module 1 of the program at WHU Campus in Düsseldorf. The seven Sri Lankan candidates met in the community of Bandarawela and joined virtually. During this kick-off workshop, they got to know BOOKBRIDGE, its team members and their business challenge while integrating strategic and business tools for the creation of a new venture. Candidates grew together as a team and started to develop a joint vision and business model. They got to meet GMP+ alumni in a speed dating to share their impressions and key learnings. Finally they defined their next steps and organised their research phase in that entrepreneurship journey to Sri Lanka!

The business challenge is to create Sujitha’s learning center for the community in Bandarawela. Until mid-March, candidates will work in virtual teams on understanding the needs of the local community, assessing the market and environment as well as organising the project and building their team. In a virtual module 2, they will finalize the business plan for the learning center and pitch it to investor HILTI FOUNDATION in module 3. Implementation follows on-site in Sri Lanka in June. This will also be the first time when both teams meet physically after five months of virtual teamwork. Finally they will assess their first impact and key learnings from the program during module 5 in July.

The GMP+ Team at WHU Campus Düsseldorf
The GMP+ Team at WHU Campus Düsseldorf
The teamis composed by 21 candidates from organizations like Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte, Bertelsmann, Evonik, Metro, Henkel as well as individuals from academic, private and governmental organizations. Their origins are Germany, Turkey, Israel, Spain, Romania, India, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, China and Poland. The team is supported by Emilie Barrallon and Eranda Ginige as business coaches in Europe and Sri Lanka.

The next WHU General Management Plus Program is scheduled to start in January 2017. Feel free to read more or contact Carsten at carsten [at] if you are interested in participating.

Mongolia 2016: All-Staff Training in Dalanzadgad

Uugantsetseg Gantumur (right) during her mock English lesson
Uugantsetseg Gantumur (right) during her mock English lesson
Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE team kicked off the new year with its All-Staff-Training hosted by Community Hero Battuul Alexander and English teacher Munkherdene at their learning center in Dalanzadgad, Mongolia. The 17 participants included not only the Community Heroes of our existing 12 learning centers but also new Community Hero Narangarav from Middle Gobi Province, two new English teachers from Chinggis learning center and BOOKBRIDGE fellow Rajat.

The training was held for three days. The first day was filled with sessions related to the vision and strategy of the learning centers by 2020. Community Heroes and teachers made group discussions and presented the outcomes to all. The second half of the day was dedicated to community projects. Local Peace Corps Volunteers Chloe, Sam and Jessica facilitated the session and shared with us their community project ideas based on what they have seen in Mongolia and what is applicable to our learning centers. The staff was inspired with new ideas and felt confirmed in what they do already in their communities. In the last session of the day Community Hero Uugantsetseg “Uuganaa” Gantumur from learning center Arvaikheer shared her methods for entrance exam preparation courses as most of the staff wanted to learn about it.

Buyandelger (in blue) from learning center Arvaikheer during her mock lesson
Buyandelger (in blue) from learning center Arvaikheer during her mock lesson
Day two was fully occupied with mock lessons. Four of our English teachers taught mock lessons to students from grads 7 – 12: Buyandelger and Munkherdene, two of the youngest teachers taught in beginner-intermediate level whereas Uugantsetseg and Ankhiluun, two of our most experienced teachers, taught in advance level. After the lessons all teachers, Rajat, Amar (BOOKRIDGE Country Manager for Mongolia) and Tunga (Country Manager Assistant) gave feedback to the teachers. The feedback was very constructive and the whole session was very fruitful to our teachers. It was very emotional especially for the younger teachers as it was their first time being evaluated from experienced teachers.

The third day was facilitated by fellows Rajat (topic “communications”) and Maggie. Maggie took a survey among the English teachers in order to evaluate the English course quality at the learning centers. Maggie also presented the student’s centered teaching style and ended her session with a role play with all participants. New Community Hero Narangarav, whose learning center will open in September, shared with us an entertaining presentation about children’s right. Narangav has been working at the local Children and Family Development Center for seven years.

Ankhiluun, Narantuya, Rajat and Buyandelger during a group discussion
Ankhiluun, Narantuya, Rajat and Buyandelger during a group discussion
The training was held both in Mongolian and English. Beside the sessions the participants could discuss their ideas, challenges and future action plans. The spirit of the team is amazing with growing member number. We from BOOKBRIDGE team Mongolia see a team with a lot of potential, very capable Community Heroes and dedicated teachers yet many challenges.

A big thank you to to all participants and facilitators for their contribution to make the training successful!

More pictures from the staff training:

Education Coach for Murun

Rajat with his students at Murun, Mongolia
Rajat with his students
Rajat Gaur has travelled from India to Mongolia to support our learning center in Murun, Mongolia as fellow. We introduce Rajat with a little interview.

Rajat, who are you and what do you do?
Hi! I am a professional trainer and coach in Education specialising in Language, Entrepreneurship and Communications. Currently, I’m in Mongolia as a BOOKBRIDGE fellow, supporting the English language teaching and other community based activities run by the learning centre in Murun, Khövsgöl.

Rajat teaching English to students in Murun, Mongolia
Rajat teaching English
How did you hear about BOOKBRIDGE?
Back in early 2010, while serving my notice period at an HRO firm I was looking for opportunities to work and live in Mongolia. The Google search results showed BOOKBRIDGE’s newly created Facebook page and I almost instantly knew that one day I would be going to work with them. I loved the concept, the philosophy and energy in all their projects throughout the years I followed them on social media trying not to let BOOKBRIDGE fall off my radar.

What do you expect from your fellowship?
This opportunity, to learn while supporting others learn, is the best one can get. My expectations are met already by the every day challenges of the way of life in Mongolia. I wish this fellowship helps me continue the same throughout my time here.

IT and Teaching Methodologies have improved at Tonloab

Roman is discussing the lesson plan with teacher Vuthy before class
Roman is discussing the lesson plan with teacher Vuthy before class
In August, Roman is started his fellowship at our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia. He works on improving the center’s teaching methods and blogs regularly about it.

Over the last few weeks, significant improvements have been put into place at our learning center. Let me say as a short introduction on how important it is to focus on sustainable improvements, which will stay once I will return to Switzerland. One of the best ways that I have identified is to coach local staff. For this, you need to build friend- and good working relationship which takes time but the rewards are worth it!
One of the great successes are improved teaching methodologies. By preparing detailed lessons plans which focus much more on student activities rather than traditional teacher-centred methodologies, students became more active and enthusiastic. The students particularly like small competitions and teamwork. Encouraging them to speak in front of everyone and not being afraid of making mistakes is key to success. A lesson I have learned already after four months is to improve what is already in place rather than introducing radically new stuff. The use of tablets also helps to introduce modern technologies.

Concerning the IT offerings of the center we have successfully installed a new cyber café software on the same model as the one Alex and Ruby have installed. It allows a better monitoring of the IT-income and a centralized control over all computers in the IT room. Moreover, it offers improved security. Following a debate on IT security during the bi-annual staff workshop in Siem Reap (link to article about the workshop), the IT room has been equipped with brand new protection software for internet and computer security. Since this seems to be a concern for users as well as for the community as a whole, we will keep putting that aspect forward when advertising for our IT-room.
In case you haven’t already seen it, the “Bridge to the Future” song has been added in the collection of videos from our learning centres! We recorded it again with music in the background and you will see it very soon. Other improvements include rearranging all the audio files in the tablets and creating new teaching activities for the smaller children.

Parents were eager to draw the most beautiful picture of their community
Parents were eager to draw the most beautiful picture of their community
One of the very important events of the last few weeks was the pilot impact assessment. Impact assessment means that we want to measure the impact the BOOKBRIDGE learning centers are having in the community. Drawing a picture of the community, debating positive and negative impact types, as well as discussing new ideas of addressing certain challenges were on the agenda. A crucial aspect to my mind is the interaction with the community. The occasions of doing this are not very numerous, that’s why these occasions are a good opportunity. Parents, teachers and students joined the assessment in the library!

Another foreign teacher in the classroom: teacher Vuthy and the students welcomed him very warmly!
Another foreign teacher in the classroom: teacher Vuthy and the students welcomed him very warmly!
During that weekend, we were visited by Constantin, the new fellow from Takeo learning center. I showed him the initiatives, the successes and the challenges here in Tonloab. It was very helpful and nice to share my experience. Connecting with other fellows not only via skype but also on the ground is crucial. I also had the opportunity to co-teach a few classes. The students asked a lot of questions to Constantin and it was wonderful to see their progress since I first got here in August, not only in English but also with their self-confidence in speaking it!

So what are the next steps? I will continue co-teaching and find out new innovative exercises to try out with the teachers. I will help Vannak and the learning center to formulate and implement guidelines for children safety and first aid. My focus will also be to do more marketing for the IT-room by focussing on the secure and educational aspect of it.

It is such a pleasure working here and I am still amazed about the enthusiasm and perseverance of the learning center staff. I know already that I am going to miss them when I’ll go back to Switzerland!

Siem Reap starts first English courses

Sanith Kong, Head of Learning Center Siem Reap
Sanith Kong, Head of Learning Center Siem Reap
Our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia has started to offer its first English courses. The classes are the result of the collaborative work between the participants of the GMP2 capability program, the BOOKBRIDGE team in Cambodia, and the center’s stakeholders. With support from the GMP2, Sanith (Head of Learning Center Siem Reap), has worked hard to make all this happen despite the challenges the center is facing.

To date, five English classes have been opened with two beginner level classes, two elementary level classes and one pre-intermediate level class. A total of 49 students have enrolled in the courses. Three teachers have been recruited and contracted and the curriculum of different levels has been designed. The center has bought textbooks and provides copies to the students and has created student registration forms and a student database. Also, students and teachers attendance records are ready and a financial management system is in place.

The new course banner hangs right above the high school’s gate where the learning center is located.
The new course banner hangs right above the high school’s gate where the learning center is located.
To promote the courses, the staff has distributed flyers to the local people and hung up marketing banners and advertisements. The four classrooms have been renovated, decorated with English posters, equipped and furnished to offer a friendly learning environment. The center has also kept up with cleaning, an issue many of our learning centers are facing. There are still missing organizational management and communication systems as well as disciplinary measures and quality assurance mechanisms.

Typical learning and teaching activities at the learning center Siem Reap
Typical learning and teaching activities at the learning center
Before taking up these tasks, Sanith had visited our learning centers in Tonloab and Takeo to learn from their experiences in opening and running English courses, daily operations and problem solving as well as competition strategies. Sanith could improve her entrepreneurship skills during the process, especially thanks to the participants of our GMP2 capability program and the support of BOOKBRIDGE. Getting more students remains a challenge for the learning center because it competes with other educational institutions in the big city of Siem Reap. “We are not very successful yet at this point, but in the next three months or so we want to be successful. The competition is fierce in Siem Reap Capital, but we believe that with cooperations and quality teaching we can convince students to get enrolled in our classes”, says Sanith.

First Impact Assessments conducted in Cambodia

Teacher group from learning center Tonloab discusses their community picture
Teacher group from learning center Tonloab discusses their community picture
A series of pilot impact assessments have been conducted for the first time at our learning centers in Tonloab, Takeo, and Ang Tasom (Cambodia). The centers have been offering English and computer courses to students and children in the communities of rural Cambodia for more than one year – time to evaluate their impact.

The goal of the pilot impact assessments was to assess the impact that the centers have created on students and teachers in particular and on parents and the community in general. The assessments were conducted by the centers’ staff, students, teachers and parents were invited to attend them. The outcomes will serve as key insights for the further development and improvement of the learning centers and of BOOKBRIDGE as organization.

Vannak, Head of Learning Center Tonloab, introduces the objectives of the impact assessment to the participants
Vannak, Head of Learning Center Tonloab, introduces the objectives of the impact assessment to the participants
Each learning center is supposed to conduct the impact assessment on a bi-yearly basis to better monitor their impacts. This will help us to see what has been done well and what could be improved with participation of all concerned stakeholders, more particularly students and the community. The results will also be part of the biannual staff training workshops where all Heads of Learning Centers discuss their impact on their communities and students, identify best practices and lessons learnt, and further improve and advance their centers.

The pilot impact assessment was divided into three interrelated sessions. It started with an opening by the respective Head of Learning Center. She then introduced the objectives of the assessment to the participants so that they knew why the assessment is important for them as individuals and for the learning center.

Parent group from learning center Ang Tasom explains its community picture
Parent group from learning center Ang Tasom explains its community picture
During session 1, participants were divided into three groups, parent group, teacher group and student group. Each group discussed and drew a detailed picture of their community including all places. Then each group presented their picture with the Head of Learning Center writing down the landmark places in the community shown in the pictures.
During session 2, each participant had to answer three key questions: (1) What has changed in your life due to the learning center’s activities? (2) Give an example of a positive impact of the learning center in our community, and (3) Give an example of a negative impact of the learning center in our community. Each group then combined their answers and presented them to the audience. The Head of Learning Center clustered the five most important impact types on a flip chart.

Student group from learning center Takeo explains their community picture
Student group from learning center Takeo explains their community picture
During the last session, all participants had the chance to discuss how they can strengthen the positive impact on the community and what they can learn from the negative impact on the community.

These first impact assessments will help us to perfection the next assessments and to connect our learning centers with their key stakeholders and communities. We see them as meaningful and critical to the development and improvement of our educational offerings.

2nd Module of CAP7 takes off

Local candidates discuss with their European counterparts during the virtual meeting of module 2
Local candidates discuss with their European counterparts during the virtual meeting of module 2
We are proud that module 2 of our capability program CAP7 has successfully taken place. In a half-day virtual meeting the Asian and the European parts of the team discussed the business plan for a new learning center in Angroka, Cambodia. The outcomes serve as base for the investor pitch in module 3.

The international team managed to answer details of important aspects of the social business plan for setting up the new learning center in Angroka and mobile learning centers in Takeo province. Especially the Cambodian participants got engaged better, discussed productively, and gained more insights into the program compared to the first meeting. This was a remarkable step towards better collaboration in a culturally very diverse team. BOOKBRIDGE conducts an Asian-European program for the first time and is very excited about the progress so far. Participants shared their opinions and offered many information to the Europeans. They also reflected on the quality of the cooperation between the local and European team over the last six weeks and how to improve it.

There will be more meetings via working groups and our online collaboration platform teamwork to prepare the investor pitch where the investors need to be convinced of the business plan. The next virtual meeting is scheduled in mid-January. The atmosphere of the meeting was relaxed and pressure-free so that everyone seems to be ready to get to the next proceed to the next level of CAP7.

Constantin’s fellowship in Takeo has started

Constantins father visits the learning center
Constantins father visits the learning center
Constantin from Germany is new fellow at our learning center in Takeo, Cambodia. Though Constantin is very young, he has a lot of experience and a strong passion in sports and music. With unwavering optimism, Constantin is introducing sports and music classes to the students of the learning center in particular and to the community of Takeo in general. Welcome aboard, Constantin!

During his first two weeks, Constantin got introduced to the learning center, the community and his accommodation. He met with the center’s head, staff, teachers, and students and got to know their perspectives to gain insights into the realities and real situations on the ground. With this input he started to design and work on his initiative and projects.

The piano bought by Constantin
The piano bought by Constantin
Constantin is currently working on setting up his new piano and football courses to increase the profitability and financial sustainability of the learning center. He has created marketing flyers, student enrollment plans, student registration sheets, logistics and financials like expenses and incomes for the center. He has also bought a nice piano for his classes and created presentation slides to gain students for his activities. At the end of his fellowship Constantin plans to analyze the sustainability of his initiatives and wants to find a passionate and competent Cambodian to take over the piano and football classes.

Constantin presents his goals for the six coming months during the Goal Setting Workshop
Constantin presents his goals for the six coming months during the Goal Setting Workshop
To date almost 10 students have registered for the piano classes, and more have expressed their interest. Support comes from Asami, a competent Japanese pianist volunteer working for JICA at the Provincial Office of Education, Youth and Sports of Takeo. She is interested in in collaborating with Constantin to offer quality piano lessons to students and children in the community. As she is going to stay in Takeo for two years, it is likely that she can take over the piano classes after Constantin leaves. After that they still can work together virtually if necessary. We are very grateful for Constantin’s commitment as he started one of the first musical initiatives in our learning centers.

New Initiatives from Sreydieb

Sreydieb (left) teaches her very first class at learning center Takeo
Sreydieb (left) teaches her very first class at learning center Takeo

With confidence and hope, Sreydieb had a good start as Head of Learning Center of our learning center in Takeo, Cambodia. Sreydieb was responsible for BOOKBRIDGE Mobile Learning Center Angroka and decided to take the vacant position as Head of Learning Center at Takeo. Her first initiative is to open new English classes to improve the center’s financial sustainability.

Sreydieb plans to open four new English classes at different times throughout the day. This way, she hopes to increase the profitability and financial sustainability of the center. Sreydieb has decided to teach the four new classes herself in order to decrease the costs of hiring external teachers. She wants to find students for example by using her network, collecting flyers, and her relationships with young adults from her community. Thanks to her efforts, Sreydieb has been able to successfully open one class with ten students. She is working hard to attract more students for her classes. Besides, Sreydieb works closely with her assistant Sopheak to improve both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the learning center. She is supported by fellow Constantin and Country Manager Assistant Ra.

However, a lot remains to be done for both Sreydieb and Sopheak for the coming months. Like the other Heads of Learning Centers, it is a challenge for them to learn and master leadership and management skills, and to address key issues the center is facing. Concerning their commitment, we are convinced that they will success, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Curdin: Welcome to BOOKBRIDGE Foundation Board!

Curdin with Altaa, a former student at BOOKBRIDGE's first learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia
Curdin with Altaa, a former student at BOOKBRIDGE’s first learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia
Since October, Curdin Duschletta is member of BOOKBRIDGE’s foundation board. As we would like to introduce Curdin to you we talked to him about his commitment for BOOKBRIDGE.

Curdin, how come that you got engaged with BOOKBRIDGE?
Two years ago, when I started my job new job as head of Community Affairs & Foundations at UBS, BOOKBRIDGE was one of the projects of our annual employee donations program. I was planning a sabbatical in between the two jobs and wanted to go back to Asia. That´s how I’ve discovered BOOKBRIDGE.
I’ve spent a very inspiring time at the learning center in Angtasom, Cambodia, and had the chance to visit the then upcoming learning center in Tonloab and the one in Takeo. And I’ve met countless wonderful people and brought back home very fond memories. Back in Switzerland Carsten stayed in contact with me. It was also him who convinced me to attend the new CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Basel – which took me to Chinggis town in Mongolia (where I helped to set up a new learning center) and even closer to BOOKBRIDGE.

Tell us about your personal background.
I grew up in the Engadin, a valley high up in the Swiss mountains. I have been a scout during all my childhood and youth. After I started my career with a banking apprenticeship I’ve spent most of my professional life in the area of education – my topics are: learning, development, change, commitment, strategy and implementation. I have two wonderful teenage kids. I like to read a lot, try and play the guitar and love to discover new things.

Visiting a nomad family during the set-up of Chinggis learning center: Curdin (on the very right) with the team of GSE1 and Community Hero Ankhiluun Davaa (fourth from left with blue jacket)