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!

cap9_module2_screenshot
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.

Solutions

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 www.bookbridge.org/cap8/ 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] bookbridge.org 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] bookbridge.org.

“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 betterplace.org!

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 betterplace.org!

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!

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-08-14
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.

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-07-03
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

Carsten Rübsaamen
CEO
carsten [at] bookbridge.org

 

 

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 www.bookbridge.org/impact/ .

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 mavia.ch, 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 TGC.ag 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 www.bookbridge.org/summit/ .

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

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
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
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]bookbridge.org

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] bookbridge.org 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.

Recommendations:

  • 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.

Strengths:

  • 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.

impactassessment_satisfaction

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] bookbridge.org 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)
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)
What was your motivation to become board member of BOOKBRIDGE Foundation? What are your goals as board member?
BOOKBRIDGE’s vision, values, goals, its concept and the way it gets implemented inspires me. The combination of training leaders and setting up learning centers is truly powerful. And I like the entrepreneurial approach a lot. I’m happy to share my experience and knowledge in the area of education and business. Look, I’m a bookworm, a scout, a learning guy and a bridgebuilder (who could travel to both Cambodia and Mongolia thanks to BOOKBRIDGE) – can you think of a better organization than BOOKBRIDGE for me to engage myself in? I’m looking very much forward to contributing to BOOKBRIDGE’s continuous successful development. This way I hope that many many more people both in Europe as well as in Asia can make such valuable and impactful learning experiences and broaden their horizon – and do what they really are!

Jouni Heinonen: Investing in a Learning Center

Jouni Heinonen invested in Lazzet's learning center in Sukhbaatar
Jouni Heinonen invested in Lazzet’s learning center in Sukhbaatar

As a member of the Swiss Diamond Club, Jouni Heinonen contributed to the charity’s decision to invest in our learning center in Sukhbaatar, Mongolia. We talked to Jouni about his motivation and expectations for the center.

Jouni, why did you invest in BOOKBRIDGE?
We liked the BOOKBRIDGE concept a lot. The concept is combining learning of individuals, bringing education to developing countries in difficult locations and opens the challenge also to the investors. On top of that the BOOKBRIDGE team is professional and enthusiastic.

What are your wishes for the new learning center?
We hope the learning center will deliver according to the plan. With experience I can say even simple tasks are not so easy in a country like Mongolia. The plan is very challenging, there are several risks involved and a lot of patience is needed from the team.

What do you expect from the learning center in the next years?
It would be great if after the first stage is completed there would be continuation. The structure should be reinforced to allow a critical mass reached. In a place like this several teachers will be needed to have reliable back up if something is happening. I would say the structure should be doubled. It would also be a good idea to have a local incubator to widen the possibilities for the local students to learn languages and computer sciences.

First steps in Sri Lanka

View on Sri Lankas
Green hill landscape in Uva province
Earlier this year, Sri Lanka was selected as our third country of operation. Thus, Monika Nowaczyk, our Country Development Manager, spent the last three weeks in Sri Lanka not only to find and recruit our first Community Hero together with our partners from Sri Lankan Scout Association. She also had to explore the country in preparation for our first leadership program starting January and coming to Sri Lanka in June 2016. Here are her reflections on her travels and work in Sri Lanka.

I’ve now spent over three weeks total in Sri Lanka and not a day goes by when I don’t think to myself: Sri Lanka and paradise are often used in the same sentence for a good reason. I’ve spent most of my time in the hill country, bouncing between Haputale, Bandarawela and Ella in Uva Province. The scenery is simply stunning, varying between pretty rounded hills covered in the neat rows of tea plantations and more dramatic and steep rocky cliffs. A train ride anywhere in this area offers picturesque vistas that send the tourists on board into a photo snapping frenzy. There are numerous waterfalls and hiking paths, both easy and for the more adventurous, to summits that offer breathtaking views. On a clear day it is possible to sometimes see as far as the ocean.

Monika (center) with Sri Lankan children
Monika (center) with Sri Lankan children
Another highlight is the food, which is made with numerous spices that fill the air with delicious and mouth watering smells as you walk by. Sri Lankan curries are generally served on the spicy side and I have uttered the words, my mouth is on fire, as I reach for the water glass at least once a day. My spice tolerance levels have increased several degrees in only a short time. The wonderful thing is that when you order a curry, whether that is meat or vegetarian, you get more than the single curry and rice. You order is accompanied by several side dishes, usually veggies in a variety of flavours and spice levels from mild to insane. And all curry meals are accompanied by crispy papadam crackers.

Finally, the people of Sri Lanka are perhaps one of the best aspects about traveling here. From the lady in Colombo who offered to share her umbrella with me on a rainy day to the friendly bus driver who was so curious to know about my trip to the tea pickers who burst into a big smile and welcoming hello as I walked past, I have had great interactions paving the way to a welcoming and unforgettable visit.

Bandarawela
Our first Sri Lankan learning center will be set up in Bandarawela
Our first program to Sri Lanka and our first learning center will be set up in Bandarawela, a bustling market town 190 km from Colombo along windy and scenic roads. It’s a hectic mini-city on the train line with mosques, Hindu temples, Buddhist statues and centuries-old churches lining the streets in between busy shops and bakeries. The climate here is cooler than the rest of the country, being at a higher elevation. The majority of the people here are engaged in agriculture or work on the nearby tea plantations. Bandarawela is a Sinhala majority town, but it is also home to other ethnic groups such as Indian Tamils, Sri Lanka Moors and Sri Lanka Tamils.

Our group of candidates who will travel here in June are going to have a wonderful time working with our first Community Hero and enjoying the wonders, the food and the people of this land. I will keep you updated on our process of finding a Community Hero for our first learning center!

GSE1 Program in Eastern Mongolia evaluated

Evaluating their program: the team of the CAS with Georg von Schnurbein from CEPS
Evaluating their program: the team of the CAS with Georg von Schnurbein from CEPS
On November 5-6th, the candidates of the CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship met together at CEPS – Basel University in Basel, Switzerland, for their last module.

After several months of work with Ankhiluun Davaa, who demonstrated an exceptional ownership and dedication to the creation of her learning center in Chinggis town, Eastern Mongolia, the team of the CAS evaluated their achievements towards their mission. The first morning of the two-day evaluation workshop was dedicated to impact measurement by Eveline Steinger, PH Zug Institute. In the afternoon the team reflected on leadership on an individual and team level with Dr. Heike von Rohr from TGC Zurich.

Evaluation of Chinggis Learning Center
Evaluation of Chinggis Learning Center
On day two, the participants focused on the learning center evaluation, debrief to their investor Hilti foundation and intercultural learnings with Emilie Barrallon, Business coach at BOOKBRIDGE. The meeting ended with a certificate ceremony and the welcoming by Carsten Rübsaamen to the BOOKBRIDGE community.

We are very happy of this first successful collaboration with the CEPS (Centre for Philanthropy Studies) and would like to thank Georg and Maria Clotilde for their support! We would also like to congratulate Amar, Tunga and Altaa from BOOKBRIDGE for the success of the program in Mongolia!

Finally we wish a great success to the GSE team members in the development of their respective foundations as well as to Ankhiluun Davaa for her learning center. If you want to know more, read the article by Markus Spillman who participated in CAS.

Christine: Opening a Learning Center in Mongolia

Christine Mildenberger (third from right) helped to set up the learning center in Sükhbaatar
Christine Mildenberger (third from right) helped to set up the learning center in Sükhbaatar

A motivated team of our capability program set up the learning center in Sükhbaatar, Mongolia. Christine Mildenberger, one of the participants, tells about her impressions about the intense days in Mongolia.

The adventure started on October 15th with our flight to Mongolia, although the last five months had also been very challenging for all of us: Before leaving for Mongolia we had set up our mission statement at the beginning of May (which was also the first time we all met in person), worked together on the business model, created a business plan and finally did the investor pitch.

Amar and Tunga from BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia gave us a warm welcome at the Chinggis Khaan airport in Ulaanbaatar. Our trip started with a two night stay at Zayas hostel (a good place to be with a very nice host) in the center of Ulaanbaatar and we were taken really good care of by Amar, Tunga and Alta. They showed us the capital of Mongolia and introduced us to Mongolian culture and its traditions. We visited a dinosaur exhibition, a Buddhist temple including a chanting ceremony, went horse riding in the National Park, climbed up the Chingis Khan statue and looked at ancient exhibits at the museum, bargained with Alta at the Black Market, watched a traditional Mongolian performance with singers and dancers and enjoyed a lovely welcome dinner with traditional dishes such as lady soup (soup with noodles and chicken) and dumplings („Buuz“).

After these two amazing first days we travelled to Sükhbaatar in Selenge province to see „our“ learning center and of course Lazzet (Head of the Learning Center), Nergui and the other tandem partners for the first time. We arrived in the dark at our ger (yurt) camp where a very friendly and hospitable family took care of us and made us feel comfortable. Besides cooking for us they also stoked the ovens in the Gers, keeping us nice and cozy during the cold night.

On the way to Sükhbaatar
On the way Sükhbaatar

On the first day at the learning centre we agreed on a schedule for the week, getting busy with printing and handing out flyers, mingling with the local community, sorting books, visiting schools, banks and other companies, designing and producing a sign and very importantly, organizing the opening cermony. Besides all these activities we also invested a lot of time and effort into building up a personal relationship with Nergui and Lazzet, the teachers of the learning center.

Once the day’s work was wrapped up, we would leave for a shower in a public shower house and then enjoy an evening of cultural events our Mongolian hosts organized for us. We visited a herder family in their ger, learned how to cook the famous dumplings (Buuz), saw a Shaman ritual and – definitely a highlight – were invited to Lazzet’s parents’ ger. They even slaughtered a sheep in our honour and spoiled us with traditional food, making us feel extremely welcome.

A moving moment: The opening ceremony of the learning center in Sükhbaatar
A moving moment: The opening ceremony of the learning center
Looking back at our week in Sükhbataar, the most emotional part was the opening cermony. It was very moving to see how interested the children and teachers were in what we had built up with our local partners and friends. It felt good to see how much the local community appreciated our work.

After six busy days in Sukhbataar our yellow bus took us back to Ulanbaatar for two more days of spending time together until we finally had to say goodbye to Amar, Tunga and Alta to go over the bridge back home. Being part of a team 24 hours a day for more than ten days with hardly any solitary moments in unknown surroundings can be very challenging. But somehow it felt strange to be back at home without the team, a team leader and our daily check-in and check-out routine in the first few days. We are all looking forward to meeting again in Basel for our last module!

7th Capability Program with candidates from Cambodia

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

On 21st and 22nd October, the local team for our 7th Capability Program (CAP7) taking place in Angroka, Cambodia for the first time ever was formed and teamed up. CAP7 will set-up a new learning center in Angroka. The local team, which is facilitated by country manager Sokhan Khut, consists of Head of Learning Center Angtasom, Country Manager Assistant Ra, as well as the current English teacher of Mobile Learning Center Angroka and two teachers from Angroka high school.

To build team bonding and friendship, we had dinner together amongst the local team. Here, we also had our first meeting introducing ourselves. The team then got to learn about BOOKBRIDGE, its history in Cambodia with both its successes and challenges. The team was also informed of the capability program, the new learning center in Angroka, and the work with the European team. Later on in that evening, we got to meet and talk with the European team virtually for the first time ever.

Discussing the vision for the new learning center
Discussing the vision for the new learning center

On day two we shared our expectations for the program and our inputs to the program as well as our fears and key takeaways. Then the team got to design and draft the vision for the new learning center. We were divided into two groups and asked to visualize the center by drawing and discussing. In the afternoon, the vision was presented to the European team which itself also presented their vision to us in order to see what we have in common. Afterwards we got to know what a business model and business canvas look like. Then we worked on the business canvas to design the model for the learning center. The local team got informed of the next steps and the project management tools such as the so-called cooperation platform: teamwork.com; the business modeling & planning tool: strategyzer.com; and video conferences tool: Zoom. Cambodia is starting to use web-based collaboration tools so for us it is all very new. Last but not least the local team shared our feedback on what we like from this 1st module workshop and what should have done better.

The 7th Capability Program is such a great experience and a major step forward! It is great that we have already started our CAP 7 journey, and we are ready for the 2nd module to come!

Welcome Librarian Thea at Siem Reap Learning Center!

Welcome aboard Thea! We would like to welcome passionate Nath Thea to our BOOKBRIDGE family. Thea is the new librarian at our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia. With a background in English education, Thea hopes to progress professionally and advance his English proficiency with his new job at BOOKBRIDGE.

Currently a junior at university, Nath Thea has an educational background in Teaching English as a Second Language (TEFL). Regarding his previous professional background, he has been a volunteer admin assistant for one month at a local institute. He then became an English teacher for a span of one year. With respect to his social volunteering, he was once an organizing committee member of Khmer New Year Celebration at world-famous ancient Angkor complex.

Nath applied at BOOKBRIDGE because his love for books, his reading passion, network opportunities and education. When asked what his expectations about his job are, Thea wishes to see his progress in English proficiency as he performs his new job. He added that he also wishes to see BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap progress and grow, more particularly in terms of English course quality. We are happy to have you join our growing team! We hope you are happy working with our team as well. Have a good start, Thea!

Tonloab adopts Student-centered Methodologies

Vannak and Sreymuom reviewing the goals of 2015 in Tonloab
Vannak and Sreymuom reviewing the goals of 2015

Roman supports our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia as fellow. Read what he experienced at the yearly staff training of BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia.

Thanks to Sokhan, I got invited to the yearly 3-day BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia staff meeting in Siem Reap. This was not only a very interesting event for me, but also for the staff of the Learning Centers, especially since they took the plane for the first time! Their excitement really plugged in to me, who is used to take the plane. Some were really sad that it was already over after 30 minutes while others were probably happy being on solid ground. After this exciting flight, we visited the amazing, beautiful and famous Angkor Vat Temples. We even went to the Banteay Srei, which is a bit further away. But the detour was worth it. I have never seen such beautiful ornaments.

On the first day, each learning center presented success stories, current challenges and possible solutions as well as practical learning offerings, such as Alexercise. In the afternoon, the BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia team welcomed Monica. We then discussed the impact measurement and pilot implementation plan. The idea is to assess the impact the learning centers have created in the communities. On day two, Ra presented the learning center guidelines in terms of children safety, this was followed by a very interesting discussion about quality of education. Quality is a much broader concept than many might imagine. It encompasses various dimensions such as content, instruction, learning environment and outcomes. Having been active at UNESCO, seeing this again on a more local level was very inspiring for me.

On the last day, every learning center had to set goals for 2016. Tonloab wants to implement student-centered teaching methodologies, (better) involve more actors and improve the learning environment. These goals will serve as a red string for the upcoming and last months of my fellowship. After coming back from Siem Reap, Vannak and I reported what we discussed during the workshop to the team in Tonloab.

A student draw an amazing map of Tonloab, which served as the basis for the course content
A student draw an amazing map of Tonloab, which served as the basis for the course content

Vannak and Sreymuom reviewing the goals of 2015
In the last couple of weeks, as I said, the focus is on student-centered methodologies, which I applied a lot in my conversation classes, and the results are there. The students feel more confident in answering questions, they are more motivated and active. Needless to say that their progress is impressive! During the afternoon, co-teaching with the teachers is going great and, while having to stick to the course content, there is always room to create some student-centered activities, such as connecting the course content to the reality of Tonloab, asking students more about their personal opinion, working in groups, etc.

Finally, we also wrote down some rules and responsabilities for teachers and students as well as some rules for the Library. Meanwhile, I will begin to find and create exercises in relation to the course material that enable the teachers to use more student-centered material. This is a big task but a truly meaningful one. Be ready for more news from Tonloab very soon!

2nd All-Staff Workshop held in Cambodia

Monika (Country Development Manager at BOOKBRIDGE) talks about education quality
Monika (Country Development Manager at BOOKBRIDGE) talks about education quality

From 6th to 8th October 2015, the 2nd BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Staff Workshop took place at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap. The three-day workshop outcomes will be utilized to serve as key inputs and insights for all learning centers can proceed. The meeting witnesses highly interactive discussions and fruitful results.

The purpose of the meeting was seven-fold, namely (1) to share experiences and lessons learnt amongst learnign center staff, (2) to introduce BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Vision 2020, (3) to agree on the implementation of the pilot for impact measurement, (4) to introduce BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Guidelines, (5) to reach a common understanding on ‘Quality Course Offering’, (6) to give a better understanding on library management, and (7) to get learning center’s 2016 objectives and action plans set. A total of 12 participants from all BOOKBRIDGE learning centers in Cambodia attended the workshop. This included 4 Heads of Learning Centers, 3 librarians, 1 international fellow, 3 BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia staff, and 1 Library Specialist.

The workshop has yielded satisfactory outcomes by and large. The workshop was well structured, and the activities were highly interactive and engaging. All the participating BOOKBRIDGE staff was given tools and documents which can help them with the implementation. They got reminded of the very first BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Staff Workshop conducted last year which is connected with the current one.

The participants critically reflected on and exchanged their learning center experiences and discussed potential [scalable] solutions in light of key challenges and opportunities. The BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Vision 2020 was introduced to all participating BOOKBRIDGE staff and linked to their 2016 goals. The BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Guidelines were presented to and signed by all BOOKBRIDGE staff. The BOOKBRIDGE impact measurement, “An English Teacher’s Helper” and “Bring Your Library to Life” manuals were briefly introduced to all team members as well. We gained some insights on Alexercise and English Speaking Club. The quality of course offerings was critically visualized, clarified, reflected and discussed.

The 2015 Learning Center goals set during the very first BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Staff Workshop were critically reviewed and reflected. The team of learning center Tonloab reported that their objective No 1 was achieved 100%, objective 3: 55%, and objective 4: 10%. The Takeo team reported that their objective 1 was achieved 100%, objective 2: 10%, and objective 5: 10%. The team of Siem Reap learning center reported that their objective 1 was achieved 70%, objective 2: 0% and objective 5: 0%. Learning center Angtasom team reported that their objective 2 was achieved 40%, objective 3: 90%, objective 5: 45%. However, they still have 3 more months to go to complete the implementation of their 2015 goals. Last, but certainly not least, the 2016 Learning Center goals including quality-related ones were also set, critically discussed and linked to the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Vision 2020.

Both positive and constructive feedback for the workshop was shared by the participants via evaluation forms. 65% is the average result of the regression of feedback on the level of participants’ satisfaction with the workshop.

The next steps after the workshop are follow ups during the weekly Head of Learning Center meetings. All participating Heads of Learning Centers signed and agreed to implement the Learning Center Guidelines. The BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia team will assist the centers with the implementation of the Guidelines. The BOOKBRIDGE impact assessment is to be scheduled to be conducted at each center. The BOOKBRIDGE impact measurement is to be rolled out. The teacher and library manuals are to be translated by Country Manager Assistant Ra and implemented at all learning centers. The 2016 Learning Center goals are to be finalized and executed by all centers. All BOOKBRIDGE staff is to prepare for the 3rd BOOKBRIDGE Staff Workshop in 6 months’ time. The meeting ended with a very positive climate, and everyone seemed to have got informed and ready to be supportive and collaborative as well as to thrive on challenges ahead.

BOOKBRIDGE organizes first English Olympiad in Mongolia

On the initiative of our community heroes from our learning centers in Arvaikheer and Chinggis (Mongolia), the very first BOOKBRIDGE English Olympiad took place in Arvaikheer between November 1 and 3.

Uuganaa opens the English Olympics
Uuganaa opens the English Olympics

Ankhiluun Davaa, Head of Learning Center in Chinggis, came to Arvaikheer with her 17 students. Chinggis – Arvaikheer: this means that they had been driven over 800 kilometers! They were welcomed by Uugantsetseg “Uuganaa” Gantumur (Head of Learning Center in Arvaikheer) and over 100 excited students.

Winners were awarded the BOOKBRIDGE medal
Winners were awarded the BOOKBRIDGE medal

The goal of the two women was to give their students the opportunity to get to know each other, to learn from each other and share experiences and plan future activities through the field trip. The event consisted of three parts: English Olympiad, basketball contest and presentation session in English prepared by students themselves.

During the English Olympiad 168 students from grades 5 to 12 participated (students between 10 and 16 years old). 5-7th graders participated in a spelling bee contest and 8-12th graders had to pass a test which included 35 questions. The best three students of each grade were awarded with the BOOKBRIDGE medal. The basketball contest was organized for 12th graders and five students did presentations topics like health and environment.

The organization team with Buya (left), Peace Corps volunteers (center) and Uuganaa (right)
The organization team with Buya (left), Peace Corps volunteers (center) and Uuganaa (right)

Peace Corps volunteers Olivia, Jenna and Jeff from Arvaikheer helped to organize the event being in charge of the development of the materials for the English Olympiad. Also three former students of Uuganaa’s, Yusuu, Ochiroo and Bayanbut came from capital Ulaanbaatar to help their teachers. A big thank you to all of you for your commitment and great support!

Student presentation on health
Student presentation on health

Uuganaa was very content of the event: It was a very important event, which included all stakeholders, BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia, local government and families, teachers and children. During the event, I could see how the children learned from each other and made good friends. They even have made plans to collaborate in the future and organize activities on their own.

The Opportunity to create a Sustainable Impact attracted me

Isabelle with a student in the library of the learning center
Isabelle with a student in the library of the learning center
Isabelle Meier participated in our 6th Capability Program that led to the opening of our 11th learning center in Sükhbaatar in the very East of Mongolia. We talked to Isabelle about her motivation to participate in the capability program.

Isabelle, why did you participate in the Capability Program?
The opportunity to create a sustainable impact working hand in hand with the community in Mongolia as well as the possibility of developing my own leadership skills attracted me to the program. The chance of working with other participants from different professional backgrounds and countries using virtual collaboration platforms was another challenge I wanted to try.

You developed a business plan for the learning center. What was the biggest challenge?
Facing the facts. We created a business model in close collaboration with the tandem partners and the community hero and wrote a business plan based on that. However, we made assumptions and had expectations based on our own professional, cultural and personal experiences. Reality in Mongolia is somewhat different, which was to be expected. So it is important to be flexible and to question previous assumptions when new information surfaces. That isn’t always easy, but very interesting, especially when your team is as diverse as ours.

From your point of view, what are the critical milestones in making the learning center a success in the future?
Again, I think we have to be flexible and willing to adapt to unforeseen events, without losing sight of our business and financial goals. The success of the learning centre depends on the entrepreneurial spirit and “can do” mentality of the community hero and her local teaching team. After the opening, it will be crucial to keep the momentum going. This can be done if the offering (both courses and extracurricular activities) reflect the community’s needs and is appealing. One challenge we face here in Sükhbaatar is the fact that the school year only lasts 9 months, which means that we had to find ways to generate revenue during the three Summer months when there are no courses in Sükhbaatar. The learning centre needs to have a fan base consisting of enrolled students and a community which feels it benefits from the learning center. I am confident that ours will be a success story and that the business plan has taken into consideration potential down- and upsides. I for one am keen to help in any way I can, even after the program is completed.

11th Learning Center Opened in Sükhbaatar

A special moment: Lazzet opens "her" learning center, surrounded by government officials and the CAP participants
A special moment: Lazzet opens “her” learning center, surrounded by government officials and the CAP participants

On October 22, Lazzet Faazal, our Community Hero in Sükhbaatar, together with the 12 committed and dedicated candidates from the 6th Capability Program, celebrated the opening of the Sibirian Education Center in northern Mongolia. It was a proud moment that was the culmination of many hours of hard work over the past six months. The team from Europe was excited and pleased to be present at the event and to see the results of all of their efforts.

The team started working together back in April of this year when they met for the first time. It was the most diverse team ever gathered in a BOOKBRIDGE leadership program with a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, experiences and nationalities. While this diversity caused many challenges for the team in the initial phases of the project, it proved to be one of the team’s greatest strengths in the end.

Tired but proud: Lazzet (left) after the opening
Tired but proud: Lazzet (left) after the opening

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 investor Swiss Diamond Club in June securing the start up capital required to get the learning center off the ground. Working virtually with Lazzet, they made the initial preparations for the opening and start up of the learning center. The team arrived in Mongolia last week and after spending some time sightseeing in Ulanbataar, travelled to Sükhbaatar in Selenge Province to finalize the plans for the opening ceremony and implement the business plan.

The opening of the learning center was overseen by representatives from the local office of education and the head of the library in which it is housed. Performances by local dancers and singers charmed the gathered crowds, although the show was stolen by the miniature dancers from a local kindergarten who warmed the hearts of all those gathered in the cool afternoon.

The Sibirian Education Center will soon offer courses in English for children and in IT for adults. Plans are also underway to offer higher-level courses to local business people with supplementary conversation practice offered through virtual technology and potentially by CAP candidates themselves. Peace Corps volunteers have already started using the center for their informal English club and there are now thousands of English resources in Sukhbaatar for the community.

BOOKBRIDGE at the World Scout Jamboree

Having its origins in the scout movement, BOOKBRIDGE still has a close link to scouts. Many BOOKBRIDGE learning centers work together with national and local scout groups that represent BOOKBRIDGE at small and big scout events. Gantumur Uugantsesteg (called Uuganaa) is Head of Learning Center in our learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia. Together with her scout group she participated at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan – and took the chance to introduce over 33,000 scouts to the ideas of BOOKBRIDGE. Here is her report.

The World Scout Jamboree was organized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) chapter in Yamaguchi, Japan. The event included scouts from around the world. BOOKBRIDGE took part in this event as a representative of the Global Development Village. The jamboree officially opened on July 28 and lasted for 12 days. In total, over 33,000 scouts and 10,000 adults participated, representing 161 different countries.

Global Development Village
Global Development Village (GDV) is an on-site module program meant to raise awareness of global issues such as peace, the environment, development, human rights and health among participants. This year, GDV focused on disaster mitigation in Japan. United Nations agencies, NGOs and NPOs actively participated. The GDV program distributes pre-event materials and is part of the Join-in-Jamboree event. BOOKBRIDGE participated in the jamboree and reached many scouts around the world through its successful, on-site activities. Our main focus was to improve the understanding of what BOOKBRIDGE is doing through the GDV program.

Generally, GDV events provide opportunities to raise awareness about global issues, explore the environment, participate in community service, make friends from around the world and deepen the understanding of developments in science and technology. The world jamboree is a unique opportunity for participants to experience an exciting array of activities including: Global Development Village, City of Science, Cross Road of Culture and the Peace Program. It was a big chance to let them understand BOOKBRIDGE via the scouting method. All scouts at the jamboree showed great enthusiasm for including BOOKBRIDGE as a scout initiative.

Participants lived and learned with fellow scouts from around the world. They housed in tents with their home country friends but soon ventured out to mingle with tens of thousands of people from around the world for two weeks of activities and adventure. Our hardworking and responsible staff organized the Jamboree and made huge contributions to the understanding of scouting around the world.

Participants actively interacted during group work and discussions about BOOKBRIDGE. I provided participants with knowledge about BOOKBRIDGE and gathered their impressions on our session.

I’m happy to say that many scouts were ready to support our activities. In addition, this event was a big experience for me. It supports both my personal development and the BOOKBRIDGE foundation. I greatly appreciate your support in allowing me to join the World Scouts Jamboree, and I will do my best to continue developing BOOKBRIDGE in my community in the future. The jamboree was a unique and excellent environment for our BOOKBRIDGE presentation, and later it will be a great opportunity for us to present and expand our activities.

Cambodian Country Manager builds a Bridge to Mongolia

Sokhan (center) with a nomad family
Sokhan (center) with a nomad family

This August, Sokhan Khut, our Country Manager for Cambodia, made a trip to Mongolia. The aim was to share his experiences with the BOOKBRIDGE learning centers in Cambodia with his colleagues in Mongolia and to visit the Mongolian learning centers. In this article Sokhan describes what he did/experienced during his trip to Mongolia.

I had a pleasant flight from my home province, Siem Reap, Cambodia, to the capital city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (also known as UB). Tunga Munkhjargal, Country Manager Assistent for BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia, warmly welcomed me at the airport. After getting my accommodation settled together with Tunga, I met with Amar, Country Manager for Mongolia, for a welcome dinner and finalizing the plan for the rest of my stay in their country from which it could be described as the following:

A first three days in UB
Tunga took me to visit the Zaisan Memorial Site before going down to the city center where Amar later on gave me a tour around the heart of the city and its landmarks: the Gandan Buddhist Monastery, Sukhabaatar Square (Government place), The Peace Bridge and UB Public Garden. The tour gave me lots of impression about the city, especially the growing of high tall apartment buildings (they are more like a ‘modern mountain range’ to me) and the way gers (a portable, round tent used by Mongolian nomads) are set up around the city. It was a good opportunity to notice a big gap between rich and poor people living in the capital as well as aggressiveness of drivers on the street. Interestingly, I did not see many rubbish on the streets in UB if compare it to the capital city of my country, Phnom Penh.

Getting stuck in a river with your car happens from time to time in rural Mongolia
Getting stuck in a river with your car happens from time to time in rural Mongolia

We three later on held meetings to share experience in managing learning center projects that are being implemented by both BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia and BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia. The meeting allowed me to have a better understanding on the approach being used by my Mongolian colleagues to manage their learning centers as well as ways of getting learning center staff motivated in operating their learning centers. During the course of our discussion, I also realized the differences between learning centers in both country. Unfortunately, we could not go through all the agenda we had planned due to the fact that Amar and Tunga had to reserve their time to prepare for their upcoming “all learning center staff training”. Through social media, I managed to meet Rob van Waardenburg, former BOOKBRIDGE Program Manager and board member of BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia, for dinner and talk about his 9-year living experience in UB.

A short trip to visit Learning Center Dalanzadgad
My new day started with leaving the capital city at dawn to catch a flight to Dalanzadgad, a provincial town of South Gobi Province in Southern Mongolia. Battuul, Head of the Learning Center in Dalanzadgad, and her husband welcomed me at the airport and took me directly to a hotel in their town center and then to the learning center where she offers courses. A nice surprise was the traditional welcoming guest present Battuul gave to me at the learning center – a blue scarf and a bowl of local ‘yogurt’ made of goat milk.

Uuganaa (standing) from Arvaikheer Learning Center during the staff meeting
Uuganaa (standing) from Arvaikheer Learning Center during the staff meeting

After meeting her local team and visiting the center, Battuul organized a talk about Cambodia with her students at the center. The kids had lots of questions about Cambodia as well as the way of life of Cambodian kids. The next day, Battuul took me to play volleyball with her students before traveling to visit the “three beauties” and the red cliff in the countryside of Dalanzadgad. On the way back, I had a chance to visit a nomadic family and I was invited to have dinner together with Battuul’s family, which gave me an understanding of how a nomadic family lives. The steppe we travelled to the red cliff is very impressive to me. Beside vast treeless plains, the way people navigate to reach a certain location is unbelievable and I found it hard to describe. People may have their own way to know which road goes to which destination.

On the way back from Dalanzadgad to UB
Because Battuul and her English teacher had to travel to UB to join the all-staff training, I traveled with them by bus on a 600-km road back to UB and it took us nine hours to reach the capityl. With two bus stops on our half way to UB, I had a good chance to see different town centers as well as the way people in those towns live. The most noticeable thing for me is their public toilet, which looks more the same to what rural Cambodians used to/still have (a hut with two rooms that covers a-few-meter pit and there are two wooden beams you could sit on for urinating or defecating). With support from Battuul I could manage to come back to my hostel in the heart of UB.

Five Remarkable Days in Zavkhan
My second week in Mongolia was very special as it was my first time ever to meet the heads of different BOOKBRIDGE learning centers from different provinces of Mongolia. They participated in the bi-yearly all learning center staff training organized by Amar and Tunga.

On day one we all took a local flight from UB to Uliastaj city in Zavkhan province where the staff training was held. On our way from the airport to a summer ger camp, our Russian model 12-seat mini bus was stuck in the river while we were crossing it. The venue was in an isolated summer ger camp with mixed accommodation: modern house buildings and traditional Mongolian gers. The first night gave me a good experience of living in a ger. It had 6 beds and a stove used for either boiling water or cooking. It was also a chance to see what it means to be with Mongolian meat eaters: we ate marmots cooked the traditional way – putting hot stones inside their body while putting them on a fire.

Sokhan with the Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE staff in front of a ger (yurt)
Sokhan with the Mongolian BOOKBRIDGE staff in front of a ger (yurt)

On day two, we started with the training. After introducing all participants, the Heads of Learning Centers briefly presented their achievements during the last 6 months. I then introduced them to BOOKBRIDGE’s projects in Cambodia. After presenting BOOKBRIDGE’s vision for 2020, Amar and the Heads of Learning Centers shared their lessons learned from their fellows and how to manage them.
My unexpected learnings of this day were washing my body with just a cup of warm water in the morning, having a two-big-dish lunch (soup and rice with fried meat) and collecting a typical wild fruit (local people called it ‘Uhriin nud’ and they believe it is good for health) nearby the river with my Mongolian colleagues.

On day three, Uuganaa from Arvaikheer Learning Center shared her experience with preparing students for the University Entrance Exam. Battuul, Ankhiluun and Ada presented their presentation about BOOKBRIDGE Mongolian and Uuganaa and Battuul talked about risk management learned from scout training. Then, Tunga introduced guidelines to the learning centers on child protection, safety and code of conduct. This was followed by a session of Amar on a student exchange program among the Mongolian learning centers.

The presentations during the staff training took place in a ger (yurt)
The presentations during the staff training took place in a ger (yurt)

The mountain hike in the evening gave an enjoyable view on the rural mountainous landscape around the summer camp. During the following “Cambodian Night” I presented Cambodian traditional ceremonies with a focus on the Cambodian wedding. This allowed me to share Cambodian culture with my Mongolian colleagues.

On day 4 we listened to Uuganaas description of the English Olympic Event she had held in Arvaikheer learning center. This was followed by an introduction to BOOKBRIDGE’s impact measurement by Amar. Ada then talked about the learning center’s financial self-sustainability and what learning center staff needs of it. She draw the conclusion that the centers don’t need to follow the rules of donors and always can say no. She recommended to not let a donor rule your life and to focus on money but to stick to your name.

Afterwards we visited a nomadic family living not far from the ger camp together with a local girl and Munkherdene, English teacher at the learning center in Dalanzadgad. This allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the way Mongolian families lives. It was also the chance to wear a deel, the Mongolian traditional costume, and to taste traditional Mongolian vodka. It was actually more like Cambodian rice wine, but has a milky smell. At night, we all gathered around a pile of fire, sang, had some drinks and a lot of fun together before we broke up to go to bed.

On the last day of the training we visited a government-run learning center in Zavkhan. The Learning Center Zavkhan is located in the compound of a provincial library. Here, we met with the staff. Then we all went to a local market: it was interesting to see how my Mongolian colleagues enjoyed purchasing local products, f.e. Aaruul (dried curds). I also bought one for my family. After visiting a sacred Buddhist place on the summit of a mountain centrally located in town we had a last lunch together as BOOKBRIDGE team. Here, I tasted ‘mini-Khorog’, a Mongolian traditional food, for the first time after being in Mongolia for nearly two weeks.

We then traveled by a made-in-Russian bus to Donoi airport accompanied by Duya, Head of the learning center in Zavkhan. We said good-bye to Duya and took off to the airport to UB. On the way back from the airport, my colleagues staff got off the shuttle bus one after the other which marked the end of the staff training. They returned to their home towns which would take each of them an entire day.

Again Back to UB – Visiting Amar’s Family
After a long sleep, my energy was refilled 🙂 I got a call from Uuggana who asked me to meet her at the UB state department store. Besides meeting her daughter, it was exciting to receive a small gift for my family from her on behalf of the Head of Learning Centers from across Mongolia. The afternoon make even more my day after Amar took me to his apartment. It was great to see his lovely children and be invited to have dinner with his family. It was also a good opportunity to listen to Amar talking about his family and sharing our thoughts on the learning centers.
In the late evening, I joined Amar to manage the book boxes from Germany for the learning center’s libraries: they arrived late at night and so we had to unload them at a warehouse. The books are for Ankhiluun who will manage our future learning center in Chinggis. Although it was a long and tiring evening, it gave me the chance to see the outskirts of UB.

Sokhan (left) with Tunga's and Amar's families in Terelj National Park
Sokhan (left) with Tunga’s and Amar’s families in Terelj National Park

A trip to Terelj National Park
My plans kept changing due to unexpected changes in the working schedule I had with my Mongolian colleagues, but fortunately our trip to beautiful Terelj National Park worked out. The park is just an one-hour drive away from UB. On the way, we stopped to see birds of prey that are ‘displayed’ for travelers. Their owner gave me a close touch to one of them, a 20kg vulture. During the trip, I also saw an impressive huge metallic Chinggis Khan built on a hill. While climbing up the stairs inside of the body, I did not realize that I would see his face while standing on the head of his horse. After a quickly join of our weekly team meeting with our colleagues in Europe, we went on to reach our destination in Terelj and spent a night in a summer ger camp together with Tunga’s and Amar’s families. This gave me the feeling of being part of the so-called “BOOKBRIDGE Family”. During the visit of a temple of meditation not faraway from our ger camp I got interesting insights into how Mongolian Buddhists practice their mantras.

My last day in UB
After returning from Terelj, I only had one afternoon to train Amar in our IT tools Zoom and Teamwork before I had to pack my stuff for my flight back home. Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned since my Mongolian colleague’s virtual meeting took much longer than expected and we had to postpone our IT tool training sessions. However, we could manage to do it during the evening and I even managed to get some souvenirs for my family and have a farewell dinner with Tunga and Amar.
I flew home the next morning and had a safe and sound arrival after a 12-hour journey bringing with me good memories and experiences. Many thanks to Tunga, Amar and Battuul as well as all the people I met for their warm hospitality and friendliness during my stay in their country!

Samuele: Support for Learning Center Sukhbaatar

Samuele supported our learning center in Sukhbaatar, Mongolia
Samuele supported our learning center in Sukhbaatar, Mongolia

Home is where the heart is: Samuele Maniscalco is from Italy, studied in Berlin and worked the last weeks in Sukhbataar in Northern Mongolia to help us to set-up our next learning center. In this blogpost he writes about this time and his concept of “home”.

Last April, a few hours after subletting my Master thesis in General Linguistics at the University in Berlin, I booked a one-way flight to Mongolia with no clear idea what I would have done there. Just a short foreword: my name is Samuele, I was born 28 years ago in Italy and I have a problem: I feel home a bit everywhere, as long as I keep moving. So this time I decided to go and see those people who carry their houses on the shoulder whenever they move, a bit like snails do: the nomads of Mongolia. I thought, you know, there could be something useful to learn. So, let’s be clear about this: I didn’t aim to travel in search for myself or chasing the meaning of life, I simply wanted to experience another meaning of “home”.

I wandered for two months across the plain beauty of Mongolia, meeting nomads, disassembling and reassembling gers, moving herds and forgetting time. But time didn’t forget about me, so I realized at once that I needed to find a job in order to extend my visa as well as my happiness. Since jobs always involve time and money (both of which I was trying to disregard), I opted for volunteering and thought that dusting off my language skills might have been a good idea – and it really was. With the help of the volunteering section of the UN in Ulaanbaatar, I was quickly put in contact with BOOKBRIDGE and a good coffee with Amar was enough to enthusiastically accept the deal.

I worked one month in Sukhbaatar, in the northern province of Selenge, providing support to Lazzet with the preparation of a new learning center that will be opened there soon.

Every day we sorted out suiting learning material for English language teaching and established a lesson planning according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). At the same time, I provided English lessons to the members of the library, within which the Learning Center will be located.

The engagement and motivation of Lazzet as well as the library’s staff made both my tasks pleasant and challenging. It would be hard for me to tell apart between the working context and the human relationships: everything seemed to be entangled with the overall result of an extraordinary well-being feeling. I am very thankful to Amar, Tunga and Lazzet for having been a family to me and for their kind help at every step of my long walk. Thus, once again, I felt home.

Monika: Welcome to the Team!

Monika will be responsible for our country development
Monika will be responsible for our country development

We are excited to have a new team member: Monika Nowaczyk will support us as Country Development Manager for Asia. In this blog post we introduce her.

Monika, who are you? Please tell us a little bit about you and your personal background.
I was born in Poland and immigrated to Canada when I seven years old and I’m proudly Polish-Canadian. However, I have lived away from Canada for most of the past two decades. I first came to Cambodia in 2000 and stayed here for one and half years. Following this I worked in Taiwan briefly and then in Japan in the public school system for nearly four years. I returned to Cambodia in 2006, intending to stay for only a few months engaged in voluntary work. However, I was fortunate to be offered a position with CARE Cambodia in the north-east province of Ratanakiri working on a bilingual education curriculum and teacher training community teachers in ethnic minority community schools.
My initial contract was for only six months, but shortly after beginning my work, I met my husband when he came to support our office IT systems. I’ve now been in Cambodia for nearly 10 years and have no immediate plans to go anywhere. I’ve worked on many education programs as a consultant with a focus on teacher training, curriculum development, program management and assessments. I also started a social enterprise committed to providing fairly paid and flexible home-based employment opportunities to women in vulnerable communities, Cambodia Knits. We currently employ nearly 50 producers and sell products locally and internationally.

Why did you apply at BOOKBRIDGE?
I first came across BOOKBRIDGE earlier this year, I can’t remember how, and I was impressed by its mission to establish Learning Centers on a social enterprise model. When the position was announced, I took scope of my skills and experience and felt I was a good candidate. I was looking to move away from consulting and into a full time position, one which would allow me to have a greater impact through the longer term, in one project. I believe strongly in the BOOKBRIDGE model and the work I will be doing ties together my passion and experience in education and social enterprise.

What will your tasks be at BOOKBRIDGE? What are your plans for the next months?
I will responsible for moving BOOKBRIDGE into our third country, Sri Lanka, and for supporting the country managers in Mongolia and Cambodia. The next few months will see me traveling a lot! Locally I will try to visit the Cambodian learning centers to learn about their challenges and operations. I will also visit Sri Lanka to do research in preparation for our first learning center and leadership program and I’ll be visiting Mongolia in October to get first hand experience of the CAP6 team as they establish a new center in Selenge.

Tonloab: Conversation Class, Certificates and Student Assessment

Football: Finally! We did it! 7-6 in the Penalty Shootout
Football: Finally! We did it! 7-6 in the Penalty Shootout

Thanks to the distribution of many course flyers before the summer holidays, our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia was able to open two new conversation classes. Roman, Swiss fellow at the learning center, describes his teacher experience.

I teach every morning between 9 and 11 am. At first, the students were quite shy to speak English with me. I started with the basics. What’s your name? Where are you from? How old are you? What do you like? But this changed very quickly. I tried to vary the exercises as much as possible. Listening to a conversation, describing pictures, acting situations of daily life are all part of this conversation class. The students particularly like some small competitions, like listing all the countries they know. We then had a discussion about where they would like to travel to, but also how and why. This will lead to even more subjects we will talk about and which are really useful for learning English.

Speaking is the key
Again, speaking, speaking, speaking is key, even if you make mistakes. But I am sure that their progress will be even bigger in the next weeks to come. Now the students are able to describe a picture, ask and answer simple questions. Their progress is really amazing and I am really proud of them, because studying another language (different grammar and pronunciation) is difficult. Another aspect is varying the vocabulary. There are a lot different ways to say hello, for instance.

By the way, I also made some progress in Khmer. I learned asking simple questions and counting to ten. Don’t underestimate the importance of trying to speak the local language to integrate in another culture. The conversation class will go on for two month and I am convinced that their progress will be even bigger in the next weeks to come.

Improving class management
During the last two weeks, Vannak, the teachers and I also discussed how to improve class management by handing out a survey to the teachers where they mentioned the challenges and possible solutions to improve the students’ attention. I suggested creating and handing new rules in the classrooms, which I will initiate very soon. Moreover, we also discussed about how to improve the students’ assessment and the form is almost ready to be used. It entails student’s behaviour, progress, results and will serve as information for their parents.
A workshop on lesson plans was also organized and, according to the participants, it was a great success. One day was dedicated to a theoretical part and the other day to practice. The teachers then received a certificate which I prepared for them.

In the afternoon, I help out the teachers whenever possible. Creating conversation exercises, working in pairs, doing some simple acting but also listening to the correct pronunciation are all methodologies I am trying to show to the teachers.
My plan for the next week is to use the material left by the previous fellows and to put in place a reward mechanism for the very active and good students.

Saturday activities
Let’s not forget our activities Saturday activities! The monthly football event was particularly intense this time and not only because of the very hot weather. After 2×30 minutes, the score between Vannak’s team and mine was 1-1. It ended up in a penalty shootout where my team won! This Saturday, the kids will enjoy the “Madagascar” movie, with English subtitles.

As you see, there are a lot of initiatives and projects that have already been launched and I am very happy to contribute to it. It is an honour to work with such passionate people and I am sure there will be even more progress in the months to come.

Learning Center Takeo in Transition

The Learning Center Takeo serves many children and youth like these preschool-aged children in our newly opened kindergarten course
The Learning Center Takeo serves many children and youth like these preschool-aged children in our newly opened kindergarten course

Our Learning Center in Takeo, Cambodia is currently in the process of major transitioning at the crossroads. It is being restructured and overhauled which poses many challenges on the team.

The previous Head of Learning Center has resigned. However, he still assists the center on a part-time basis. This gives us the time to look for a successor. The search for the new person has turned out to be difficult, as there seems to be no one adequately qualified despite diverse hiring approaches we have tried. Hence, an entirely new flexible approach is required. To span this period we have given training to librarian Sopheak Tok who has been very capable but still young: Sopheak finds it very challenging to lead and manage an entire learning center on her own due to the lack of leadership experiences and competencies. Therefore, we asked Sreydieb Long, the Head of Learning Center of our Mobile Learning Center in the region of Takeo, to join hands with Sopheak to co-manage the learning center.

The learning center has great potential, as it is conveniently located right in the heart of the provincial capital, a relatively developed city compared with the other areas of the province. As long as we have a highly competent and wise leader as Head of Learning Center, the center has a good chance to become one of the most trusted learning institutions in Takeo province. Our goal is to embark the learning center on a new journey to creating lasting changes and real impact for the lives and futures of our students.

Multi-Stakeholder Meeting marks Start of CAP 7

The District Office of Education gives a speech during the multi-stakeholder meeting
The District Office of Education gives a speech during the multi-stakeholder meeting

On September 21, the team of BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia successfully convened a multi-stakeholder meeting at Angrokar primary school. The meeting’s outcomes will serve as key inputs for the case study for our upcoming 7th Capability Program that will develop a business plan for a learning center.

The purpose of the meeting was two-fold. Firstly, it was to inform the participants about BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia’s renewed initiative to turn our current micro learning center in Angrokar into a fully fledged learning center trusted by the community. Secondly, it was to get to learn more about the community needs in terms of education and training services as well as the community resources that can be processed to meet the community needs identified earlier. 21 participating stakeholders from diverse institutions attended the meeting including the District Office of Education chief, local state school principals, commune and village chiefs, and local business representatives.

Sokhan, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager, gives a brief presentation on BOOKBRIDGE, BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia and the Micro Learning Center
Sokhan, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager, gives a brief presentation on BOOKBRIDGE, BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia and the Micro Learning Center

We structured the meeting in key three sessions. It commenced with a brief speech by District Office of Education chief and was followed by a brief introduction to BOOKRBIDGE, BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia and the Micro Learning Center by BOOKBRIDGE’s Country Manager Sokhan Khut. The participants were curious about the learning center’s paid courses. For instance, the school director would like to see classes open both in the morning and afternoon besides evening classes. He wondered how the learning center is going to benefit the local state teachers. The second session included group discussions about the community needs particularly for education and training services. The last session dealt with the community resources in four dimensions namely human, institutions, business and environment that can potentially meet the community needs identified earlier.

Participants discuss community needs in terms of education and training services
Participants discuss community needs in terms of education and training services

As a result we could identify and prioritize the three most significant community needs with respect to education and training services: (1) course offerings in English, computer skills and Chinese as it accounts for 21 votes or 33%, (2) sufficient amounts of wide-ranging good quality books and reading materials both in Khmer and English as it accounts for 19 votes or 30%, (3) soft skills such as ethics and discipline as it accounts for 14 votes or 22%. Another meeting outcome is that also the human, institutions, business and environment resources were identified. For instance, the contacts of potential teachers and trainers were provided and key local institutions, businesses and natural resources were listed down. The meeting ended with a very positive atmosphere, and everyone seemed to have got informed and ready to be supportive and collaborative as well as to thrive on challenges ahead.

10th learning center opened in Mongolia by Ankhiluun and the Team of our first CAS!

GSE1 TeamIn April, we kicked off our very first CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship in cooperation with the Centre for Philantrophy Studies at the University of Basel. Five months later, the team of highly motivated social entrepreneurs open up their learning center with Ankhiluun Davaa, our talented new Community Hero from Chinggis Town, Mongolia. 

Following an intensive co-creation phase and a successful investor pitch to HILTI Foundation, the team finally met Community Hero Ankhiluun to implement the business plan in a team effort.  They were accompanied by Amar, Tunga, Emilie and Altaa, a former student of Uuganaa‘s learning center. It is the first team that a former student participated in an implementation module and we thank Altaa for her support.

From September 4 to 12, the team members acted as real social entrepreneurs in Mongolia. Thanks to the active contribution of everyone, the opening ceremony successfully took place in Chinggis Town and gathered students, teachers, government officials, journalists, artists, World Vision employees, Peace Corps Volunteers and other members of the civil society.

AnkhiluunAccording to the business plan, this new learning center in Eastern Mongolia offers English, IT classes and daycare services to support the students in their homework and exams. The learning center is also a window to the world. It follows the goal to create happiness. Students and their parents can join the new Star Club. The club offers activities, music sessions and virtual calls with BOOKBRIDGE BridgeBuilders who tell about their life and stories. The learning center is run as a social enterprise by Ankhiluun Davaa, her team and her local partners.

In two months time, the team will meet again in Basel to transfer the skills they have learnt, assess their impact and report back to their investor. We keep fingers crossed for Ankhiluun and her team!

Are you interested in becoming part of our next CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship? Then download the program brochure and contact Carsten at carsten [at] bookbridge.org .

Roman continues the development of Tonloab

We distributed flyers at the local school and private schools
We distributed flyers at the local school and private schools

Roman is BOOKBRIDGE fellow at our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia. In this blog post the young man from Switzerland describes his first weeks at the learning center.

It has now been two weeks since I’ve arrived in Tonloab. And it went by really fast. I know already that I have to enjoy every single minute of my 6 months stay here. On the first day, I met everybody directly or indirectly involved at the Learning Center Tonloab: Ra, Vannak, Mom, all the IT and English teachers and of course all the students, who were very interested in meeting me. The cambodian people are known to be very welcoming and it’s right. I felt at home right from the beginning and this will surely help for my integration in a new culture and environment.

Roman (center) with Community Hero Vannak Pen (right)
Roman (center) with Community Hero Vannak Pen (right)
On the first two days, I had the chance to meet the previous fellows, Alex and Ruby from Belgium, for a two-day handover. This was really great. They prepared a very comprehensive summary of their initiatives, successes and remaining challenges, as well as a financial overview of the Learning Centre and we all agreed that there is great potential. I also attended Ruby’s last singing class, which gave me great inspiration for the take-over. The children were very enthusiastic and knew all the songs very well!

We then made a tour of the Learning Centre and I finally discovered everything “on the ground”, the library, the IT-Class, the Classrooms and discussed about how to continue to improve the quality of learning and teaching and the technologies that motivate the students.

Alex and Ruby made a few suggestions for the next steps to take, which are part of a set of common goals we set at the end of the week in the expectation workshop. Vannak and I also attended a very interesting and well prepared presentation about key facts of Cambodia, thanks to the amazing work of Ra. I would already like to thank Ra for his work during this week. During the first couple of days, I also had the chance to teach some english songs, which the students really like. Opening an acting class would be amazing and I will do everything I can to make it possible.

As I said, we set up a number of goals for my fellowship, together with Vannak. Our main focus will be on teaching and learning methodologies that allow students to improve their conversation skills in and outside the classroom. It is crucial to involve the teachers as much as possible. We also want to connect the english classes with IT-tools. As the center is still relatively new, we want to attract more students and open new classes. Therefore, expanding the visibility of Bookbridge within the community is also a priority. Monitoring the students’ progress, expanding IT tools withing the library are also points we would like to work on. As you see, there is great potential and I am more than enthusiastic and motivated to contribute to the Learning Centre.

And it started right away. Right before the monthly holidays started, we organized a flyering campaign and visited the students’ families. The students were able to perform the songs they learned with Ruby and also one new song I taught them! It was a fantastic day and I also got to see the beautiful surroundings of Tonloab. The idea was to attract student and open a conversation class, in line with our main priority. Moreover, we are developing a way to install brand new tablets so that the students can use them and play educationnal exercices, such as Alexercise!

I am really looking forward to the next couple of months and I am sure we will create sustainable impact to continue developing this Learning Centre “one that we are proud to show”!

Roman’s Journey at Learning Center Tonloab has started

Roman (center) with Community Hero Vannak Pen (right)
Roman, Vannak and Ra discuss Roman’s goals set for the coming 6 months

Roman is new BOOKBRIDGE fellow at our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia. Coming from Switzerland, he is currently doing his master degree in Development and International Relations, a topic highly relevant to BOOKBRIDGE. In this post, we introduce you to Roman.

We are very happy to have Roman to support our work in Cambodia during the next six months! Besides his valuable master topic development work in countries like Cambodia Roman also has some teaching- and development-related experiences in particular developing countries. We hope that these will prove useful for his work at the learning center.

Roman has been placed well at Tonloab town in a nice and comfortable accommodation. He has got familiarized with important places in town such as the local market, hospital, shops, restaurants, police station, etc. Roman is also integrating himself into the community life by learning to live like a local.

At the learning center, Roman has been warmly welcomed by everyone, be it by Vannak Pen, Head of Learning Center, the teachers, students, or the community. The students seem to be very interested in Roman as he seems to have a good way of dealing with children. Roman is happy to take over the work from former fellows Alex and Ruby. He started to build a positive relationship with the teachers to gain their trust and love, and he has already work with them.

Roman has received information from different stakeholders and from differing perspectives and ankles concerning the learning center. He has had the chance to observe the daily typical operation activities of the center like the different classes and learning activities. He has also talked to teachers, the Head of Learning Center, and students to get to know their perspectives. To get a good overview, he has read important documents of the center and those left by Alex and Ruby. Also, Vannak has presented him the progress and achievements of the learning center has made so far as well as key challenges the center is facing. This also included key facts about Cambodia and Tonloab fostering his understanding of the place he will work at for the next months. This way, Roman learned to work with Cambodians from the beginning.

Roman has also received a short demonstration-based training on quality English teaching and learning in Cambodia containing a concrete lesson plan and its implementation. Together with Vannak he then brainstormed on his goals for the coming six months. His goals will be finalized in his second week. We wish Roman the best for his first weeks and his challenging tasks.

“One of the Best Days of my Life” – Interview with Uuganaa

Committed and fighting for her cause - providing education to children and youth
Uuganaa is constantly committed and fighting for her cause – providing education to children and youth
Six years have passed since we opened our first learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia. Since then, a small library with donated children books developed to a nationally awarded institution providing eductional offerings to children and youth of all ages. These achievements are mainly due to the exceptional commitment of Uuganaa Gantumur, Community Hero in Arvaikheer and founder and manager of the learning center.

Uuganaa, what do you remember the most from the opening ceremony in September 2009?
It was one of the best days of my life! Although a few years have passed since the opening ceremony, I still remember everything about how our BOOKBRIDGE center was established with the help of the German and Mongolian scouts. On that day, I made a promise to myself and my community: I would carry-out the project and find meaningful ways to utilize this valuable English resource center. With all of the great books collected by the German scouts, we were ready to start our work!
My friends from Germany, many Peace Corps Volunteers and local government leaders helped to celebrate our opening ceremony! At the ceremony, many children were eagerly waiting for the doors to open so they could see the over one thousand books in our library. What once seemed like an overwhelming challenge has today become a very influential and effective learning center for Arvaikheer’s youth.

Participants of Uuganaa's summer training
Graduates from Uuganaas last year’s courses
What was the biggest challenge in the first two years of operations?
Our biggest challenge was financial, namely finding ways to rent a physical location and to pay our staff. We had to rent a room at a very high cost, and this quickly became a big problem for us. At the same time, our membership increased unexpectedly. It was a pleasant surprise to have so many members; however we found it very difficult to maintain three staff members. At the time, our membership payments were only 500 tugrugs (about 0.25 USD). It just wasn’t enough to cover our rent and staff costs. Unfortunately, one of our staff members chose to leave due to the low salary we could offer. It took us two years before we found a workable solution. Our local Governor gave us a land grant where our BOOKBRIDGE center now stands. This experience taught us so much about running the center, and today we are a thriving organization with happy members and staff!

Uuganaa (left) with her volunteers that help her with activities and courses
Uuganaa (left) with the first students she had in 2009. Last year, they started to study at university thanks to scholarships they won in national competitions
What makes you proud when you look at your learning center today?
I take a lot of pride in my center! First, I’m proud to support my community, especially the children and students. Any child can come to BOOKBRIDGE to read and learn, and this means there are a lot of kids in the center most of the time. My community helps and supports me too, which allows me to reach more and more children every year!

Second, I’m proud of the students who participate in BOOKBRIDGE’s programs! These talented students have become amazing role models for other kids, and they continuously impress me with their leadership skills. My students’ English skills have earned them recognition at the state and national levels through a variety of English competitions and scholarship programs.

Third, I’m proud of my full-time staff members and the sustainable programs and activities that they organize each day! They have made our center a truly child-friendly environment, and our organization has been recognized by our government with many awards, including “Woman of the Year” and “Outstanding Children’s Organization.” All of our activities can be led by the students themselves, which has made our programs very sustainable.

The children and students of Arvaikheer are very proud of their BOOKBRIDGE center! It’s a fantastic place, and I can’t thank the BOOKBRIDGE organization enough for helping us getting started. We often connect with other BOOKBRIDGE branches around the world and they inspire us to do our best. With the support of my community, the hard work of my staff and the motivated students of Arvaikheer, I know that our center will last a very long time. I love BOOKBRIDGE!

Interview with Matthias, Co-Founder of Learning Center Arvaikheer

Uuganaa (left) and Matthias (center) during the 2010 trip to Mongolia
Uuganaa (left) and Matthias (center) during the 2010 trip to Mongolia
Matthias Krauß is a scout coming from the Bavarian town Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz. As a medical student he participated in the first book collections for BOOKBRIDGE, in 2009 he was part of the group of German and Mongolian scouts that set-up the learning center in Arvaikheer. We talked to Matthias about his memories of that period.

Matthias, what do you remember the most from the opening ceremony in September 2009?
There were lots of happy people, especially children, who were looking forward to the/our books. After four weeks of hard effort it was a pleasurable and a relieving feeling to actually be part of a successfully set-up project. And of course learning and singing the Arvaikheer song under the Mongolian sun with the whole team.

When you think back of what we had in mind with the learning center in 2009, what was the biggest difference between what you thought would happen and what happened in reality?
I never thought that we could create such a helpful and growing project out of used books in the first place. Leaving Arvaikheer after seven weeks, I somehow had a few doubts about the continuance of Carsten’s vision in building such a “school/learning centre”. All the more I am happy to see that Carsten and his team continued and expanded the project. Congratulations to this!

NL_Arvaikheer Opening
Matthias at the opening ceremony in Arvaikheer (top row, third from the right). Uuganaa is the third from the left, Carsten is the first from the right on the lower row.
What makes you proud when you look at your learning center today?
In 2009, it was the first “book bridge”, followed by many others which shows that we started a successful project. Special thanks to Uuganaa and her whole team who are dedicated to the “book bridge” with lots of passion and eagerness. I still receive the newsletters and every time it feels good to read the stories about the learning centers and see the progress they make – and that makes me a little bit proud as well.

“The People at BOOKBRIDGE Make the Difference” – Interview with Ruth

Scouts in ger yurt during the trip to Mongolia in September 2005
The idea of BOOKBRIDGE started after European scouts had visited Mongolian scouts in 2005. Ruth (center) was one of them.
Having been to Mongolia in 2005, Ruth is one of the founders of BOOKBRIDGE foundation and takes care of marketing and public relations at BOOKBRIDGE. We talked to her about her motivation to co-found BOOKBRIDGE and what makes working for it different from other jobs.

Ruth, you co-founded BOOKBRIDGE FOUNDATION in 2010. Why?
Because I saw that out of an international scout exchange something had developed that tried to reach beyond collecting books and sending them to Mongolia. I´ve known Carsten for a long time so I was used to him doing crazy things but I also knew that he would pursue them until the small had grown big. That´s why I decided to invest money in the foundation. When I now look at what our Community Heroes (like Uuganaa) have achieved so far I know that my contribution was very little compared to theirs.

You are responsible for marketing and PR at BOOKBRIDGE. At the same time, you also work for a German IT service company. What makes the work at BOOKBRIDGE different?
The people! The core of BOOKBRIDGE is an incredibly motivated and committed team made of very different, very gifted people. It´s not a dream team as we do have conflicts and keep on doing mistakes but the level of reflection and will to improve is stunning and a lot higher than in any other company I have worked so far. I love working in IT as I am a fact-oriented person and not good in working with people. But IT is so full of money spent for huge projects that never end and always get more expensive that I oftentimes wish it would rather be spent for projects that really make a difference. I guess by working for BOOKBRIDGE I try to re-balance my work life by doing something that is really meaningful.

Ruth with scouts from Neumarkt in Mongolia
Ruth (second from the left) with scouts from Mongolia and Germany during the trip to Mongolia in 2005
You have been supporting Uuganaa and our learning centers in the last 3 years in many blog article, facebook posts and even created an own website for each one of them. What was your personal highlight when you think of our learning centers in the last 3 years?
The moment I learned about Uuganaa’s way of doing business. She doesn´t teach her students, she coaches them. What makes Uuganaa’s learning center different from other educational institutions is that she is committed to every child and student. As we say at the scouts: “Look at the girl, look at the boy!”. I have been a scout leader for many years trying to give my kids more than just 2 hours of fun every week. I tried to look at their strengths and motivated them to learn and try new things to reach beyond their borders. They were not just kids to me but astonishing little personalities that just needed to be encouraged to grow and develop. Uuganaa is doing the same. She looks at every students, documents their progresses, their strengths and weaknesses and keeps in contact with the parents. She gives older students responsibilities for younger students so that they can personally grow instead of just studying perfect English. When I heard about this I knew why her learning center is so successful: because she takes young people for serious. She knows that the youth is our future and she invests in it. It´s so smart yet simple and the key to her success.

What students and parents say about BOOKBRIDGE – voices from Arvaikheer

Three students at the learning center in Arvaikheer:
Three students at the learning center in Arvaikheer: Anuka, Tumenbayar and Myagmasuren

Since the foundation of the first learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia in 2009, BOOKBRIDGE has changed the life of many people. In this blog post we give them a voice: Myagmasuren and Tumenbayar have studied at the learning center, Bagi is the mother of three children who visit the center’s classes, and Buyanaa works as English teacher and librarian at the learning center.

Myagmasuren Surenkhorloo, student
Who are you? Tell us a little bit about your personal background.
Hello! My name is Myagmarsuren Surenkhorloo, a freshmen at Institute of Finance and Economy of Mongolia. Last year, I graduated from “Merged” school in Uvurkhangai. But not only my high school, I like to introduce myself with the name of BOOKBRIDGE training center. I have been learning English at BOOKBRIDGE Arvaikheer for 4 years with my friends.

Thanks to the learning center, Myagmarsuren Surenkhorloo was able to study at the Institute of Finance and Economy
Thanks to the learning center, Myagmarsuren Surenkhorloo was able to study at the Institute of Finance and Economy

Why do you visit the learning center/attend classes?
At first, I started attending classes to learn English. Because the BOOKBRIDGE is the best training center in Uvurkhangai at all time for the reason that the center provides the students with such good textbooks, responsible teachers, volunteers and convenient environment etc. But as time run, I made a significant number of friends. So that, I changed my mind that learning English is not only to do thing.
When we were high school students, we used to visit the center to prepare for exams, Olympics and attending activities while having fun. Now, I and my pals come to the BOOKBRIDGE to see and help our teachers by teaching classes, organizing events, and to feel that warm atmosphere again.

What do you like about the learning center?
Teachers teach us not only academic skills but also life skills, for instance teamwork, friendship and social activities and give a number of chances to attend in national programs, volunteer works, TV programs, having volunteers to support us etc. For me, I got the experience in extracurricular activities at BOOKBRIDGE rather than at school. At the center, kids make friends in just a few hours or a few days. As well as we have wonderful memories. I would like to pick up a few of them.
On one Women’s day, we planned to surprise Uuganaa. Then we got an idea to decorate the wall of the classroom with hearts made of pink paper. That day, while we were coming to BB/Book Bridge as we abbreviate, we wrote a song about BOOKBRIDGE on one Mongolian song’s melody.
One time, Uugana advised us to take part in a national scholarship program. While preparing for the program, we used to sit around a round, white table, make jokes with each other and play Apples to Apples. I have never been happy like that time before. As well as I miss our round table.
Students celebrate New Year party, seniors organize and top students are awarded to prizes. In 2013 when it was nearly to celebrate 2014, we had our BOOKBRIDGE brightly-colored t-shirts, we love. We could not wait to wear. We wore them at once after the party and took some photos.
It is all a complex atmosphere of BOOKBRIDGE, I love.

Bagi (right) is glad the learning center offers her daughter Anuka the possibility to attend high-quality English classes
Bagi (right) is glad the learning center offers her daughter Anuka the possibility to attend high-quality English classes

Battsetseg Goiteez, mother
My name is Battsetseg Goiteez, called Bagi. I live with my family in Arvaikheer city of Uvurkhangai province of Mongolia. I have 3 children and they are all school age. My oldest daughter is 14 years old and her name is Anuka and she studies at 9th grade. She has been learning English for 5 years. She really likes to study English and she is doing a good job. When she was only 6, she asked me to teach her English alphabet and some simple words and sentences. I used to teach English but since I work full time at an international organization, I became busy, tried finding another way to improve my daughter’s English skills.

When she was 9 years old I saw an advertisement about new English language center’s summer English class for students. Now I think this was really good choice for me and my daughter and were so glad that she attended English class of Youth development center. Since that time, she had been attending in English classes of the center constantly for 5 years. Now she is one of the oldest students. It’s great that she had been involved in the youth development activities besides learning English. It’s helpful for improving her life skills.

One of the great things about this center is there is great opportunity for students to read wonderful books which help children to improve their reading skill and knowledge. Also there are great teachers who are committed to teaching new skills children. Every year students successfully participate in the state and regional English Olympics. My daughter participated in the regional English Olympics four times and won 2 gold and 2 bronze medals. Also I heard many students from this center study in the best colleges and universities of Mongolia after their graduation of high schools. Therefore I’m so proud of these wonderful teachers for supportinglocal community, our children and youth to learn English well.

Finally, on behalf of all parents, I’d like to express my gratitude to Uuganaa and other teachers for supporting our children to study at their favorite colleges and universities. Hope many more our children have bright future thanks to their English language skills gained at this Center

Buyanaa (right) enjoys teaching English in the favorable teaching atmosphere of the learning center
Buyanaa (right) enjoys teaching English in the favorable teaching atmosphere of the learning center

Buyandelger “Buyanaa” Ochirbat, English teacher and librarian at the learning center
Hello, my name is Buyandelger Ochirbat. I was born in Guchin- Us soum in Uvurkhangai province. I studied in high school in Arvaikheer and I graduated from Technical University of Arvaikheer in 2009 as an English teacher and Translator. Right after my graduation, two months later I started to work for Bookbridge learning center in Arvaikheer. Working at BOOKBRIDGE learning center means for me from the start on always learning. I met Uuganaa. She is also my teacher and she’s been positively influencing me in many ways.

I have been working as an English teacher and librarian for BOOKBRIDGE learning center for six years. During this time I’ve gained valuable personal and professional experiences. I organize activities and clubs, manage library operation, teach Englsh. I’ve been attending in several trainings and workshops organized by BOOKBRIDGE country team and others. I have had most of fun in working with kids.

I am passionate to teach English and to work with children and youth. I am proud of myself being a part of in building up new libraries in six Provinces in 20110 and 2011. Several things have been kept me to continue at BB learning center. I’ve got great opportunity to learn English in practice and to exposure other cultures, the books we have in our library and working with kids. I am proud of my learning center that we established child friendly environment for their development!

Tumenbayar Purevtseren is student at the learning center in Arvaikheer
Tumenbayar Purevtseren is student at the learning center

Tumenbayar Purevtseren, student
Hello, good afternoon. My name is Tumenbayar Purevtseren. I was born in Arvaikheer, Uvurkhangai in 1998. Now I’m 11th grade student of local 1st school. My hobbies are reading books, singing songs and watching movies. I’m very good at my study especially at math and English. I live with my parents and my little brother. My father is a plumber, my mother is a sales person and my brother is a student.

First in 2012 summer, I decided to do some English training. My choice was “BB”. When I met my teacher Uugnaa first time, she really liked me. From that summer by studying at BOOKBRIDGE my English started improving, so that I started my year training. At BOOKBRIDGE I usually read books that are really suitable for me. When I’m doing tests and exercises, some words are new for me so to know the meaning of the words I look it up in the “Longman”. Longman is the best dictionary.

My teacher is very kind person. When I need help, she always helps to me and she prepares very good tests. These tests are really challenging for me. Studying rooms are very comfortable. In my free time sometimes I do my homework and tasks at BOOKBRIDGE. Whenever I wanted to do something at BOOKBRIDGE, she always says yes. No one interrupt me. The library helps me a lot. Because when I wanted to brush up my mind I use books. At BOOKBRIDGE there are various type of interesting books, get books from BOOKBRIDGE is very easy so that I love BOOKBRIDGE.

Alex and Ruby left a mark on Learning Center Tonloab

Ruby leads students to sing the BOOKBRIDGE theme song with her for the last time
Ruby leads students to sing the BOOKBRIDGE theme song with her for the last time

Alex and Ruby have been BOOKBRIDGE fellows at our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia. However, people come and go – Alex and Ruby now had to go back to their home country Belgium. During their three months stay, Alex and Ruby have left some things we wish to treasure.

Thanks to the two fellows, BOOKBRIDGE learning center Tonloab has witnessed improvements as a consequence of their teaching and learning initiatives. The most noticeable is Alexercise, an online digital device-based English vocabulary-memorizing game as well as more organized Internet services at the IT room. Besides, the library has now turned out clean, neat and tidy, which once was not. The number of students has also increased as around 17 more students have registered for our new English course. This is the result of Ruby’s and Alex’s concerted marketing efforts. The unprecedented singing class they initiated is also seen and viewed as another good income source.

Alex and Ruby bid the students a final farewell
Alex and Ruby bid the students a final farewell

The head, staff and teachers of learning center expressed their satisfaction with Alex and Ruby’s work and initiatives despite some conflicting ideas and perspectives that had arisen during the process. They maintained that they have learnt quite a lot from the fellows. Some teachers mentioned that they have greatly benefited from the English teaching assistance Alex and Ruby provided. They could manage to rise above the differences and move forwards against all the odds to create lasting sustainable impact. Students, especially younger ones, liked to be with Ruby at the singing class.

Alex and Ruby admitted that improving the teachers’ current teaching methodologies to more progressive and innovative teaching methods remains very challenging and demanding given the reality on the ground. Nevertheless, we are can say that they have been quite supportive, beneficial and instrumental to the learning center and the people. We wish Alex and Ruby all the best with their future endeavors. We also hope to keep in touch with them after they travelled back to Europe. Thanks Alex and Ruby for your coming and sharing! We will cherish the essence of your loving kindness and your gesture of goodwill.

Make Learning Fun!

Alex playing "Alexercise" with children.
Alex playing “Alexercise” with children.

During the past three months of our fellowship at the BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia, we have attempted to launch several new activities, some successfully, others less successfully. Whether the goal was to improve the English methodology, to attract new students or to increase the income of the learning center in other way, we tried to balance learning and fun. We would like to share a few experiences that worked out quite well, at least up until now. Maybe they can inspire other Bookbridge learning centers. By Ruby and Alex.

Alexercise
In our first blogpost two months ago, we described our search for English learning videos, English learning games, vocabulary memorization websites, etc. After sifting through a lot of online resources, we tested some of them with the children and ended up with two that were very much appreciated: www.eslgamesplus.com and www.memrise.com. Both combine education with game elements, the former more than the latter (colorful layout, engaging sounds, score keeping, competition).
We invented the word “Alexercise” to avoid calling it “games” (which has a bad connotation with the teachers and parents) or “exercise” (which would repel the children). At first the children were not very interested, but when we moved one computer to the library – where it can only be used for Alexercise and nothing else – they became very curious and liked playing vocabulary games. When the students discovered that we made a Memrise exercise about the vocabulary in their workbook ‘Everybody Up’, the popularity of Alexercise grew further.

English singing class
In the beginning of July, the learning center started offering a new morning class of two hours. One hour standard English class and one hour singing English class conducted by Ruby. The benefits of a “English by singing” soon appeared. Contrary to regular English classes, singing class students are not at all afraid to speak, have more speaking time and participate more actively thanks to music, dances and music instruments.

Sometimes you only need a small ball to pass around to fully involve all the children in your lesson.
Sometimes you only need a small ball to pass around to fully involve all the children in your lesson.

Educational tools & techniques
Just before we left to Cambodia, our friends in Belgium gave us a lot of educational tools for the learning center. These have proven to be really helpful. Sometimes you only need a small ball to pass around to fully involve all the children in your lesson. Or you can play a little game with the alphabet flashcards of magnetic letters. But it can also be enough to bring a book from the library with big pictures or photo’s, to add some variety to your lesson.

The "BOOKBRIDGE Cinema" takes place on Saturday afternoon
The “BOOKBRIDGE Cinema” takes place on Saturday afternoon

Saturday activities
On Saturday, there are no English classes but the library is open. Inspired by one of the other learning centers, we started offering “Bookbridge Cinema” on Saturday afternoon with – of course – English movies with English subtitles.
Since three weeks we are alternating these movie moments with “Bookbridge Karaoke”. The children still have to get used to the English songs but given the great popularity of karaoke in Cambodia, Bookbridge Karaoke is destined to become another successful activity for learning English in a fun way.

Goodbye!
It is time for us to say goodbye to the children and staff of BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Tonloab. We want to thank everybody from the BOOKBRIDGE community for the support and the opportunity for this beautiful experience. Special thanks go to Vannak Pen, head of Learning Center Tonloab because he made us feel welcome from the first day, and this feeling the whole time remained. We’ll miss you all, and we are confident that we will stay in touch.
We wish all the best to the residents of the learning center. Keep up the good job and keep transforming the learning center into a lovely place where learning, speaking and listening to English is really fun!

My Priceless Three Months with BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia

Yourngchantreara Sao is Country Manager Assistant for Cambodia
Ra has joined BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia three months ago.

Three months ago Yourngchantreara “Ra” Sao started his job as Country Manager Assistant at BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia. In this article he looks back at his first months at BOOKBRIDGE.

“In just a couple of days’ time, I will have been working for BOOKBRIDGE for a span of exactly three months. So what is my impression then over these last few months, you may be asking? But, let me ask you back ‘What kind of impression is it? Is it my impression on the people I have met to date? Or is it my impression on the BOOKBRIDGE programs and approaches I have been acquainted with? Or is it my impression on each learning center and the locality of it? Or is it my impression on the progress, results, achievements and outcomes of the learning centers? Or is it all of them?’

Young local monks enjoy reading books at Learning Centre Takeo.
Young local monks enjoy reading books at Learning Centre Takeo.

So, let me start with BOOKBRIDGE programs and approaches. Although BOOKBRIDGE is not really my very first job, it is definitely going to be the one where my passion truly lies. It is indeed quite new to me when it comes down to the unique programs and approaches BOOKBRIDGE is embracing. I strongly support BOOKBRIDGE in her mission to work against all odds to realize her vision: worldwide quality education for less fortunate children such as those in Cambodia. With this vision firmly in mind, BOOKBRIDGE works on three areas which are of growing interest to me, namely quality education, social entrepreneurship, and quality English courses. I do believe in the culture of quality education, which potentially empowers Cambodian youngsters to live a fulfilling and worthwhile life. I do believe in the culture of quality English courses that potentially equip Cambodian youngsters to take full advantage of globalization, multi-national economic integration and the digital revolution. And, I do believe in the culture of social entrepreneurship, which potentially addresses many chronic problems be it of social, economic, political, cultural or environmental kind.

Typical activities in class at Learning Center Takeo
Typical activities in class at Learning Center Takeo

How about the people I met so far? If truth be told, I have met really talented Cambodians with hidden raw talent and with a gigantic amount of untapped potential that remains to be fully utilized and exploited. I hope for the full unitization and optimization of the local brains and talents by strategically and pragmatically building their technical capacity, competencies and skills. Besides, they also need more motivations and inspirations. I also hope for more promising initiatives and ideas from the local teachers, staff members, Head of Learning Centers and everyone else so that our learning centers can progress and head in the right direction.

Students discuss a lesson in groups.
Students discuss a lesson in groups.

I can see that all BOOKBRIDGE learning centers are up and running, operating on a daily basis, and yet they have to progress and move forward more speedily and qualitatively. If we are to set an example and precedence for others to follow, we have to be more open-minded, broaden our perspectives and be ready to embrace painful and tough changes. More attention and focus is needed for the qualitative and intangible aspects of the learning centers such as teaching and learning quality and students’ learning outcomes besides tangible and quantitative aspects such as infrastructure, classrooms, library and facilities.

I am proud to be Cambodian. I have always been inspired by many great Cambodians out there, and I am really touched and moved by the complex realities and problems on the ground in typical rural communities although I have also been somewhat agitated at the daunting challenges both ridiculously trivial and complex. Yet, I am convinced and confident that together we can make Cambodia a better place once and for all.”

Takeo: “Let’s Speak English” Campaign starts

Children are introduced to the campaign
Children are introduced to the campaign

Let the journey begin! Let’s fasten our seatbelt! We at the learning center Takeo in Cambodia are currently embarking on a new small initiative. Including our teachers, staff members and the Head of Learning Center, we believe that it will qualitatively enhance and maybe transform our learning center.

‘Let’s Speak English Campaign’ is a little step and starting point for the bigger upcoming steps of qualitative progression we plan to take for the learning center. It is the forming part of efficient language application mechanisms helping students to create their own English-speaking environment. Here, they can right away apply their newly acquired English language skills from different sources, be it from teachers, books, online material or other sources.

Young adults are one of the target groups of the campaign
Young adults are one of the target groups of the campaign

During the campaign, students are inspired by a video featuring a young talented Cambodian-born girl speaking fluent English. They are encouraged to speak English as much as possible with their peers, teachers, and everyone else in their classrooms at the learning center. Speaking Khmer is to be kept to the minimum. We have convinced the students to practice speaking English and showed them how they can do it. Although we are most likely to struggle with the implementation and enforcement of this initiative to create the desired outcome we strive for and we firmly believe that the improvement of our student’s English skills is just further down the road. And, we are ready to keep going against all the odds!

Learning Center Dalanzadgad keeps on growing

Battuul with English teacher Mongonoo (right) and librarian Ariuna (left) in front of the learning center
A good team: Battuul (right) and her English teacher Munkherdene Mandakh (left)

In September 2014, we openend a learning center in Dalanzadgad in the south of Mongolia. Since its opening, the “Global Passport Center” (its local name) has continued to grow and prosper. In this blog post, Carsten as CEO of BOOKRIDGE interviews Battuul Alexander, Head of Learning Center, about the progress the center has made.

Carsten: Battuul, your learning center has grown quickly since the opening in September 2014. When you look at your students today, what makes you proud?
I think that since the opening ceremony my learning center has grown fast in many different ways. Now, many students and communities have got to know Global Passport as a learning center and English library. I am happy that they have positive mind about it. When I think about my old students they have improved their language skill and personalities. Also they studied to work in a team, how to do their language practices as well as a role model.

Many things made me proud since the opening. Parents of students are satisfied the courses we offer to them. My students have participated in a few competitions and contests and were awarded. The last happiest news is that two of my students who had attended my concourse preparation were placed 3rd and 5th of all students in the whole province. I think that it was my first result of the training. This encourages me to work hard next time. I am proud of me too 🙂 Day by day the number of the students or customers is increasing at the learning center. As well as step by step we are improving to teach, manage and to do many kinds of marketing activities.

Carsten: You reached 100% sustainability within a couple of months only. What key factors contributed to this financial success of your learning center?
Battuul: Well, actually it wasn’t just a couple of months I think. But during the last months we tried to be a comfortable and sustainable learning center in the town. Of course, we could. There are some important factors for being successful. For example, there are nice classrooms and English books and teachers who really have the desire to teach and work at the learning center. The second thing is that I know many people who work very successful and are well known in the town. Also I used to work with many volunteers and did some volunteer projects here in English. People know about the learning center from their friends and relatives or co- workers.

The third thing was to have free activities and to keep it going well. Another thing was the quality of the teaching and courses. We really want the students to study very well and always encourage them to learn all their best. I am always proud of our English teacher Mungunuu who is really honest and polite and the best assistant. I am so happy that she is here with me.

Carsten: What are the current challenges which you are facing?
Battuul: Of course we have challenges every day, because it’s life. You know that Mongolian women are very strong and energetic. We have some days which are very hard and not easy to teach. Sometimes we feel sad and tired but I don’t have the right to have rest and be tired 🙂 You know, it is a private business, if we don’t work hard, we won’t get money for our life. I have much responsibility for many people. I have to pay salaries, loans, all expenses and etc. To tell the truth, we really want to relax just a few days. If we don’t work, no one pay for us. Luckily, national festival is coming soon so we’ll have a rest. Of course there are challenges at the learning center and our personal life. But challenges make us strong I think.

Carsten: We are very proud that you have already started paying back the loan which you were given by the BOOKBRIDGE Social Business Fund for your learning center. How do you manage to grow and pay back at the same time?
Battuul: I am glad that you encourage me all the time. Thank you for your nice words and supporting. Encouragement is the best medicine for me as young person. When I got this project, I decided to do or work all my best. Sometimes we don’t get much money from the courses, especially in the winter and holidays, but I thought that I should pay it on time. So I started to pay back the loan. I know that it is a very important part of the Capability Program loan for me.

Many people believe in me and gave their money. I hope that in the next five years, it will be paid back to BOOKBRIDGE. As I can see, I have many opportunities to have extra projects and work with BOOKBRIDE in next years. One thing I want to do is to study abroad and get knowledge about education management and new people as well as new culture. Since my university graduation I wanted to study abroad. But I started my life project to have family and children. Did you know that I started to work when I was 18? During the three I had been working at the sewing factory and entered university. End of the year I am going to take IELTS exam to get scholarship for master degree. I have already chosen my university where to study. But it takes few years. I hope that you can help and support me in advance.

Carsten: In September, your learning center will turn ONE. What is your birthday wish for your learning center?
Battuul: In September, my lovely learning center will turn ONE. It seems very fast. We are planning to do a mobile library and mobile training to small villages. I want students and people who are living on the countryside to study English and enjoy books. After summer training in Zavkhan we will plan for our first birthday. Please give us an idea for celebration. Exactly at this time I have many wishes, but soon I will let you know.

Thank you from the bottom of our heart!

First step: shell of a building
First step: shell of a building
Thanks to two former BOOKBRIDGE fellows, our learning center in Takeo, Cambodia finally now provides modern bathroom facilities to its visitors and staff. Susann and Marco Wensch who collected the donations for the project tell about it.

From January until June 2013 we have lived in Takeo and have helped to fill the existing learning center with life. We painted the walls, decorated the rooms, cleaned books, bought games and searched for a Head of Learning Center and English teachers. All what was missing was a bathroom for the children and the staff as well as a playground on the outdoor area.

That´s why we started a fundraising project in September 2014. Sokoeurn Touch, Head of Learning Center in Takeo, got offers and we took care of the needed money. Soon we contacted friends, family members and colleagues and organized a Yoga fundraising event. This way, we were able to collect 3,520 EUR.

The learning center staff with the new sport equipment in Takeo
The learning center staff with the new sport equipment
In May, the wish of the learning center staff and the children became true: in only ten days the fundament for a bathroom building was built followed by the erection of the walls and the roof, the installation of the facilities, tiling and painting. Children and staff members now have bathroom facilities with two bathrooms: one for boys and one for girls. The Head of Learning Center said it was the most beautiful bathroom in town – and it has a real roof! When we visited the learning center in May, we could see it all with our own eyes.

The collected sum was not sufficient to construct the planned playground with the lot owner thwarting our plans by withdrawing the approval for the construction of the playground. However, we didn´t let ourselves be swayed and started to plan a mobile playground. We quickly bought hoops, street chalk, footballs and badminton rackets.

Setting up the table tennis table
Setting up the table tennis table
Thanks to Country Manager Sokhan Khut even a brand-new table tennis table with accessories found its way to the learning center. What a joy to look into eyes beaming with happiness when we had unwrapped all the packages! The children would have loved to try the new toys all at once. Even the staff members now have a lot of fun having little table tennis matches. To complete the plan, a soccer ground is to be constructed in the near future.

Together we have accomplished great things. We say THANK YOU SO MUCH to all the donators…from the bottom of our heart. Without you this wouldn´t have been possible! It is so easy to make a difference…also on the other side of the world.
THANK YOU!

Interview with Sanith Kong, Community Hero in Siem Reap

Sanith is Community Hero in Siem Reap
Sanith is Community Hero in Siem Reap

Sanith Kong is Community Hero in our Learning Center in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After its re-opening in May, Sanith will manage the center and extend its portfolio: she will not only offer English and IT courses but also organize offerings for tourists to give them the possibility to experience a “real” Cambodia.

Sanith, who are you? What is your personal background?
I am Kong Sanith. I was born in Phnom Penh and currently live in Slorkram Commune, Siem Reap Province. I got married in 2009 and now have two daughters. I have graduated with a bachelor degree from IFL in the field of English Language and English Language Teaching in 2009. I used to be an English Teacher at Hello American School from 2008 to 2009, and was an English Instructor at Pannasastra University of Cambodia in 2009. At Cambodian Mekong University I have been a lecturer from 2011 to 2014. Besides these experiences, I also have worked as a secretary for a general manager.

Why did you apply for the position of the Community Hero / Head of Learning Center?
I wanted to work with an NGO or enterprise that can help the Cambodian society, especially children in getting a better education. BOODBRIDGE is a social enterprises that can help me to improve my knowledge and experiences. In addition, it gives me the chance to enhance the educational situation in Siem Reap, even though it is just a small part. I really love BOOKBRIDGE’s vision that focuses on providing worldwide educational equality which is irrespective of religious, ethnic, economic, or geographical consideration. I hope that I can develop myself as a responsible leader and make my learning center a sustainable social business.

Always crowded and filled with life: the newly opened BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap
Always crowded and filled with life: the newly opened BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap

What is special about your Learning Center? What are your plans for the next months?
My learning center is located in the 10 January 1979 High School in Siem Reap. This means that most of the visitors are students. The center has a good learning environment. The students are friendly and helpful, especially children attending the school-based scout groups. They usually help us with organizing books and cleaning. Also, the school director supports us very well. That’s one of the reasons why we have celebrated the successful opening of the learning center. An important part of it were the participants of our 2nd General Management Plus Program that developed the business model for the learning center. I am really proud to work with them and the BOOKBRIDGE team. They are very active and it’s a pleasure to work with them!

I will start to offer English courses this October. Besides I will organize a tourist program and Khmer as a second language courses for foreigners working in Siem Reap. I will try my best to make these programs work!

A real surprise after 2 years

Marco used to take home Lee on his bike
Marco used to take home Lee on his bike
Susann and Marco Wensch helped in 2013 to bring our learning center in Takeo, Cambodia to life. Since then, their commitment for “their” center hasn´t ceased. This May, they revisited Takeo.

On an average Tuesday in May pretending a skype call we rode our bikes to the learning center in Takeo with a smile on our faces. It has been two years that we moved to Takeo for five months to fill the learning center with life.

Susann with students in the library of the learning center
Susann with students in the library of the learning center
We looked into suprised faces, shed tears of joy and it was like we had never been gone. Still, we felt the progress, the development the center had made. It is sooooo beautiful to see what Sokoeurn and his team have achieved and continue to achieve. Two years ago, there were three half-full English courses. Now we saw four stuffed classrooms everyday from 4pm to 7pm. There are many new students visiting the learning center and many known faces that still come to the library and attend activities. Whereas two years ago we managed to talk to many younger students being facilitated by a third person, we now could talk in English to them. Teachers asked us to visit their English courses and give them recommendations how to improve them. They were immediately implemented in the courses.

Children during a drawing workshop offered by Susann and Marco
Children during a drawing workshop offered by Susann and Marco
We were lucky to meet Vannak Pen in Takeo, Head of Learning Center in Tonloab, to visit the learning center in Angtasom and to see again Sreydieb, Head of Learning Center of the first Mobile Learning Center.

Alltogether it was a great time. Thhough it was short it was very intensive. We left with a good feeling…one week later – on our bikes, a smile on our faces and some tears of joy.

Thank you all for this wonderful time. In our hearts we are connected to you – forever. Whenever you need help we will try our best to support you. You rock!

Improving Teaching Methodologies in Tonloab

Ruby and Alex explore the local cuisine
Ruby and Alex share a delicious meal with teacher Mom

Ruby and Alex from Belgium work as BOOKBRIDGE Fellows at our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia. In this article they describe their impressions of the learning center.

During our first two weeks at Bookbridge Learning Center Tonloab, we have been engaging in a diverse number of activities. What follows should give you an idea of what life as a BOOKBRIDGE fellow can be like!

One of our goals is to improve the quality of the English classes. In particular, the teachers told us that they have difficulties to motivate the children to speak English in class. The students are afraid to make mistakes in front of their friends. In fact, not showing loss of face is a common part of Cambodian culture. We actually noticed that also the teachers needed some time before they felt comfortable speaking in English with us.

Alex with younger students in Tonloab
Alex reads to the children in the class

It’s important to become familiar with the teachers, their teaching methods and – most important of all – the students and their knowledge of English. We’ve been observing and teaching English classes for students with different proficiency levels. The first time we enter a class, children are usually both very excited and quiet at the same time. Later on, the most brave students raise their hand and voluntarily speak in front of the class. By now, we see most students become more and more active.

During these first classes we already learned that the students’ knowledge of the English vocabulary and grammar is decent, while their greatest challenge lies in listening and speaking. The children are used to listening to teachers with a Khmer accent (who are aware of this) and don’t always understand our ‘native’ English. As opposed to children in our home country – Belgium – who hear English songs all day and watch American movies with subtitles, Cambodian children don’t hear native English speakers often. That is why we will focus mostly on listening and speaking skills in class and are looking for tools to help the teachers in this area.

Alex during an English class in Tonloab
Alex during an English class

Teaching currently still happens in a relatively traditional way. Teachers go through the chapters of their handbook, explain the course content to the students, subsequently let them repeat words or phrases out loud several times, and ask students to make exercises during class sessions or at home.

We are testing a number of changes in teaching methodology that may lead to more active and more engaged students:

  • Introduction of a demonstration phase at the beginning of the class session to indicate how the course content is relevant to the students in a broader context (e.g. we do a dialogue, show a movie or a picture, etc.).
  • Introduction of a discovery phase where students are invited to talk about what was demonstrated through questions and answers, and in this way “discover” the course content.
  • Introduction of a speaking exercise in pairs in every session, to maximize speaking time of students. Before, students didn’t practice in pairs but only when together repeating the teacher or when going in front of the class room one by one to do a speaking exercise.

We are working with the teachers to test and validate these ideas. Certain ideas work, others don’t. We are focused on those initiatives that can have a lasting impact also after the end of our fellowship at BOOKBRIDGE. Although teachers have limited time available, they have decided to hold a weekly teacher meeting to discuss potential improvements. Moreover, they have accepted our invitation to give them three computer classes every week of half an hour each.

Ruby sings with children in the library
Music session with Ruby

Speaking of computer classes, a big advantage of the learning center in Tonloab is the IT room with 13 laptops available for the children. We believe it is a big opportunity for these children to learn how to work with computers, learn to type, search for information on the internet, use educational tools, etc. However, although some students are learning how to work with Word, Excel, Photoshop and Moviemaker, most students prefer to watch YouTube or surf Facebook, which does not meet the educational objectives of the learning center very well. The last week we have been testing various English learning resources with the children: English learning videos, English learning games, vocabulary memorization websites, etc. It may seem obvious that these are great opportunities for learning in a fun way, but when students already study twelve hours a day, it is not illogical that they only want to watch Youtube videos when they are spending half an hour of free time in the IT room. We are working on ways to combine the best of both worlds.

Several bags of trash were collected during the clean-up of the playground
The results of the playground clean-up

Besides these ongoing projects, we have participated in some other activities in and around the learning center:

  • During the morning break from 8:30 till 9AM we often play ball games outside in front of the library with the most active children. This way, life in the library is more quiet.
  • We are helping Mom to reorganize the library and to encourage children not to run, shout or throw books. We are also organizing a separate shelf for teachers where they can easily find interesting books to use during class.
  • Together with Vannak, we organized a big clean-up of the playground, which was covered with rubbish. We made a short movie about this clean-up.
  • Ruby organizes a singing workshop three times a week from 10h00 until 10h30 during the break of the public school.
  • Alex has put the laptops in the IT room back in their original state and has created a web portal for the learning center where children find all the useful online resources for them.
  • We’ve visited the local market with some older students so they could introduce us to delicious local food.
  • Vannak has invited us to his homeland to stay with his family for a couple of days, showing us around the more rural areas and ending up with us at a regional scouts event.
  • In order to learn about Cambodian culture and bond with the people we’re working with, we have been sharing lunch or dinner with several of the teachers at the learning center.
Vannak took Ruby and Alex to a trip across his home region
Vannak showed Ruby and Alex around at his homeland

We have not been bored during our first weeks at the learning center. Hopefully this leads to positive impact as perceived by the local children and teachers. As for our own well-being, we are delighted to be among a very nice group of people in a professionally run learning center!

Sanith is making her way

Sanith plays an educational game with her students in Siem Reap
Sanith plays an educational game with her students

Sanith Kong is Head of Learning Center in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After joining BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia some months ago with the re-opening of Siem Reap learning center, she is hard-working and determined doing her best to give birth to the center. And she is obviously making progress. Sanith connects all the dots and puts together the pieces to get the whole picture: a learning center serving the community of Siem Reap.

Yes, books are right on the shelves. The versatile library is getting lively as students regularly come to read books and make use of the library facilities. Quite a number of free activities have already been designed and are being executed, and of course students are enthusiastically engaging in all the activities. Key rules for the library are laid down and posted on the walls where students can see them making it easier for them to stick to them.

Watching an English movie with students in Siem Reap
Watching an English movie with students

The library remains clean, neat and tidy. Every time the students come to the library, they already feel at home, and they seem to be very happy, comfortable, and safe. They have fun, learn new things and socialize with their peers. It feels really good to see these young kids smiling and acting politely and responsibly.

Preparations to open the first English classes in early October is well underway. Sanith is preparing the English curriculum and she is apparently half way through. She is done with the job advertisements for the English teachers posting them at several local universities. She is revisiting, redesigning and improving the marketing survey and plans to finish it soon. She is striving to optimize the learning center to the best of her ability, and the learning center is really moving forward despite challenges. Sanith is loved and respected by everyone coming to the library. Sanith remains quite independent, open-minded and optimistic, and she is making efforts to maximize her work efficiency and productivity. Ideas from others are turned into reality in order to bring the center forward. Great job, Sanith! Keep up the good work! We are proud of you!

What makes BOOKBRIDGE so successful

The workshop presented the idea of a community learning center
The workshop presented the idea of a community learning center

Robert Erdin, BOOKBRIDGE Fellow at our Mobile Learning Center in Takeo province, and Sokhan Khut, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Cambodia, participated in a workshop about community learning centers in Phnom Penh. As Robert says, besides presenting many interesting facts, the workshop also revealed why BOOKBRIDGE’s model is so successful.

On Tuesday June 16, Sokhan and I attended the National Collaborative Community Learning Centre Workshop in Phnom Penh, organised by ACTED. The general idea of a community learning center (CLC) deviates slightly from BOOKBRIDGE’s learning centers. According to UNICEF it is “a local educational institution, usually set up and managed by local people to provide various learning opportunities with the support of the government, NGOs, and private sectors. Literacy, post-literacy, income generation, life skill programmes and basic education are provided at CLCs.”

Robert during the workshop
Robert during the workshop

The aim of the project is to come up with a holistic model on how to set up and run a CLC which is replicable on a national scale in Cambodia. The model will be based on observations of CLCs in practice as well as on the results of three national workshops. Different stakeholders to such a model were present: commune chiefs, NGOs setting up or running CLCs, district and provincial authorities, publishers of content relevant to the curriculum and a social enterprise developing and selling games to foster literacy.

In practice, the two largest obstacles to CLCs seem to be the transition from an NGO setup or run learning center to a community run learning center as well as how to access the national operational budget. Each commune that wishes to run a CLC is eligible to get USD 3,000 annually, to cover operational costs of a CLC. Apparently it is virtually impossible to access this budget. And even if a commune fights to cut all the red tape, only a fraction of the money actually makes it to the CLC in the end. The fraction of the money that makes it to the CLC does not come in on a regular basis which makes teachers often leave the CLC because they are not paid.

Sokhan Khut (right), BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Cambodia
Sokhan Khut (right), BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Cambodia

These rather gloomy perspectives highlight the strengths of BOOKBRIDGE learning centers. First of all, no transition is needed because the centers are at the heart of our business model and run by a member of the local community from day one. Our learning centers are financially self-sustained and therefore not dependent on an unreliable national budget. In the transition to self-sustainability the initial investment provides liquidity to pay salaries on time to keep the fluctuation of teachers low to ensure the consistency the pupils need in their development.

Communes or NGOs running CLCs or intending to do so can learn from us how alternative revenue streams can be used to mitigate consequences of the fluctuating budget from the government and still provide free services to the community. BOOKBRIDGE can in turn try to benefit from existing curriculum and relevant content for both, English and life-skills courses that is available from the government and NGOs. If we manage to teach life-skills in our English courses we could vastly improve our impact on the communities we are active in. I hope that the curriculum resulting from these workshops is a good starting point to try.

 

Alex and Ruby to Create Impact in Tonloab

Vannak discusses with Ruby, Alex and Ra expectations and goals.
Vannak discusses with Ruby, Alex and Ra expectations and goals.

As the first fellows for our learning center in Tonloab, Cambodia, Ruby and Alex from Belgium will support the learning center in the next months. Their goal is to make a difference and create considerable change. And it seems that they are having a good start!

Excited about their new once-in-a-lifetime experience in an unfamiliar and challenging yet enabling environment in rural Cambodia, Alex and Ruby from Belgium arrived in Cambodia on 4th June. With the assistance from Yourngchantreara “Ra” Sao, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager Assistant for Cambodia currently being in charge of the BOOKBRIGDGE Fellowship Program, they travelled right away to Tonloab BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center where they met Vannak Pen, the Head of Learning Center. They were also welcomed by the teachers and enthusiastic students. After that, they had a tour around the center and town to get to know locals, the region and its infrastructure. Knowing where facilities, shops, markets and hospitals are and how routine activities work makes it easier to integrate into the community.

Ruby presents her expectations and goals for the coming three months of her fellowship.
Ruby presents her expectations and goals for the coming three months of her fellowship.

On the morning on June 5, Ruby and Alex together with Vannak Pen and the staff members of the learning center had the opportunity to attend an expectation workshop conducted and facilitated by Ra. In the workshop they discussed in-depth the learning center’s progress to date and its gaps and needs. They also explored possible ways to fill the remaining gaps and to meet the identified needs in light of the fellows’ knowledge, skills, experiences and aspirations. The fellows had a chance to set their expectations, goals, and next steps for the following weeks. However, their goals and action plan have yet to be finalized.

In the afternoon, Ruby and Alex got to know community life in rural Cambodia: Khmer cultural and religious sensitivities, norms, and traditions as well as social expectations and basic laws and everything else important to live with their new community. The fellows were very much captivated by the facts unusual to them; they asked really good questions, and received comprehensive and informative answers. They now have a clear picture of their future daily life in the community and how not to get in conflict with community norms. They also received sources for further information on Cambodia’s development context and issues.

In the evening, Ruby and Alex together with Ra attended some of the English and IT classes of the learning center to get a first impression about the educational offerings. They now have received a lot of input and insights and got motivated for their tasks. We are looking forward to working with them and hope that they will achieve real impact in Tonloab!

Memorandum of Understanding signed with Cambodia Scouts

The president of Cambodia Scouts (left) and Abdullah Rasheed, President of BOOKBRIDGE Foundation (right) confirmed the renewed cooperation. Second from right: Sokhan Khut, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Cambodia.
The president of Cambodia Scouts (left) and Abdullah Rasheed, President of BOOKBRIDGE Foundation (right) confirmed the renewed cooperation. Second from right: Sokhan Khut, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Cambodia.

A good thing happened on May 22: a ceremony for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Cambodia Scouts and BOOKBRIDGE Foundation. The MoU marks another significant strategic milestone for us as it puts our year-long partnership on a solid ground.

In Cambodia, BOOKBRIDGE has been working for years with the Cambodia Scouts. The National Association of Cambodian Scouts has been our partner in identifying the right locations for our learning centers in Cambodia and setting them up. Since the opening of our first learning centers in Takeo and Siem Reap in 2011, hundreds of Cambodian scouts have helped the idea of BOOKBRIDGE come to life.

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding between Cambodia Scouts and BOOKBRIDGE
Signing the MoU

Four years later, we renewed our partnership by the official signing of a Memorandum of Understand. The ceremony took place at the Cambodia Scouts’ office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. It was signed by the Chief Commissioner of Cambodia Scouts and the President of BOOKBRIDGE Foundation and confirms the strategic partnership for the future. The ceremony was attended by scout leaders, several key members of Cambodia Scouts, and the BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia team.

The renewed Memorandum is a big success as the participants clearly expressed their will to collaborate in a meaningful manner. The day ended with a friendship dinner everybody enjoyed. We look forward to continuing our good partnership with Cambodia Scouts!

Cambodia Scouts and BOOKBRIDGE renewed their cooperation with a Memorandum of Understanding
Cambodia Scouts and BOOKBRIDGE renewed their cooperation with a Memorandum of Understanding

GMP2 Made a Real Difference in Siem Reap

Many students from the near-by highschool use the learning center as a place to learn and read
Many students from the near-by highschool use the learning center as a place to learn and read

In May, a motivated team of managers re-structured and reopened our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia. They took part in the General Management Plus Program which we organize together with WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Economics. What has the General Management Plus Program achieved in Siem Reap, you may be asking? To put it short: the program made a real difference in Siem Reap’s capital that is closely located to the world-famous Angkor Wat region. Mission accomplished! By Yourngchantreara Sao, Country Manager Assistant of BOOKBRIDGE in Cambodia.

During the 4th module of the program which lasted from May 9 to 16, team did their best to implement on the ground their well-thought and concrete business plan: a unique, yet pragmatic model for a social business for BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap. According to the business plan the currently existing library is to turn to an attractive and sustainable learning center offering a platform for people to share experiences, explore new ideas and empower themselves.

The GMP2 team during one of the many workshops before the opening of learning center Siem Reap
The GMP2 team during one of the many workshops before the opening

The learning center will be not only accessible to 4,000 highschool students but also to small business owners and tourists who visit the near-by Angkor Wat temples. Tourists will have the possibility to discover an authentic Cambodia together with students. Small business owners can attend English classes to develop their companies and competences.

The (re)opening ceremony of the learning center
The (re)opening ceremony of the learning center

One of the big accomplishments of the team during those days was the organization of the official reopening ceremony of the learning center. The celebration took place on May 12 in the local highschool where the learning center is currently located. The ceremony was officially recognized by the Siem Reap Provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sports and the partner state school alike. It was well attended by all key actors and stakeholders, particularly the Secretary General of Cambodia Scouts, Director of Siem Reap Provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sports, school principal, and the teams of the General Management Plus Program and BOOKBRIDGE Cambodia.

The learning center is poised to offer high impact programs such as English courses, tourist school day trips and more to local students, community members and tourists alike. A big thank-you goes to the team for making all this happen! Now, we all can safely proceed and continue our efforts to make a this chance reality. It remains to be seen how far and fast we can progress but we choose to be optimistic about the future of the learning center given our great team and their incredible hard work and contributions!

Always crowded and filled with life: the newly opened BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap
Always crowded and filled with life: the newly opened BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap

Three Months, Mongolia and Me

Battuul, Munguu and Verena at Open English Speaking Day in March
Battuul, Munguu and Verena at the Open English Speaking Day in March

Verena Zelger is BOOKBRIDGE Fellow at our learning center in Dalanzadgad, a city in Southern Mongolia. Verena has arrived three months ago in Mongolia to support the learning center with organizing its educational offers. In this article she writes about her impressions.

If I reflect the last three months I realize how much I have experienced here. I have got to know a completely new culture and learnt new ways of living and thinking. I have created many new programs in the Global Passport Learning Center in Dalanzadgad: Language and conversation classes, dancing classes, different cooperation projects with the Culture and Education Department of the Province Umnigobi and the Life Long Learning Center. In addition I have created a finance plan and progressed the business strategy of the Global Passport learning center which is not supported by state organizations. The many different projects make every day’s work interesting and varying. The cooperation projects give me a big insight in Mongolia’s education system since I am in contact with many teachers and students of all 19 schools in the province.

Verena with students at Open English Speaking Day at the learning center
Verena with students at Open English Speaking Day at the learning center

After a few weeks I already feel some kind of routine in my work and free time and I want to reflect about my Mongolian life’s highlights. Shortly after arriving I have already experienced a very important Mongolian cultural highlight: the Tsagaan Sar. On the one hand it was an amazing experience, on the other hand it was not an easy start in a province town during these days because most of the families celebrate this event inside their homes. That means, I was mostly alone these first three days. Battuul, the head of the Global Passport Learning Center invited me to celebrate parts of the event with her family which was very exciting. I was really happy that I read a lot about and had an introduction in Mongolian culture and manners before I came to Dalanzadgad. I made some mistakes anyway but that was accepted with a big smile since I am not Mongolian 🙂

Verena spent Tsagaan Sar at Battuul's parents-in-law
Verena spent Tsagaan Sar at Battuul’s parents-in-law

Although I could participate at many cultural and educational events I have the strong feeling that my personal highlights are hidden behind smaller and daily occasions: My students can suddenly understand what I say. Or I can recognize some Mongolian words. I accidently meet people around which I have already spoken to. I am invited to a dinner and it becomes an I-feel-100%-comfortable-evening which let me go home with a huge smile on my lips. Some children which I have never seen before say hello to me and tell me their names, ask me about myself. A friend is taking me to the mountains and let me watch her husband getting some healing water from a spring. A young woman tells me how much she likes to be my student. I walk through the streets and realize that I don’t feel like a stranger anymore. I am not overseen at the supermarket counter anymore. I have serious friendships. I enjoy yoga time with my friends twic