A very busy January

Over 50 students came for the movie event in Chansom Senmongkul
Over 50 students came for the movie event

Olivier Kaeser is BOOKBRIDGE fellow in Cambodia and writes regularly about his work at the learning center in Chansom Senmongkul. In this post, he describes what has happened all January long.

For almost everyone, the 1st of January is the day to cure a very bad hangover, to simply relax and enjoy the New Year’s Day with family and friends or to already break some of those unrealistic good intentions for the upcoming 365 days.

None of that was the case for me and my three Cambodian colleagues at the newly opened BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center in Ang Tasom. At 7.30 am we opened the doors for our very first “fully operational” day and welcomed kids to sign up for our kindergarten, English and IT courses.

To practice English skills we had prepared a list of questions about the movie
To practice English skills we had prepared a list of questions about the movie

The interest was simply amazing. Over 120 kids signed up within the first two days. We had to hire an additional part-time English teacher and are now offering 8 English courses at different levels. Furthermore, in the first two weeks of January, over 1200 registered visitors spent time at the library and used our computers.

Here some more figures to underline our overwhelmingly positive start:

  • Over 100 kids in our English classes
  • 14 kids in our IT classes with limited capacity since we only have 10 laptops
  • 35 kids in our kindergarten class

The high demand makes it very challenging to get organized appropriately and to maintain a high quality of English with the many kids in the classrooms. On the downside, we have been experiencing some thefts, but should be able to fix the issue by hiring a security guard.

Another highlight was the result of our Capability Team fundraiser to further improve our Learning Center. Over USD 7500 have been raised so far to improve our kindergarten with toys and beanbags and to build a nice playground for the kids. If I interpreted the comments right, some of the donations came from Swiss Re colleagues, which makes me proud and very grateful! Since it is not very easy to find the right material to build a high-quality playground here, this will be my biggest foreseeable challenge in February.

The students liked the film a lot as you can see
The students liked the film a lot as you can see

Beside my work here at the Learning Center, I also support BOOKBRIDGE in further improving the Capability Program. The next Capability Program starts in April. It’s a worthwhile and unique experience that gives you the possibility to further strengthen a lot of the competencies you need in your professional life. But furthermore, it really is an eye-opener and you can make a real difference here in Cambodia or in Mongolia.

In late January my parents came to visit and I was able to travel to Siem Reap to see the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center there. We also visited the Angkor Wat temples together with my BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager Sokhan. It truly was a unique experience and I really recommend visiting this beautiful and astonishing country for everyone who is interested in different cultures. Hopefully, I will be able to show you some pictures of the new playground in my next blog coming up at the end of February.

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