End of March 2017, CAP9 Team North visited Cambodia to start up a Learning Center together with Team South, the local participants. We accomplished a lot, and knew we could do more and make our learning center fully operational as soon as our container with books for our library and IT-equipment for the computer classes would arrive. Two of us, Bo and Grazyna, decided to go back to Chreav, and complete our mission, in the name of CAP9.
Arriving in Cambodia mid-May 2017, we started off by Tuk-Tuk to our accommodations. Being here a second time all seemed familiar, the streets, the heat, the people, the atmosphere – it felt like coming home.
After leaving our luggage we were picked up by Ravy Vang, the director of Bookbridge Learning Center Salariin Kampuchea, and headed straightly to the Learning Center together with the last IT-equipment we brought with us. Well there an intense week started. 5 pallets of books, 3 pallets of IT-equipment, teachers, students and participants of Team South were all waiting for us. We started off by getting an overview of what had arrived in the boxes, checking the current IT network status and planning the work.
The library got a complete make-over: the books are now exposed through the entrance door, a playing/reading area for small children with soft mats on the floor is arranged and tables with chairs are available for larger children and adults. The director’s, and assistant director’s desks are moved so both have an overview of what is going on in the library. To fit all new 5,000 books, together with 3,000 already in place at the library, a new shelf was ordered and installed securely to the wall.
All new and old books are re-categorized and organized in the shelves according to the Bookbridge categorization system. We have fiction books for all ages, dictionaries, encyclopedias, information books on science, geography, history, health and animals, learning books, activity books, books of cooking and games and puzzles to play with.
We got a lot of help – many students were eager to help, stamping the books with the Bookbridge stamp, putting stickers on them so they can easily be categorized, reading the books and proof playing the games and puzzles we unpacked on our last day.
Meanwhile Bo and David were focusing on the IT network setup and finishing the installation of equipment in the IT class room. They made progress already day 1 when they added the new devices to the Wi-Fi network, making it more stable and giving it more range. Also the IT room was separated from the other Wi-Fi to not disturb the performance of the net during IT classes. To further improve the quality of the network we called support from the local IT company to replace the fiber optics devices and to bring in a new fast connection router. By help from the assistant director of our Learning Center, we managed to get their support already the same day, instead of end by the week as they first offered.
For the IT class room we assembled 15 computers from the equipment sent in the pallets and set them up, ready for computer class. Working with IT in Cambodia during beginning of the rainy season taught us the best way to avoid long-time power outages is to close the power down, in the whole area where the rain is falling. This was challenging to realize on Friday, the last day planned for working, where we still had work to do. Saturday was a break-through, the power was available just long enough for our fast IT-team to finalize their work.
On Thursday the network in the Siem Reap Learning Center was also equipped with new Wi-Fi devices to make the overall network more stable and faster. Nice fact: The Chreav Learning Center has now more speed for less money than the learning center in Siem Reap – and beyond also more speed than most of us have at home in our western European countries.
Our Learning Center is now fully operational and the directors and teachers in place run the classes, run the library and do marketing activities to attain new students. Parents from neighboring villages have started to send their children to this learning center, based on the word spreading. We see our work making an impact on children and adults in the community.
The day of our departure the local team arranged a lunch for all of us at the learning center, cooking traditional food and playing Cambodian music. It was a moment of relaxing, enjoying each other’s company and celebrating a successful week after many hours of hard work. It felt like having a meal with family and friends that you have known all your life. It is amazing how quickly you can feel at home in a new place. We were warmly greeted and treated, and invited to family events during our stay. We leave a library and an IT classroom in Cambodia, we take memories and friendships with us.
Bo & Grazyna, CAP9