One year ago, we did a big step and opened two learning centers in Cambodia. These days, both centers celebrate their first anniversay. Sokhan Khut, Country Manager for Cambodia, looks back at the last 12 months.
After having opened eight learning centers in Mongolia, Bookbridge was asked to start working in Cambodia. After several talks with the Cambodian Ministery of Education, the Cambodian Scouts and other organizations, we signed a memorandum of understanding with them and then contracts with local partners in the two cities we would start to work: Siem Reap and Takeo.
After not only climatically hot weeks and countless hours of planning, organizing, making phone calls, meeting people, packing and shipping books and materials the learning centers finally opened their doors to the public on November 8 and November 16, 2011. In Takeo, the center was set up in cooperation with Takeo Provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sports. In Siem Reap, our partner was 10 January 1979 High School who provided us with the infrastructure.
After the opening, the center in Takeo was immediately overtaken by enthusiastic children who explored the more than 22,000 books, puzzles and games. Member numbers rose faster than we expected and it developped and improved during the following months thanks to four local workers and a project leader provided by the local partner as well as Kate O Marsh, a very committed Peace Corps volunteer. After two months it was clear that we had to enlarge the reading and playing space so a new area was created where children can enjoy reading and learning material in a fostering environment. Today, Takeo learning center has more than 800 member registered, has seen more than 3,000 visitors and offers one teaching activity/game in two weeks on average.
Siem Reap learning center was also reorganized after six months of operation as the number of visitors encreased. Activities were organized with the great support from the NGO About Asia School (who continuously provides us with short-time volunteers and organizing cinema events) and two local school employees. After six months we had to employ someone for Head of Library and luckily found Ratana Bunyou who is now responsible for the library. At Siem Reap learning center, there are 40 visitors and five children registering per day on average and two activities per week and one cinema event organized every month.
Concerning activities, both centers offered (educational) games like charades, memory, Hang Man, direction game, wording games, Alphabetic Bingo, quiz, Vocabulary Race, story telling, Stop the Bus, workshops on body and food, artwork/handcraft, word collection competitions. Aside from activities and games, both free and paid English courses have been offered at the learning center in Siem Reap. At the moment, there are two paid English courses and one free English course.
We are very happy about how the learning centers developped during the last 12 months. With over 13,000 books in English and Khmer offered and with a bunch of activities and courses going on both centers have successfully been integrated in the local communities. Right now, we try to increase activities and course offerings, especially in Takeo. Our local partners and volunteers from abroad help us a lot to achieve this goal. I very much appreciate their support during the last months and am very excited about how the centers will develop during the next year.