After more than 20 years working to fight illiteracy and develop public reading programs in Cambodia, a French non-profit charitable organisation hopes to spread its mission to prisons, hospitals and remote communities.
Soutien á L’Initiative Privée pour L’Aide á la Reconstruction (SIPAR) presented its past work and future plans with partners at an event held last weekend at the National Library to mark its 20th anniversary.
“It is very hard to develop schools and public reading in our country after enduring frequent battles or wars,” Im Sithy, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, said at the event.
“It is not a high-quality education if there is no library. Students have to strengthen their knowledge by reading many documents, not just textbooks with their teachers.”
SIPAR co-founder Bernadette Chaventhon also shared her enthusiasm for the program at the anniversary event, particularly relating to the mobile libraries SIPAR has set up.
“Imagine the pleasure of children when they discover hundreds of books that they can touch, because until now they have read only from a whiteboard without having held a book before,” Chaventon said.
She added that in its two-decade history, SIPAR had opened 230 libraries that had benefited more than 100,000 children.
SIPAR also wants to promote reading beyond primary schools.
“We are also focusing on reading for all by creating and developing libraries outside schools – for instance, in prisons, hospitals and communities – and also to train some officers there to be the librarians,” SIPAR director Hok Sithik said.