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By Arthur Nguyen Dao

Last week, we had the pleasure to have a group of members and donors from the international NGO Room to Read coming to experience our show Chills.

If you search for Room to Read on the internet, the first sentence you will see is: World Change Starts with Educated Children. What may instantaneously pop up to your mind will probably be Nelson Mandela’s famous “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Especially here in Cambodia, the action of organizations such as Room to Read or Phare have a special significance when one thinks about the dark days of the Cambodian late history.

Back in the 70’s, the Khmer Rouge sought a world change through ignorance and violence. If historical events have proven them wrong, many organizations continue to counter-argument the Pol Pot’s regime foundations. The fight for education in Cambodia is a daily reaffirmation, a constant reminder that – in the words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan – “literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and opens the way for democratic participation and active citizenship”.

So be it.

Room to Read is active in Cambodia since 2002 in the provinces of Odor Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom. So what have they done so far?
In twelve years of existence, Room to Read Cambodia built a school in each province of action. Their action in partnership with many other local NGOs includes three pillars.

First, with the Book Publishing Program they published approximately 120 books in Khmer, thus aiming at creating a “love for reading and learning” by providing for high-quality reading material.

But then where do children stimulate their love for reading? In a library of course! So Room to Read Cambodia established 1 400 libraries throughout the country. The idea is to give children a safe space to learn and get exposed to a variety of texts so that they become “independent readers, effective communicators and lifelong learners.”

Finally, more than 2 500 girls participate in their Girls’ Education program focusing on education at school and beyond, thus including not only academic mentoring, but also emotional support as well as life skills training. The idea is that educated women are healthier and wealthier but also that they are more likely to transmit their knowledge to their own children. Hence, it allows the organization to end the cycle of illiteracy of two generations by educating only one.

After the show, the Room to Read group was delighted by the great entertainment they had just enjoyed, especially because of the social mission Phare undertakes. As they were saying, the two organizations have taken the same path as regards to fighting poverty in Cambodia. If one took the trail of books and women, and the other the trail of arts education, social outreach and professional experience, both organizations are actually on the same road, as they were saying.

Phare and Room to Read have the same vision of the paramount value of children’s education: it cannot be taken lightly as the country’s future is at stake.
You want to see the result with your own eyes? Come to our Big Top, any day at 8:00PM in Siem Reap.