What a great couple of days! This week, Writing Through held it’s second annual full workshop at Sala Bai, an important NGO which takes poor kids from all over the country and trains them for the hospitality industry here in Siem Reap — which means real jobs with good pay and a promising future for some of Cambodia’s poorest and least well educated. This workshop was led by Jeanne and targeted the Housekeeping Division of the school. These kids have the least English and very little opportunity to communicate with strangers. It would be easy for them to hide behind their jobs cleaning rooms, but the world demands more than that, and they desire more for themselves too. The week produced some truly wonderful work, which astonished the kids themselves more than anyone else. Friday night was the Big Event where they each walked up on stage and spoke and read to the audience in English.Sala Bai 3-16 slide It was a complete pleasure listening to their poems and stories, and the pride on their faces when they each received their copy of the magazine was captivating:Jeanne presenting mag 3-16
Thank you, Jeanne, for doing another stellar job. Look below to see how connected you all got to each other in only one short week!Jeanne & Sala Bai Group 3-16Then on Saturday morning, I went off to Wat Damnak, one of my very favourite places on earth, and read again to the kids in the local public school in the library run  by The Centre for Khmer Studies. I thought I had arrived early, but the room was already packed to overflowing with more than 30 third graders age 9- 10. CKS reading 3-16 I know I’ve talked about this before, but it is so easy to forget the pure pleasure of being read to. And nothing stirs on the desire for literacy and a love of books more than that. These kids rarely read for pleasure. They rarely have access to a library, and if they do, their parents often don’t understand the value of taking the time to take them there. And of course, many of these kids’ parents don’t read for pleasure themselves, if they read at all. So something as simple as my going to read to them for an hour on a Saturday morning is doing a lot to break that entrenched cycle of illiteracy.
The kids love it. They listen and laugh as I make a fool out of myself, acting out the book (the local librarian reads a translation which she creates herself each time). Then, the kids draw something from the book. The hour finishes with a drink and a treat of sticky rice and jack fruit. Guess which book I read this time:
CKS drawing
Next week I’ll be teaching at an NGO school new to Writing Through, but one which I have been negotiating with for a year. These things take a long time. But I’m really looking forward to it. It will be quite different, and I know I’ll have a lot to say about it.