„Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.“
The Reading Elephant Laos children’s mobile library emerged from a grassroots project founded by a group of young Laotians in Ban Houayxay, Bokeo province and is now officially registered as a non-profit “Private Reading Room” under the Law on Library of the Lao PDR.
From the very beginning, the group around Khamkeo Vongsavanh set itself the goal of promoting reading and access to literature among children and young people in their home province. Four team members work full-time, others on an hourly basis or as volunteers. Many of them have completed their training as primary school teachers in various subjects. Initial experience was gained in 2016 with events in village schools. From this, the concept of the book festival was developed, which has since constituted the on-site activities of the children’s mobile library. The extracurricular educational offer, including the concept of book festivals, was checked by the local school authority and rated as an enriching method for increasing the motivation to learn. The Department of Education and Sports in Houayxay District has approved the implementation of educational policy activities in primary schools in Houayxay District.
It is the aim of the children’s mobile library, starting from its reading room in the provincial capital, to increasingly bring story books to children around the city and in remote villages. The operation of a bookmobile in the catchment area has been gradually tested since 2019, and is to be set up on a regular basis from 2021.
- Khamkeo Vongsavanh (Keo)
is the founder and project manager of Reading Elephant Laos. He works full-time in the project. Khamkeo was born in the village of Numpouk, Bokeo province, where his father Bounthong was the director at the local primary school. This marked his early years of education and made him keenly aware of the need to promote reading and education in his country. During and after his studies in Luang Prabang, he gained a great deal of experience by working with the children’s book publisher Big Brother Mouse in how to organise and implement book festivals as well as about book design and book sales. Khamkeo has written several children’s books. Beside leading the library project he is the first book dealer in Bokeo province ever.
- Phaivanh Philainthavong (Touy)
is a permanent project member at Reading Elephant Laos. Born in a village in Luang Prabang province, Touy is responsible for the organisation of the library stock, the book lending and is actively involved in the preparation and implementation of the village book festivals. He trained as a Mathematics and English teacher and completed his degree in Basic English at the Visoun English Center. Phaivanh enjoys working with children and is a very talented motivator. He likes to read himself a lot and has a great gift for inspiring students to read. In our reading room he offers coaching lessons in Mathematics.
- Huk Malaisuk
Huk is a permanent project member at Reading Elephant Laos since February 2019. She was born and raised in the village of Phonxay, Xayaboury province. Huk studied at Luang Prabang Teacher Training College and graduated in 2015. She enjoys working with children very much. She joined our team to work with students in the reading room and as a librarian as well for attending travelers in our bookshop.
- Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
is a part time project assistant for Reading Elephant Laos. He comes from the village of Nontae in the province of Vientiane, and completed a teaching degree at the English Department at the National University of Laos. Currently a journalist, Patithin lives in Vientiane. He works on a fee basis in the planning and evaluation of project activities, maintains contacts with partners and supporters, and represents Reading Elephant Laos at official events in the capital. During his stays in Bokeo, he supports the team in the reading room, or as an educator at the book festivals.
- Yim Sang Pha Sert (Yim)
Yim is a part time student employee at Reading Elephant Laos. Yim was born and raised in Hom Souk, Pha Oudom district, Bokeo province where he also finished the primary school. Afterwards he visited the higher secondary school in Ponglad village. Today he is studying at Thonysaba College in Ban Houayxay. Yim is keen to improve his English and is about to graduate from college. After that, he would like to work on the project full-time. Yim organises the tours with our e-book mobile to the primary schools in the city zone of Ban Houayxay and runs many of them himself.
- Pooja Shah
is a volunteer project member at Reading Elephant Laos since January 2021. She is a British born Indian and came from a background in Fashion Marketing. Pooja’s love of yoga set her off on a quest to the East to delve deeper into her search into spirituality and through this journey alongside the national crisis of corona, she found herself working as an English teacher in Huayxay and in her spare time, being involved passionately with our project. Pooja is incredibly dedicated to using her time in Bokeo alongside her international network and resources, to make a profound difference through teaching, fundraising and books!
- Bounthong Vongsavanh
was a senior consultant at Reading Elephant Laos. Bounthong sadly died on May 27 in the age of 61. Like his son Khamkeo, he came from the village of Ban Numpouk in Bokeo and grew up there. During his childhood years there were no kindergartens or pre-schools in Laos. He finished secondary school in 1977 and got the chance to continue his studies at secondary level II. Teachers at his school greatly encouraged Bounthong and he ultimately decided to become a teacher himself. He graduated from the Teacher Training College in Luang Namtha and subsequently returned to his home village Ban Numpouk as school principle. – The team of Reading Elephant Laos will miss him, his advice and his warmth forever.
Reading Elephant Laos, as a non-profit Children’s Mobile Library with the support of the German association Books for Laos e. V., is involved in promoting reading as an exercise of the right to education by children in Laos. In doing so, we are guided by Goal No. 4 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ensure inclusive, equitable and high-quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. We are also committed to the United Nations human rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to this, a child is any person “who has not yet reached the age of eighteen”.
Children are our target group and thus recipients of the impacts of development work. Our Child Protection Policy contains principles and rules for individual and institutional behavior. As part of cooperation with our partners, we jointly commit ourselves to respecting and implementing these principles.
Children are at risk in many countries around the world. In Laos they make up the majority of the population. Poverty or unstable government structures increase the risk of disadvantage and discrimination and limit their ability to enjoy basic rights. We advocate strengthening children’s rights, ensuring their participation and protecting them from possible dangers.
We and our project partners pledge:
- to value all children and respect their dignity and rights,
- to never carry out actions that endanger the best interests of the child or lead to mistreatment and sexual abuse
- to support girls and boys in their healthy physical and psychological development,
- to actively contribute to building and maintaining a safe environment for children according to respective possibilities and responsibilities,
- to take the opinions and concerns of children seriously and promote them as persons, treating all children with respect,
- to be mindful of closeness and distance and respect children’s privacy and personal boundaries of modesty,
- to follow the “two-adult rule” if possible, i.e. ensure that another adult is present when one-on-one discussions are being held or when children are present at events or project visits,
- to take into account cultural circumstances when in contact with children,
- to ensure within the scope of our print media, educational and public relations work that the dignity of children is always preserved,
- to deal carefully with positions of trust or authority,
- to take immediate measures to protect children if boundaries are crossed
- to inform the responsible contact person immediately in the event of a justified suspicion that a child is at risk,
- to sensitize other people in the children’s environment to this issue,
- to take an active stand against racist, discriminatory, violent and sexist behavior, whether in word or deed.
ATTENTION! Due to the coronavirus lockdown, no travel and therefore no volunteer work on the project is currently possible.
English conversation with Lao students (walk-in volunteering)
Young people in Laos do not have many opportunities to improve their English language skills through travel or exchange studies. Most of them have learned English from Lao teachers, who themselves have little experience of conversation or pronunciation. Lao students are eager to learn and improve their skills. Travelers can engage in light conversation daily with young Lao students in the reading room. The English chat starts daily at 5pm (except on Saturdays and Sundays).
Voluntary work by foreign visitors
First of all: Reading Elephant Laos is not looking for free employees! The project team offers dedicated and motivated people the opportunity to spend more time with the project to learn more about the lives of young people and the educational situation. In particular, they can help students improve their English language skills through direct conversation, educational games or simple lessons, and support the work of our mobile children’s library. Sometimes there is the opportunity to accompany the team at book festivals in remote village primary schools. At the same time, they can inform other visitors about the project if necessary. So volunteering is a form of enrichment for both sides.
A stay of at least one week is possible, optimally two to four weeks, possibly longer. If you are interested, you can mail your CV and a short letter outlining your motivation and ideas to the team. Even better is to ask spontaneously on site, where you can better assess, in person and after conversation with Lao students, whether we match each other’s needs. A guarantee for a certain length of stay can basically not be given. Stays are possible all year round. The library is open from Monday to Saturday from 8.30am to 7pm. Accommodation is possible in a nearby hostel or in our guest room. Details on request.
Books for Laos e. V. is a non-profit, non-religious, and politically independent association recognised as a non-profit organisation in Germany. Its stated objective is primarily to support Reading Elephant Laos in providing underprivileged children and adolescents in remote rural districts of Laos with access to books, and thereby with enduring access to educational resources in order to increase their literacy and learning skills. Books for Laos e. V. is not active in Laos, but rather supports Reading Elephant Laos in its efforts by means of donations and counsel. Books for Laos e. V. is the editor of this website.
We would like to thank all recurring and first-time donors – especially Books for Laos e. V. – who have supported us financially from the beginning until today.
We thank the Stiftung Nord-Süd-Brücken from Germany, which in 2018 made it possible through their donations to open and operate the reading room in Ban Houayxay, purchase books and hold twelve book festivals in remote village schools.
From 2019 to 2020 the Georg Kraus Stiftung from Germany has supported us in the project phase “Planning and trial operation for the use of a bookmobile for children in Laos”. In particular, this made it possible to jointly finance the purchase of a first used pickup and a small electric vehicle to use as bookmobiles for the test phase of operation in the district area.
Thanks are also due to the German Embassy in Vientiane, which has committed to Reading Elephant Laos from its micro-project fund to finance additional story and textbooks for the mobile library as well as installations to expand the offerings in the reading room and for the project organisation. The funds were solemnly handed over to the project team in October 2019 by Ambassador Jens Lütkenherm (second from the left), who personally visited our reading room in Ban Houayxay in May 2019.
From 2021, regular driving is to be set up to supply all 60 government-run primary schools in Houayxay District with two bookmobiles in two operational zones. We are very pleased that the Stiftung Nord-Süd-Brücken from Germany is once again supporting us financially together with our permanent partner Books for Laos e. V. as part of the project phase “Establishing of a scheduled operation with bookmobiles for children in northern Laos”.
Reading Elephant Laos
c/o Khamkeo Vongsavanh
Khunjing Road, Ban Moungkhounsin, Houayxay District, Bokeo Province, Lao P. D. R.
Tel: +856 (0) 20 59515550; Reading Room: +856 (0) 20 59667817
For any queries you may have concerning Reading Elephant Laos project, please contact us by email.