“Teaching Lao students have enabled me to learn and reflect on life. They have also taught me to be happy and grateful.”

John Ponce, Valenzuela City/The Philippines (Volunteer at Reading Elephant Laos in 2019)


Since the opening of our children’s library in 2017, people from many countries have visited us and helped to make our work more attractive for and with the children and young people. Some guests accompanied us to our book festivals in a village school, others did voluntary work with us for days, weeks or even months. Many of them became friends, continued to be supporters by collecting donations and telling others about our project in their countries. We remain in close contact with many of them. – Here you can read what experiences they have had with us.

  • ‘Reading Elephant’ is an excellent programme we have helped support with donations of books in Lao language since its beginning a few years back. It is a Lao-run programme financed partly from its bookshop in Bokeo and partly from contributions from Germany. When rural schools are not only geographically separated from each other and distant from town and have no funds to maintain in-school libraries, it provides a vital service. Could well be emulated elsewhere.”

    Dr Robert Cooper, Author and Bookseller in Vientiane, Laos (June, 2023)

  • “Since I am an art teacher, I got the opportunity to show children how to use watercolour boxes in a school and on Saturdays in the market place. The children were very enthusiastic, which immediately infected me. I was really happy when, despite the language barrier, it was possible to show the children different techniques, which they all immediately wanted to try out. Reading Elephant is a great project and I can warmly recommend everyone to visit it! Thanks to Keo and the whole team for the enriching experience!”

    Lena, Art Teacher from Nuremberg, Germany (March, 2023)

  • “Children? Me? No, never! I can’t do anything with children, nor can I handle them. – Thank God that didn’t stop the Lao children from taking me in, practising a bit of English with me and involving me in their games in the context of book festivals, without any fear of contact, and laughing with me at the top of their voices … and then suddenly it was there, the unbelievable, indescribable feeling of happiness. I want to support Laos, which I have been travelling to for years, and have therefore been donating to this optimally lean association “Books for Laos e. V.” for some time. In February 2023, I was on site in Ban Houayxay for the first time for three weeks. The “feeling of happiness”, coupled with the warm-hearted, unprejudiced reception by the great, highly committed team on site, turned the time into an emotional firework for me, as a pure head person, which I would definitely like to experience again as soon as possible.”

    Conny from Hamburg, Germany (Jan./Feb. 2023)

  • The experience at your place was very nice and very strong! All of you left us a great feeling and, thank to your job, many kids in Laos will have the possibility to have a good future. Thank you very much for what all of you gave us. We talked a lot about Reading Elephant during our stay in Laos and these words express the feeling of the group.”

    Edi and her RAM Viaggi travel group from Italy (Jan. 2023)

  • “We had the opportunity to meet girls and boys from the Reading Elephant mobile children’s library. We spent a whole day in their reading house,
    talked about books and reading, about how to pass on curiosity and passion, about how books can be an opportunity and hope, we talked about fantasy and illustrations. We took the opportunity to tell a book to a group of girls. In what language? – In the common language of emotion and fanaticism that inspires silence, with sounds and expressions that united us and made us feel like happy people and booksellers. We would have liked to stay here for hours and days.”

    Alisa & Allessandro, Bookseller from Florence, Italy (Jan., 2023)

  • “During my first ‘Book Festival’, I arrived and I won’t sugarcoat it, I secretly cried my eyes out. I saw children standing in line, ready to start class in torn, old, dirty clothing and many of them with no shoes. This broke my heart in many places. I felt so overprivelleged to have the option to eat delicious foods, wear beautiful clothes, travel to lovely places and it made me extremely sad. Of course I had to hide my meltdown as we were there to read these beautiful kids story books and teach them a little English. I could continue writing about how awfully saddening the initial experience was but you’ve given me your time and I want to spend it wisely.”

    Pooja, Assistant Merchandiser from London, UK (Feb. 2021)

  • “Accompanying the team to a school for a book festival day is an immense asset. You will probably learn more about the country and its people there than in 2 weeks. In addition, the children are very open and interested, which is an additional pleasure.”

    Karin, Theater Director from Berlin, Germany (Feb. 2020)

  • „It is great at anytime to visit Reading Elephant Laos. We, as RAM travel organization, often come across Houayxay or Laos. It’s beautiful to interact with children in the Reading Room, but also, when it is possible, to be part of a village excursion to see what you do around in the villages of the Bokeo province. Reading Elephant Laos is firmly on the map of our tours, that come from Thailand and then proceed down south to Luang Prabang by boat. We consider Reading Elephant Laos as one of our regular partners!”

    Renzo, RAM Viaggi Turismo Responsabile from Avegno, Italy (Oct. 2019)

  • “Two months experience as a volunteer with a dedicated and motivated team; my tasks varied between presenting the project for passing tourists, chatting and basic English lessons for students, trips to schools in neighboring villages and various other things … the work is concrete and useful! The welcome from the team, volunteers on site as well as students and teachers in the villages was always excellent! An enriching experience for me! I hope to return there soon to be able to help again.”

    Nicolas, Investment Advisor from Rennes, France (Sept.-Nov. 2019)

  • “I have started to become a volunteer of Reading Elephant since January 2019. This was the period when I conducted my intensive fieldwork in Bokeo Province, Northern Laos. Volunteering in this organization was really a wonderful experience. My experiences of teaching English to Buddhist monks and Lao students — both in Houaysai and other remote villages of the province — have enabled me not only to share my knowledge and pieces of my broken heart, but also to learn and reflect on life. Apart from learning new things about rural life in Laos, my Lao students have also taught me to be happy and grateful. Despite the experience of poverty, the young people with whom I taught always wore their best smile and showed their enthusiasm to learn. Even if we only shared little things with them, their hearts were always full of gratitude. The fulfilment of seeing the smiles of these young people and listening to their dreams for themselves and for their families cannot be bought by money nor any material wealth. Most importantly, being a volunteer at Reading Elephant has allowed me to meet my second home in Laos — the loving company of Holger, Aiy Keo, Siao Touy, Huk, and their families.”

    John Ponce (ຈອນ ປອນ), Social Anthropologist from Valenzuela City, The Philippines (Feb.-Sep. 2019)

  • “We visited Bokeo in February 2019, first in the beautiful shop and then to a book festival in a village school. We helped loading and distributing the books. The many children were very excited and curious and were happy to be able to read a book. The lunch break was unforgettable. The teachers caught fish for us in the nearby stream and grilled them over the fire – a delight with herbs and rice!”

    Helmut and Carsten from Lychen / Uckermark, Germany (Feb. 2019)

  • “After a 40 days of riding on my motorbike around in the beautiful nature of Laos, I reached this northern Thai-Laos border town. At Reading Elephant Laos’ reading room I saw that they were looking for volunteer conversation partners. So, I walked in and sat for a 2 hours with the kids, I told them about my much loved home country, Hungary and showed it to them on the globe, and we exchanged some words in our languages. We laughed and played by using the English exercise books, to practice the language. It was also nice to experience when the young monks came from the local monastery. They are also frequently visitors of the Reading Elephant reading room, to widthen their knowledge about the world, and if there are foreigners like I was, to practice their English. One of the guys also mentioned, that while he is following the rules of being a monk in his young age, he is looking forward to the end of this mandatory period to be able to travel and meet people from around the world like me.
    So, Reading Elephant Laos is much more than just a library with books and games for children. Many thanks to Keo and all the team for their enthusiasm, Laos is proud of you and as a child of a teacher parents, I can tell you that the main values in life are often hidden. Hidden, in the spirit of those children who you are helping with this initiative. Beautiful people!”

    Máté, Humanizer from Pákozd, Hungary (July 2018)

  • “I had the chance to join the book party activities of Reading Elephant Laos a few times which is usually in remote schools. I always feel happy to see the excited and enthusiastic eyes of these kids for the story books that Reading Elephant team brings for them to read. They search for the books they like and read with attention lay on the mats and tell their friends about the story. They always look happy to read the books and have fun activity with the Reading Elephant team. They look sad when we leave their schools. Their schools do not have library and no story books to read. They just dream that they can read story books more often.”

    Keoxomphou (ແກ້ວຊຸມພູ), Journalist from Vientiane, Laos (Jan. 2018)

  • “Since our first brainstorming session in 2016, I have been advising and supporting Khamkeo and the Reading Elephant Laos team in setting up the mobile children’s library in Bokeo as a fundraiser of Books for Laos association in Germany. Together with the great commitment of this highly motivated team, it was possible to create an extracurricular or school-accompanying educational offer for the promotion of reading, which is indispensable in the region and is recognised by the local population and the authorities. The greatest thanks and confirmation for all our efforts are always shining children’s eyes in the village primary schools, playing together, discovering stories, having fun with puppet shows and reading individually. All my visits on site, the participation and the further development of the project work are always enriching for me and worth every effort.”

    Holger, Consultant & Designer from Berlin, Germany (since Jan. 2016)