Laos remain a country where a large part of the population works in agriculture (maily rice culture). For many rural villages its represents their only source of income. The people of these villages, which are mostly far away from the towns, live often in precarious situation. Very frequently they have a school (constructions are often made out of bamboo or rice straw). Sometimes the school doesn’t have any book. In fact very few books existing in Laos. Most of them are in English or Thai and do not correspond to the preocupations which are in link with Lao culture. Somme NGO are active in this field and try to fill this lack by various actions such as (edition of educational and playful books in lao language, use books for environmental and hygien awereness, rounting of books in the most remote villages.
Luang Prabang public library is a small structure which is supported by the Lao government and by some associations which aim at supporting education in promoting reading and at distributing books.
They intervene in various ways, such as developing activities in the premises of the library or as moving in the rural villges of the province.
When we entered this library, we met Chantha. She manages and coordinates the financial help, the various actions and the staff. The team is made of 6 persons (three are employed by the public collectivity, the three others come from two associations with which the library collaborate). They all are Lao people and thus know the country, the wheels of the educational system and the needs of the population.
1. Actions in the library itself
The library is situated in the center of the main street in Luang Prabang. Anybody can come there without paying. There are several rooms for reading which provide books for visitors and a computer room. People of all age attend the library but the visitors are mainly children and teenagers who come and spend some time here at midday, after school or during holidays. Tourists are welcome too. They can discuss with the children, thus improving their linguistic knowledge or just spending time playing with them.
In the summer time, many workshops and classes are organized: weaving, English and informatic, games, songs, story-telling…. As you notice, the small team is not workless.
2. Actions in the villages
When they are not in the library, the staff of the library go to villages where they bring books. But they do much more. They teach the children and teachers the way to use books, they play with the children and teach prevention for hygiene with books or game activities.
They also bring several products such as soap, tooth-brushes, school stationary, footballs…. The needs of the villages vary from one to another. Before going there and bringing anything, the team has a first contact with them in order to know what is needed. After that, they rounting the appropriated materiel.
But they do more. In fact, when they visit the villages, they often notice situations which can be brought by the library or the different associations they work with. It can be a help for medical care, such as hospitalization or medical devices helping people being more autonomous. They can also intervene of behalf of the village structure itself , bringing tools or material, thus helping villagers to earn their living, or looking after the children while their parents are working, and so on. Each visit to the villages is different and shows other needs. The organization of the library, and the efforts made by the colaborating associations succeed in bringing a targeted and efficient help because it is a direct help on the spot, without any intermediary.
It is for all of these reasons that ASAS has chosen to collaborate with the library and support its actions.