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Say Chenda – English Teacher & Librarian at KVLC

I have worked with PLF for around 10 years already. I was working as a Khmer teacher at Knar village school when I met Lori and Ponheary. They saw me and thought ‘great, a good strong woman’, and asked me “Oh Chenda, would you like to teach English?”. I was scared because my knowledge was not so good but they gave me the opportunity to study at ACE [English language school] in Siem Reap so I practiced and practiced and then became an English teacher. And then when they opened this Knar Village learning center I moved here too. My role as librarian really started 4 years ago.

At first I was also scared to take on the librarian role as it was new for me but they encouraged me to ‘just try!’ and supported me with lots of training and visits to other libraries … now I’m really glad I run the library! It was so good for me because now my knowledge is even bigger and I know how to control the library, including a large book inventory which is getting bigger and bigger. 

For me one of the big successes is the Boys and Books program. I have been really focussing on encouraging and explaining to the boys how to read. I choose the book for the level that they are at, then they grow more confident. Also I find if they are in small groups, then they are happy and like to read together. I spend time with them and make it funny, to encourage them. And now we see that the boys are borrowing more and more books. They are happy and I am too! If the boys are reading more books, it helps them with school. It encourages their study and their interest about subjects, because it gives them new ideas. Now sometimes I even see the boys come really early in the morning, even before the door is open – “Teacher please open the door!” – that they want to read before classes start. 

Our monthly reading days also really help because the boys make a presentation in their group about what they are reading and share with their families who clap and support them. We play library games, like matching words with pictures, which are important for the students who cannot read so much because they still gain some knowledge, and feel good about themselves. The students and parents can play together. The parents cannot write but they have a lot of ideas that their children help to write, make the sticker and put on the poster so then the parents feel like they did it together, it makes the parents feel good too.

I really love my job, I am successful in the library and I have made it look so colourful and beautiful. I like to change the pictures and decorations every year to make it new for the students. I’m very happy when I come to work. 

I am also from Knar village. When I was a child it was so difficult to go to school. I didn’t have a bicycle and I used to walk 2 hours to get to primary school. Often the way was very flooded so it was really hard. Even when I went to secondary school I got an old bicycle and it broke often.  I went to high school in Siem Reap and I had to sleep there Monday to Saturday. I rode my bicycle to come back home on Saturday [20kms] to see my family and then back to SR on Sunday evening. Even though it was really difficult, I continued every day because I liked school so much. 

If people can’t go to school, they can’t understand about the world, they are closed inside a box. Like with the library at first I felt scared to do it, but by learning from outside experiences and from other people, I saw how to do it. 

Without school and learning, you cannot get a new idea, cannot get a new experience. So when I was younger I told myself “I will finish at high school”. I promised myself my life. “


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