“I believe that books can truly change children’s lives”

Bak, librarian at PSE for the past 15 years and Thoeun, 12, recount with emotion the impact reading has had on their lives. 

Bak Somborl, 61, has been part of the PSE family since 1999, almost since the beginning of its activities in Cambodia. He started as a teacher of traditional dance, until Papy (Christian des Pallières), founder of PSE, offered him the opportunity to run the library. 

"I remember the first time I entered the library: I immediately saw that there were not many books" Bak says. "There were so few that the students who came did not have even one book each! And that was not the only problem, the only books that were available were in French. It was a real problem for students because most of them could not understand French" he remembers. 

"I also remember the first time I came here" adds Thoeun, 12, student at the PSE remedial school. "I cannot read French so I didn't want to come back!"  

Over time, the library has filled up: novels, biographies, comic books, education books and children's books in Khmer, English and French for all ages are now available. 

"There are now so many books!" exclaims Thoeun, who is really impressed by all the changes in the library. Moreover, Bak and his assistant did everything they could to improve the place. "We did a complete reorganisation of the books and they are now organised by category. Children know exactly where to go when they are looking for specific books."

But there's more: for the last few months, children have been able to read, play and have fun with tablets. "It's what I prefer" says Thoeun with a large smile.  

Thanks to the changes in the library, children come here more often and like reading again. "Students really love to come here now. The library is a place where they can relax and unwind. They can come in groups, play, do activities or just read quietly" explains the librarian. Thoeun confirms. "I like to come to the library because I can be with my friends, but sometimes I like to come here alone, it's quiet and I can really be in my own world."

Bak organises activities in the library regularly; learning is essential for this enthusiastic man. "I often plan times for reading to the children. After I read a story, we take some time to discuss what they have understood and they can share their thoughts. I have noticed that their Khmer as well as their English is improving. It is thanks to reading! There has also been a change in their behaviour. When they read stories regularly about the respect of values and culture, they gain essential skills!" explains Bak. Thoeun laughs and says: "My family already told me that my behaviour changed and that I am a much quieter person now. I am sure it is thanks to the time I spend here!"

Bak concludes with a smile: "I am really happy to work in the library!" 

Improvements to the library were made possible thanks to the support from the Pistorio Foundation as well as our sponsors and donors.