Mr Sophal – Fan of ISF’s Community Libraries

More than one year ago ISF launched its library project in our communities to encourage reading and literacy. ISF’s community and mobile libraries – where our librarians take a collection of books on their motorbike to hard to reach areas- are used by over 1,500 people each month. One of these users is 53-year-old Thes Sophal.

Mr Sophal and his family of four live in Domnak Thom village, where he works as a motorbike repairer. During the seventies, he was forced to drop out of school to become a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge. He’s always regretted missing out on his education and is now trying to catch up with the help of ISF’s libraries. Every week he comes to the library 3 or 4 times to read books. His favourite books are short stories, books on Khmer culture, and history and agricultural books. When he struggles with the content, he uses the library’s dictionary to help him understand discover difficult words. According to Mr Sophal “Khmer writing is very hard and complicated to understand, especially the meaning of words, luckily there is a dictionary in the library. It helps me to easily find the meaning of each difficult word.”

He adds “I also use the knowledge to educate my two daughters. I always encourage them to read the books at the library because I want them to get more general knowledge. I also think that some information might appear in their exam paper at school.” As he predicted, after his daughters started reading at the library their results in school have improved. Mr Sophal explained “my daughters are now in the top 10 of their class’ monthly ranking. Before they came in around number 20.”

When asked what a difference the library has made in his life, Mr Sophal smiled and said “to live in society you have to know about the content of society. Now I can have interesting conversations with others.” But he is doing more than just expanding his mind, Mr. Sophal has applied the techniques he learned from agricultural books to plant mushrooms in his village. He looks forward to harvesting them soon.

Mr Sophal’s example is making his extended family and neighbours more interested in the libraries and getting into the habit of reading. They are very happy to have an ISF library in their community.