Project Sekong 2012: Three more schools receive Book Box Libraries. Each library contains 200 books in the Lao language.
Over the years donors to We Help War Victims have provided approximately sixty Lao villages with “Book Box” libraries. Each library contains 200 books, all in the Lao language, that students can read at school during the day and then take home on loan to share with friends and relatives. Since over 90% of Lao schools have no printed reading materials the libraries usually provide students with the first reading books that they’ve ever held in their hands.
Yesterday we participated in a ceremony in which libraries were presented to three schools here in Sekong Province. The head teacher for the schools organized a heartwarming event in which teachers from all three villages were on hand to receive the books and to express their appreciation.
After our truck pulled onto the school grounds to deliver the boxed libraries, all students were summoned from their classrooms and organized into orderly rows. Before the presentation ceremony began teachers policed each row making certain that shirttails were tucked, flies were buttoned, hair was combed. Clearly, teachers were suffering no slackers on such an important day. Only after the teachers were satisfied with the students’ appearance and deportment did the ceremony begin.
I made my usual speech, telling students that the libraries were not a gift from me but from donors in America who love books and value education. I told students that I look forward to visiting again next year and challenged them to read all 200 books before my return.
To my surprise the head teacher announced that, in appreciation, students had a gift for our team. He apologized for not having a gift equal to the value of the libraries, but explained that the villages, being poor, had few resources. At a signal from the teacher students suddenly appeared carrying stacks of firewood that they’d collected from the forest the evening before. The head teacher told us that he hoped the firewood would add to our comfort on chilly nights to come. It was, without a doubt, the most touching gesture ever prompted by our delivery of books.
This year’s gift of boxed libraries was made possible by donations from the Altusa International Club of Wausau, Wisconsin, and the family of Kerm and Peg Wiechman, Decorah, Iowa.
Sorry…but we can’t share the firewood. The students’ gesture warmed our hearts and the wood will soon warm our hands and feet!