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Big Brother Mouse
"Life is a reciprocal exchange. To move forward you have to give back" ~ Oprah Winfrey, Stanford Commencement Address, June, 2008
For over eight years we have been supporting various literacy efforts in Laos. It all began when we were given $300 by the Refugee Educators’ Network in Sacramento in December 1999 to donate to a worthy education cause. Because we visited a small Hmong village south of Vientiane for Hmong New Years and learned how they desperately wanted to have a new primary school built, we decided we would try our best to help them. Initially it was through buying various educational supplies with the $300 which we handed over to the school in a small ceremony, and then we worked with an NGO, the Consortium to write a grant through Japan’s Small-Scale Grant Assistance (SSGA) program to build a new primary school with the plan being for Consortium to act as a guarantor for this project. I wrote about this experience more in depth in a post on our blog which you can read here.
It was in 2001 that we learned about the National Library’s Reading Promotion and Book Box Library Program. For a donation of $150 the library would put together a book box library and deliver it to a rural school that didn’t have a library. Since over 95% of schools don’t have libraries the demand is endless and from 2001 through 2005 we raised money, and together with our tour groups we raised thousands of dollars for book box libraries. In November 2003 we went to Laos and paid for the Deputy Director and Children’s Librarian to deliver 18 book box libraries to Sam Neua and train over twenty teachers in the effective use of the libraries in their schools. We documented the training and attended a ceremony at one of the schools receiving a book box library. It was a powerful experience and we have video from the training on our YouTube channel. This link takes you to Part 1 and you can see on our YT channel there is a Part 2 and two clips of the Children's Librarian reading a story to children on a Bookmobile visit to a rural school in Vientiane. We're huge, huge fans of the children's librarian. She's a gifted teacher/librarian and a natural presenter to both children and adults.
In late 2006 we learned about a man, Sasha Alyson who started up an organization, Big Brother Mouse (BBM), where the motto is to publish books in Laos that make literacy fun. If there had been a drawback to the Book Box Library program it was that the books they bought to put in the libraries were of poor quality, a mixture of books from Thailand, a few from Laos and some foreign books.
Sasha saw the need and started publishing books that make it fun for kids to learn to read. And now in 2008 they’re beginning to also publish books that provide older readers with access to the information, ideas, and pleasure people in many countries take for granted. And what has made us admire BBM even more is that they also focus on providing hands-on experience to young people as they learn new skills: writing, editing, translating, desktop publishing, business, and organizing events.
Beginning in 2006 we started buying their books and handing them out to schools and families as we traveled through Laos. And when we were in Laos in November and December 2007 we sponsored a book party at a school in Ban Silalek about a 45 minute drive from Luang Prabang. There were about 160 students in the school and about 60% were Hmong and 40% were Khmu. It was a truly amazing experience.
We’re 1000% sold on BBM, the concept, the books, and especially the enthusiastic and committed young staff, and as we say in our Welcoming Message, 5% of our profits will go to BBM. We would like to sponsor more book parties and if we do well enough, sponsor the publishing of a book. You can find out a lot more about BBM at their website and if you go to Laos you have to stop at one of their shops and see what you can do to help!