The Library Project
Co Coordinators: Lisa Nesser, Seng Lao, Momoko, Ying Zarm, Hsang Muay
To set up and design open, friendly, bright learning environments in nurseries along the Thai-Burma border in Internally Displaced Peoples camps.
To create working libraries, training the support staff in how to use them most effectively.
To conduct teacher trainings for the often underskilled teachers in camps.
To develop a whole new set of teaching materials in Shan and English Language that do not currently exist.
We work at 5 camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) on the Burmese side of the border, particularly along Shan State. An IDP is a person who has had to flee their home for many of the same reasons as a refugees but hasn’t crossed a border and therefore remains displaced within their own country. Many of their homes have been destroyed by the Burmese military and they face persecution if they return. Some of them have already seen their family members killed, had their harvest taken, their homes burnt to the ground and have fled, taking only what they could carry on their backs. They are very vulnerable.
1 Provide Supplies
These people reached the camps with nothing, and so Thai Freedom House has been providing clothing and household items for them for the last 5 years. Each camp has a room where donations go, and the people can go ‘shopping’ there for free, collecting what they need to begin a life. These people have no idea how long they will stay in the camps, and little opportunity for contacting family and friends on the outside. These supplies are donations, which come through our Free Bird Café Donation Distribution Centre.
2 The Library and Resources
We have developed good relationships within these camps over the years, and a group of Shan women decided to send some books to the camps for the people there. Thai Freedom House has taken on the responsibility of organising where the books will go, making sure all the books are useful, and training people how to use the library and resources. The project has grown as we have seen other needs that we can assist with.
3 Library Curriculum and Teacher Training.
We are preparing and translating a Teacher Training curriculum for each camp’s informal education centers. We provide library training, teacher training, and ensure that the children understand what a great resource they have at their fingertips through a supportive curriculum that gets the students interacting in the library.
We provide ongoing support to ensure that the library actually gets used. Every 3 months there is a new teacher training session, to keep the teachers interested and excited, but also to hold them responsible for using the training sessions in their classes. This is a fun day for them, and gives them the self-confidence and self-respect that they deserve. Most of these teachers have just graduated from the schools themselves and don’t have practical experience or skills. The training shows them that they are good teachers, and that what they do is a special skill. The teachers have little incentive to do a good job, as they earn little money and have no resources to use in the classrooms. Training and resources will give teachers an incentive to get the children more involved and excited about learning, therefore changing the culture of the schools.
When we first visited the IDP camp informal school, the most shocking thing was seeing the barren, dirt or cement floor nurseries where children had absolutely nothing to inspire creativity, joy or learning. We then decided that part of The Library Project would have to be developing a love for learning and reading from the earliest age possible, starting in the nursery. We have painted and designed educational posters for each of the IDP camp nursery rooms, purchased floor mats and sewn cushions from recycled materials to make the environment more comfortable, cozy, loving and warm.
We also plan to hold early childhood development trainings for the staff in these centers so they know how to better relate to the children and inspire learning.
We need books that are appropriate for the informal learning centers, help with creating the curriculum, teacher trainings and early childhood development workshops.
We have no budget for this project and are actively seeking donations of needed items. Please contact us for more information.
A dream of this project would be to find a way to work in conjunction with informal learning centers on both sides of the border, encouraging students to be able to attend formal education at some point in the future.