Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world, officially, I didn’t just make it up. Which means that books of any kind are in pretty short supply. Children’s books are even rarer and children’s picture books in the Lao language are like hen’s teeth. Many children have never even held a book, let alone discovered the magic of reading.
Which is why Big Brother Mouse is such a wonderful organisation. They are a charity which publishes books espcially for Lao children. Colourful books, fun books, the kind of books my lucky children have shelves full of at home. And they make sure that their books are enjoyed by as many children as possible. Children who may never have seen a book before. They do all kinds of lovely things like setting up lending libraries in rural villages and holding book parties, at which every guest receives their own book, pencil and paper. It’s hard to imagine not owning a pencil, isn’t it?
They do lots of other things too, in an education vein. At their office in Luang Prabang, they run English language lessons every morning. It’s a brilliantly simple idea. Tourists, of which there are many in this stunning World Heritage city, are asked to donate two hours of their time, to talk to local young people. You can help them with their college work, or to decipher instructions given to them by their boss, play word games, read books aloud, or just chat. We been three times now, and not only do we get a warm glow from hopefully helping someone to improve their employment prospects and therefore their future, but it’s also fascinating.
How many times when you’re a tourist do you get to have a properly in depth conversation with a local, with no agenda other than using words? Some of them speak limited English and we’ll just help translate specific words or with pronounciation, but most of them have an impressive command of it, and have worked incredibly hard, to become so proficient. We’ve spoken about all sorts of things including central banks, agriculture, wedding customs and how many people live in a Lao house (lots in case you were wondering).
I’m sure we’d have had a wonderful time in Luang Prabang, whatever we did, it’s a stunning place with friendly people and impossibly grand guest houses, so it would be hard not to. But having a chance to meet its lovely people too has made it really special.
If you want to donate to Big Brother Mouse, I can confirm that your money will be very well spent.