In a small village in Bangladesh, Biren and Kamini watch curiously as the cartons of boxes and furniture are brought to the Compassion project.
A new library was opening soon thanks to Compassion Interventions – the first of its kind in the remote village.
Reading and learning materials can often be difficult to access for people living in poverty in the countries where Compassion works. Libraries may be something many of us take for granted, but public learning spaces play an important part in providing people with the opportunity to reduce poverty and are crucial to the fulfilment of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As well as finding new books, journals, and the latest information to support economic opportunities, libraries enable people to gather and learn, encouraging literacy within communities.
The World Bank estimates more than 1 in 4 people over the age of 15 in Bangladesh cannot read and write. In the north of Bangladesh, Ripa’s parents and most of the community had never had the opportunity to discover a library for themselves. As soon as they were physically able, many in the village had to join their family to work for their living.
In this village, having free access to books had never been a possibility until now.
Discovering a love of reading
Unfamiliar with the new resources before them, the children were taught how to use the library. Compassion staff used the opportunity to help them discover a love of books.
Mina, the project implementor, asked the primary school children a question. “Children, how many of you want to hear a story from the books that have just arrived?”
The children at first looked at each other to see if anyone was raising their hands. After a minute of silence, a voice spoke up.
“I want to hear a story,” yelled Prosanto with his hands in the air.
The entire classroom burst out giggling. More hands shot up. As Mina began to read, the children’s interest in books began.
The secondary school students were excited to have access to books and sample question papers to practice for their board exams. Such books are expensive, costing between 500 and 800 Bangladeshi taka (£4.24-£6.79).
It is an expense their parents cannot afford when they hardly have enough food on their plates. But this new library in this small community is helping give children opportunities to expand their horizons and dream big dreams – opportunities their parents never had.
Big dreams and the means to pursue them
18-year-old Ripa has found the library is helping her with her studies.
“With access to all the books in the library, I have been able to read storybooks, magazines, and practise from the model test papers in my very own village. As we face the board exams, all of us senior students are very glad that the project has thought up this innovative idea to prepare us,” Ripa shares.
Iti agrees. “Since I was able to get access to the books near my home, my grade 10 board exams were a great success! Now I’m looking forward to doing better in my upcoming exams.”
All the children are encouraged to read and take home the books they want. Seeing their children engrossed in a book at home made parents proud, particularly when they read them aloud.
“My child brings home books for reading every other week,” says Biren. “It makes me proud to see my girl able to read and write, which I have never been able to do.”
For Christabel, Compassion Bangladesh’s National Director, “Lockdown is a good opportunity for families to nurture more reading in the home, especially in rural areas. The Compassion project libraries have been a channel for this blessing to flow for children and youth.”
With the partnership of supporters and Compassion Interventions, children in this village now have access to a world of knowledge at their fingertips. This may be the first library many have seen, but hopefully it will not be the last.
Visit our Education Interventions page to find out more about supporting education in the countries in which we operate.
If you have further questions or would like to discover more about Compassion Interventions do also contact Ella from our Interventions team. She’d be more than happy to help.