Elephants can’t read, but these kids living in the last wild elephant lands of Cambodia sure can! In 2018 we built our wee library for the 170 children of Putrom 2, a rural village where many of the Bunnong staff working at Elephant Valley Project live. The children at Putrom 2 have become incredible readers since then, and we’ll be returning to the village in early 2024 to replenish supplies and see which of our new readers might share their own stories with us. Seeing children who had absolutely no access to story books become enthusiastic readers is another reason we have hope for the future—theirs, and for the wild elephants who call this land home.
Before the pandemic, we had our heart set on helping the children of the impoverished school in the next village. The school director heard about our library in Putrom 2, and asked if there was anyway we could help his kids too. After our visit with him and seeing the utterly empty school, we said yes. We cannot build a library structure there, but it’s possible to install mobile cabinets at the back of the one-room school, filled to the brim with supplies for the students and their teachers.
The children in this village are quite isolated, and books will expand their world, help develop critical thinking skills, and open a passageway for them to cultivate compassion not just for the elephants, but for all of the animals they share their lives with. One of the patterns which has become clear over the years is no matter how many foreigners might work to save elephants, it is the children born and raised in the rural villages who hold the future of these majestic beings in their hands.