Since elephants can't read, why did we build a library in rural Cambodia?

When you want to help wild elephants, helping the children that reside in wild-elephant habitat can help shift a past of conflict toward a future of coexistence. We built a library in a small school that had absolutely no books, bringing options and choices to the children and their teachers.

Watch the happy beginnings here!

The Heart of Putrom 2 Primary School

Putrom 2 was severely lacking the most basic supplies, and yet the children there are the ones who will one day either deplete or conserve Cambodia’s remaining elephant habitat. Although people from around the world help change the future for wild and captive elephants, in the end, it will be up to the children who live among them, and as anywhere, education is key.

 As we began our support of Mondulkiri’s Elephant Valley Project (supplying equipment for removing snares from sanctuary land and the surrounding forest), we met the local ethnic minority population of the Bunong, longtime “elephant people” near the border of Vietnam. In rural Cambodia, most people still grow up without access to ongoing education. and in November 2017 we created the sustainable project of “Elephants Can’t Read”.

Each year we continue to supply over 130 children and their teachers with satchels stuffed to the brim with school necessities, and tending the library we built in 2018, the very first Lending Library of its kind in the entire commune.

A Library needs a Teacher

Any sustainable project in rural Cambodia is fraught with unforeseen challenges, but what drove us forward were the unforeseen miracles! And here’s one — Meet Savoun!

Savoun was a teacher in Putrom for 7 years before falling out of a tree harvesting honey and breaking his back in 2015. Thanks to the generous and steadfast efforts of ELIE, Savoun was able to receive the surgery and extensive health care that saved his life. Now thanks to the Heart of Ganesh library, Savoun is employed once again, back in the classroom, and teaching in the new wheelchair-accessible library!

Even after building and stocking the library, one tremendous hurdle remained:  the funding and building of a very long path! During monsoon season, pushing a wheelchair through the thick clay mud became an impossibility, so we built a rather extraordinary path! From the front door of his home, across the street, through the easement of 2 farms, traversing the broad school field, and finally ending at the door of his classroom and library, this was no small feat! But the only way forward is through, so through we went!

The first day Mr. Savouen wheeled his chair along the 135 meter path to his new library (and his new life), we were all in tears, and the blessing ceremony with the village chief and elders afterward sealed the deal: Miracles happen when you don’t give up. 

Now, more than 150 children from kindergarten through 6th grade have access to over 1,000 books, and a safe, clean space to learn to read.  The teachers have supplies for literature, handwriting, and art, and every week students check out books so they can read at home–a FIRST in this rural village.

Putrom 3 school satchels

Next up?  The village over the hill has a tiny school with no water, no electricity, no usable toilet, and not one storybook.  39 impoverished children study here, with a committed school director who implored us to help his children have access to the world of books.  For 3 years we’ve brought satchels with basic supplies for each student, but our hearts are set on so much more. Although electricity and running water are out of reach for now, building a simple room filled with books and supplies for writing and art could change the future for another little school left behind in the elephant lands of Cambodia.  

127 terrific Bunong kids in rural Cambodia now have a library filled with books, art supplies, games, and an expanded future that only access to learn beyond their small village boundaries can bring.
We work with rural school boards and community leaders to expand educational offerings in areas with escalating Human Elephant Conflict. When you want to change the future for elephants, you need to change the future for the people that live among them.
Bringing books and art into the school (and the homes) of teachers and their students will widen the boundaries of Putrom 2 Village, slowly creating additional options and choices for the future of the Bunong, and in turn, the remaining elephants of NE Cambodia.
Opening day of the best little library in Cambodia! If elephants and their habitat are going to have any sort of future, then the rural children who live among them are going to need access to an education borne of compassion for all beings. When children have books to read, they can begin dreaming of new stories to be written.
As we prepared to turn a rubbish-filled, falling-down room into an Inspiration Station filled with hundreds of new books and shelves of art supplies, the kids were in awe that such a place was just for them. Most of these children have never had a story book of their own, let alone an entire library to broaden the world of their tiny, far-flung village.
Building a library for children living in some of the last remaining wild-elephant lands in rural Cambodia helps conserve a future they haven’t even dreamed of yet.
This is the next generation of conservationists in Putrom 2 Village, Cambodia. Their school might not have electricity yet, but now these kindergarteners will have access to the first library in the entire commune!


Thank you for considering a safe and secure donation to help the children in the next village have access to books in Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia.