Big Brother Mouse 

Alice and I volunteered with Big Brother Mouse, described below, to tutor Lao locals in conversational English. That’s how I met the novice monk in this picture. He is 18, and has been a novice for years. He understands that both education and English are critical for his future, and he is working hard to learn as much as he can – both in the monastery and through YouTube videos. He was incredibly proficient in English, to the point that he understood how to make subtle jokes and play with words. It was inspiring to meet a teenager so driven to succeed that he would happily and eagerly give up years of his life to study, working hard and struggling to educate himself when the formal educational system has failed him. He has my enduring respect.

There aren’t a lot of books in Lao, and there isn’t a strong literary tradition in the culture or country, so many people don’t see the point of casual reading.  In fact, some families just designate one person as the “reader,” and that person is responsible for reading important correspondence for everyone in the family.  The other people in the family might never learn how to read at all.  Many students, especially in rural areas, don’t progress beyond middle school, and learn very little in the schooling they do get. If a male student wants any sort of extended education, often the best way is to join a monastery as a novice monk; then he will get a chance to learn about Buddhism, which is better than learning nothing at all.  

Big Brother Mouse is working to help. They translate Western books into Lao, print them, raise money to send the books to rural areas, and host discussion groups so people can practice spoken English.  It’s kind of like an amazing charity and business rolled into one, and it’s dangerous to me, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s spending money on books I never end up reading.  Give me a charitable reason to buy a book and you don’t need to sell me – I’m already sold.  I know how much of an impact reading has had on my life; I can’t help but think that if Big Brother Mouse can inspire a generation to love reading, they can help create thinkers and leaders who, someday, will lead the country in the right direction.  

Big Brother Mouse is an organisation that deserves support.  If you’re ever interested in helping spread the joy of reading, expanding minds, or crafting the future of an entire nation, join me by clicking here and supporting their effort to bring literacy to Laos.  

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