For the second time in three years, the will be getting involved with Room to Readan organization that strives to improve literacy and gender equality in education in developing countries—through a read-a-thon.
Through her friendship with Room to Read’s Boston Chapter leader Wendy McAllister, Principal Suzanne Wilcox invited a speaker from the organization, Kall Kann, director of Room to Read’s Cambodia office, to speak with Eliot School students on Friday, May 13.
Arriving to the event with members from Room to Read’s New York and San Francisco offices, Kall took center stage a little after 9:00 a.m. after Wilcox and a small group of students led a school-wide sing-a-long for the assembly.
Kall talked a lot about his life as teenager, telling the children he had lost his entire family when he was 12 after a new government regime took over. An estimated 2 million people were executed or died from starvation, Kall added.
He explained there was little to no education in Cambodia and said he had worked like a slave in the rice fields.
Though it was a serious subject, Kall didn’t lecture. He used an interactive style, involving as many kids as he could in his presentation. He threw questions out, and every time a student answered a question correctly, he rewarded them with a small Cambodian flag.
At one point, a student raised his hand and stated simply, “I’m so sorry for you.”
Kall talked about how books are considered treasures in Cambodia. Only 10 percent of primary schools in his country have libraries, although they cost only $5,000 to build.
The Eliot School students will be raising money through a read-a-thon throughout the summer. The money will be going to build a library in Africa. Two years ago, they raised $5,000, and that is once again the goal.
It takes just $250 per year to educate a child for a year in Africa, according to Kall.
“Our whole motto is give the gift of literacy while receiving it,” Wilcox said.
Kall planned to be in the United States for a few more days before heading back home to Cambodia, where he still believes he has a lot more work to do.
“If you have education, it means opportunity,” he said.