The Big Brother Mouse project is a literacy project based in Luang Prabang in Laos. You can find their bookshop opposite the Wat Nong Temple.
This not-for-profit organisation does incredible work publishing and providing books for children in a country where books are in short supply. They hold book parties at local schools to inspire children to read and have given more than 200,000 children their first book.
While visiting Luang Prabang, you can pop into the bookshop and buy some of the books to be distributed and/or you can take part in a conversation session to help Lao students to practice their English. No special skills or training are needed, you just turn up and see where the conversation takes you!
The sessions are held every day from 9am to 11am and 5pm to 7pm and are a unique opportunity to get to know more about Lao culture as well as helping young people to develop their skills.
I went for one of the evening sessions. Within a few minutes I had a few students sitting around me and we were asking each other questions in English.
What is your name? How old are you? Do you have any brothers and sisters?
One of my students was a 16-year-old monk who had been a novice for the past three years and was very intelligent. It was good to chat to him as I had never spoken to a monk before. He asked me about religion in the UK. He had never heard of the Jewish faith but seemed to have a good understanding of other religions.
Another student was a chess champion who was entering a competition that he had won the year before. The prize was 3 million kip but he wasn’t confident he would win it again.
Most of them had a lot of siblings – one had nine brothers and sisters – and came from the rural villages to study in Luang Prabang at either the High School or University.
It was very full on. The students kept changing places so you went through all the same questions again and sometimes it was hard to keep the conversation flowing. Some topics highlighted the differences between our lifestyles and aspirations but in many other ways it also showed us how much we had in common. I would definitely recommend it.
The project also offers the opportunity to go out to the villages and spend the day working with local schools which I was hoping to do, but unfortunately, I was ill and didn’t get chance.
There are lots of other ways to help the project, including sponsoring a book project, buying books or making a donation through their website. Visit http://www.bigbrothermouse.com for more information.