Bible Society in Northern Ireland

Cambodia: Learning through Literacy

Last year Catherine Little, General Secretary of Bible Society NI, had the amazing opportunity to visit Cambodia. She spent time with Bible Society staff there and got to experience what work is like for them as they faithfully share the Bible with others. Here she tells us a bit about the literacy programme that she visited…

Cambodia Appeal Cambodia Appeal







Imagine if you had never been taught to read; wouldn’t life be so different!

This is the experience of Keo, a lady that I met during my visit to Cambodia last June. She is in her 50’s and has spent years dreaming of being able to read and write – a skill we might take for granted.

KeoI had the joy of meeting Keo in a rural Cambodian village; she has lived there all of her life. She told me how, like many others, she didn’t have the chance to go to school as a child. She managed to enrol in a class in 1981; it was here that she learnt to write and recognise her own name but nothing more. Keo has spent her life working on a farm and providing for her family. She has 6 children and now grandchildren too; she didn’t have time to learn to read and write … until now.

So many people are in the same position and all too often the cycle continues for their children.


Why has this happened?

The remoteness of some Cambodian villages is a reason in itself. In some places the closest school is too far away, so children work in the fields with their parents. Teachers are paid very little, so they often teach for only a few hours a day. They have to work other jobs to earn a living.

But there is a more tragic reason that pervades every area of life in Cambodia. The Communist regime of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s left a nation with few educated people, leaders and professionals. Anyone with suspected links to the former government were imprisoned and killed. Over 1 million people died like this, buried in the mass ‘Killing Fields’. It is believed that one-quarter of the population of Cambodia died as a result of the Khmer Rouge genocide, as many as 2.5 million people.

To a young Keo, people were killed for being clever. That leaves a lasting fear of learning. It also left a culture and society with no teachers, no leaders and a long road ahead to recovery.

Today, things are changing but there are still many who have not found the freedom to move forward.


Stepping into Freedom

The Bible Society in Cambodia responded to this by setting up a programme of literacy groups in rural villages. Their heart’s desire is to see people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. But they also see that literacy changes every element of their lives.

Literacy classIt was amazing to visit some of these literacy classes in villages where life is so different from what we know. That’s where I met Keo, attending the same literacy class as some of her grandchildren!

The class Keo attended happened at the home of a church leader. Children, young people and adults were all at the same class. Each followed along to the recording of lessons with their own workbook. The Bible Society in Cambodia provide a radio, the recorded lessons and workbooks for each literacy group. I was struck by how intently everyone listened to the recording. Everyone, especially Keo, is so eager to learn.

It is in places like this that people are finally able to change their lives. Churches in these isolated communities have really struggled as their members long to read the Bible for themselves. They want to be better equipped to grow in faith and to reach out to others. The literacy classes make this possible. Now individuals, like Keo, can read the Bible and discover God’s Word for themselves.


How YOU can help

You can bring this kind of life change to people of all ages. Just £11 covers the cost of attending a literacy class and receiving a textbook and New Testament.

How many people will you ‘teach’ to read? How many people will you unlock the Bible for? Give your donation now.

You can pray for families who are juggling work and family life while trying to fit in classes that they have only ever dreamt of. You can pray for the churches who are partnering with the Bible Society in Cambodia to bring huge freedom to their communities.

Donate now


Your prayers and gifts are enabling people to step into freedom as they learn to read God’s Word and discover opportunities they never had before.

Thank you,





In the unlikely event that this project is overfunded, funds will be used in a similar project.

File attachments

Daily Bible Reading Guide 2018
The Bible App for Kids
Social Media
Resources for Your Church