Cambodia is a land of youth. According to statistics, 41% of the population of 12.5 million are under the age of 14. In the past thirty years the Khmer people have suffered through foreign invasions, bombings, communist revolution, genocide, famine, occupation and civil war. Despite the trauma, suffering and lack of role models or references, Cambodia is struggling down the road to social, educational and economic reconstruction. One particularly great need is for children’s books in the local language.
For two years in a row we had printed a children’s Christmas Activated magazine in Khmer. The response was tremendous! It seemed no matter how many we managed to print, we always needed more. Beautiful color illustrations, inspiring stories and fun activities all in one magazine was a rare treasure for the children and even for their parents. We realized the Aurora series of Grandpa Jake children’s books would be a perfect item to help fill this tremendous vacuum. Each book has six captivating stories with valuable lessons and moral instruction and a fun activity book for reinforcement. We knew that if we could find a way to get the books translated and printed in color with bi-lingual text (English and Khmer) it would be a wonderful gift to the precious children of this country. Although we are a small volunteer team with a lot of very young children, we were committed to making it happen. But we did not know exactly how or when the dream would unfold.
In early 2007, Activated Ministries offered a grant for local language publications. We submitted our proposal concerning publishing Grandpa Jake books for Cambodia and to our great delight, our proposal was approved. We selected the “Ocean Treasures” and “Insects Galore” series to start with. After a year’s worth of work and lots of team effort in communications, simplifying the English text, cultural adaptations, translation and layout in Khmer, we finally printed almost 2,000 beautiful full color copies. The Cambodian written language takes up about twice as much space as the same text in English, so great care had to be taken in editing the texts. But the finished products were well worth the time and effort invested. Thanks to the generous gift from Activated Ministries, 950 of the 2000 books have been donated for free to schools, children’s shelters, orphanages, pediatric hospitals and special schools for the deaf both in the capital of Phnom Penh and several rural provinces as well.
Everywhere we went, directors, headmasters and especially children were amazed at the beautiful books and captivating stories. After first showing the books to a director and asking how many copies they would like, the usual answer was, “as many as you can possibly give us!” When giving them to children, their usual reaction was to stop everything they were doing and become totally engrossed in reading the books on the spot!
We know these books will be read and re-read by countless children and that their lives will be touched and enriched as a result. On behalf of the children of Cambodia, we are truly grateful!