If I Had Not Encountered Books

Ms.Naw Ja Poh
Myanmar(Burma) Refugee Camp

For children born and raised in refugee camps at the border between Thailand and Myanmar, library books work as a window that connects them to the outside world. Ms. Naw July Paw is a volunteer at the library in the refugee camp who reads books to children.

After finishing school education, I heard that there was recruitment for an open position as library staff, for which I applied and was hired. I was very happy to get this job. Because I was eager to work for the library. I can be a model for the Toshokan Youth Volunteers of the next generation. It pleases me a lot.

My Life Could Have Been More Difficult and Harsh

I was born in a refugee camp to which my parents fled due to attacks by the Burmese army. Since my family was heavily impoverished in my childhood, we borrowed money from other people to live day-to-day. When I saw other children going to school, I felt envious because they looked very happy.

I started visiting the library around the age of 12 when my parents finished paying off our debt. At first, I assumed that a library is a place that only adults are admitted into. However, the library volunteers who performed puppet plays and read picture books to the children invited me to come to the library and have fun together. It motivated me to go there regularly.

Through Encounters with Books, I Learned a Way of Life

While the other children got their parents to read books for them, I decided to read them for myself because my parents were illiterate. Since I could originally read only Karen, I started reading Karen magazines. Among the magazine articles, I liked family stories and poems.

When I was little, my family was so poor that I stole from other people or cheated them for a living. However, after I started reading books in the library, I learned a lot about family, religion, and ways of life and also discovered what we should do as people. If I hadn’t come across books, I would have monkeyed around and lived a meaningless life. I think my life would have been much more difficult if I hadn’t come across the library.

From Being Taught to Teaching

As a Toshokan Youth Volunteer, I play games with children, read to them, and sing songs together with them. I advise children to come to the library by saying, “If you go to the library, you will find much more interesting picture books there!” When a child brings a friend or comes from a distant mountain, I am so happy that I cannot find the words to express it.

I used to be bashful before I became a Toshokan Youth Volunteer. I could not imagine I would do anything in public. But after I joined this volunteer team, I became more confident in myself. I can now do activities in front of children and work for other people.

Even after I Go Back to Myanmar

I dream of returning to Myanmar from this refugee camp and working for the community. Even after I return to Myanmar, I would like to continue activities to communicate the importance of libraries. Books give us knowledge and have the power to mature us as a person and transform our lives.