Learning to read and write can change someone’s entire life. Literacy can help someone get a better job. Read a baby’s medicine bottle. Learn about health, agriculture, or current events. Write letters themselves, rather than having a child write for them. According to a UNESCO report, literacy can even raise a person’s self-esteem—and empower her to take action in her community.
Most kids learn best in their own language first, rather than an official one they can barely speak. Our partners often work on multilingual education, which helps a child master his school subjects and the official language more quickly.
Five years ago, a mother tongue-based bilingual education program was started for Mon children living near the western border of Thailand. The first cohort of children are now in Grade 3 and are not only eager and fluent readers and writers of their own Mon language but now also of Standard Thai.
“Reading in Quechua makes them feel like people. It gives them value, and they know they are as good as everyone else.”
– Pelagia Mendoza, Quechua teacher in Peru
Sometimes, a translation team will create simple, practical booklets on topics like malaria, hygiene, clean water, and maternal health. They might also give basic medical care (video) or train local people. Literacy can also help: A United Nations study found that a 1% rise in women’s literacy is more likely to reduce children’s deaths than a 1% rise in the number of doctors.
What evoked such a response from the Kamano-Kafe translation team? A DVD produced by a church in Papua New Guinea several years ago depicting the devastation of AIDS. The story focuses on one family in which the parents contract the disease through the husband’s unfaithfulness. It goes on to show the tragic effects on the wife and children.