Creating a Fun Place to Read!

Reading opens up doors to other worlds for students and improves their knowledge and vocabulary. Reading is a great hobby for students in between their classes. Sometimes students can get additional materials to support their study, and sometimes they get easy methods to help solve their homework.

 Students enjoy reading books on the swing under the tree

Last month we told you about the improvements made in the library. The result has been more and more students who love coming to read their favorite books there.

The Challenge is that sometimes we don't have enough space for them to read...
...But now our international volunteer Frank Mullen has found a Solution for this.

Frank is an architect and builder who has been volunteering the past 5 months to help build and maintain buildings on SC's campus, including a place for the dancing class and a great new Reading Room for the students.

Students reading books in the library

Frank is an architect and builder who has been volunteering the past 5 months to help build and maintain buildings on SC's campus, including a place for the dancing class and a great new Reading Room for the students.

Working with our Volunteer Architect!

 Old and Abandoned Structure before Rebuilding

From Frank Mullen:
"When I arrived at SC in November, there was a crumbling structure on campus that had provided shade so that the school children could have an outdoor place for reading. Since then the demand for space has only increased, but the structure is gone. I tore it down to make way for the new one. It was only three years old... That's the nature of thatched roofs."

 Frank Mullen, our onsite volunteer, dismantling the old structure

"The new structure is bigger, but it has a metal roof, and it's put together with notches and screws so it might enjoy a twenty year life. My Cambodian accomplice and I built it, with the exception of the two times when we needed help lifting big things into place."

Building Activities

"I'm an American architect. I came here to spend one year working through the list of building projects on the main campus in Pursat, to help build as many of them as I could, and to raise enough money to increase the budget so that the solutions will last a generation, not a couple of years. I've spent a lot of time in Southern Indiana and Eastern Pennsylvania, so I'm plenty familiar with Amish construction techniques, but I had never seen an Amish barn-raising before. Now I have."

Building Activities

"Ponlue, SC's manager of Community Development projects, is a civil engineer, and has been a great resource for me. When the structure for the reading roof was nearly complete, I asked him for help with raising it onto the frame. He said he would take care of it, and we agreed on 4:00 that afternoon. He didn't say how it was going to happen - he just said that it would. I learned from the last thing I tried to raise that my American planning isn't worth a tinker's darn in Cambodia, so this time I stuck to finishing the parts. Ponlue had never let me down before. He's good like that."

"The traditional Khmer roof shape has a central steeply-pitched gable with a lower-pitched roof surrounding it. Often these lower roofs are open-air, providing shade to the exterior walls of the building and sometimes an outdoor veranda. When SC described for me the requirements of this new building and their desire for a traditional roof, I immediately thought of a scissors truss. They're relatively light and use material very efficiently; their geometry does some of the heavy lifting."

The status of the construction now

"Scissors trusses were pioneered in medieval Europe, since they were so well suited to the clear spans and vaulted shapes of Gothic cathedrals and other monumental buildings. If you have a vaulted ceiling in your house, there's a good chance the ceiling is supported by the bottom chord of a scissors truss or one of its variations. Cambodians have no tradition of building trusses and then lifting them onto a building. Some of them thought I was a real nut case. Some of them still do."

"A little before 4:00 pm, Ponlue showed up with 10 Cambodian guys in flip-flops and a dump truck. That's when I knew it was time to stand aside and watch."

"The rebirth of the reading shelter will be complete in two weeks, when it will take its place in the collection of buildings that is the campus of Sustainable Cambodia. I'm proud of this project, and I know the school children and their families will benefit from it for many years to come."



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