Sunday, April 28

Helping Hands Across the Sea

Your life and mine should be valued not by what we take... but by what we give."- Edgar Allan

We don't usually arrive at an island with an agenda, but this time we had a mission to accomplish on Union Island.  Not only were we going to visit a local school, but we were going to volunteer for the day.  Erica met the co-founders, Harriet and TL, of Hands Across the Sea somewhere along the way, in Carriacou (I think).  In fact, that is the name of their boat they sail throughout the Caribbean.   Hands Across the Sea is an organization that helps foster and increase reading literacy in the Caribbean Islands either by donating school supplies, books, volunteering in classrooms or revamping the school libraries.

We were excited to have the opportunity to volunteer at the local Stephanie Browne Primary School.  We were reorganizing their library, as representatives for Hands across the Sea (HAS).   Volunteering is such a rewarding opportunity to teach compassion and understanding, especially for children.  This seemed to be a perfect fit for all our kids simply because they are so passionate about reading.  It was a great way for them to share their skills, talent and love for reading.   

As we walked through town that morning, the kids were excited to spend the day at a library, any library, as they missed theirs back home.  Erica and I wondered what we were in for.  We had no idea how big (or small) the library was, how many books they had, what its current condition was or even if they knew we were coming.  We were sort of making a cold call, having only spoken with Harriett about the possibility.  The school was not necessarily expecting us to just show up today.

When we arrived at the school, around 9 am, we found the principle outside and we held our breath as we explained who we were and why we were there, with 6 children in tow.  She had heard from HAS, and knew that we might be coming.  Phew.  We were relieved as she showed us the way to the library.  The children in the school stopped what they were doing and starred at us as we walked the outside hall.  Once inside the library, we quickly got familiar with our surroundings and chatted with the principle about how the space was used and our plans as instructed by HAS.

The library was currently structured in alphabetical order with reference books and like titles grouped together, well not really.  The library books were all mixed up.  There were student notebooks and projects strewn all over the place.  The teachers had their reference/teaching books mixed in with the student books.  Our job was to reorganize the books by reading level/grade level.  This would make it easier for the students to find age/grade appropriate books and be able to put them back without the cumbersome alphabet.  Which can be overwhelming for even the most experienced librarian.  I volunteer at our schools library and I know first hand what a job it is to reshelf books.  

This is what the library looked like before we started.  All the books were categorized alphabetically, sort of.  

First, we had to pull all the books off the shelves and sort them by grade level:  K-2; 3-4; 5-6.  The kids did a fantastic job sorting the hundreds of books on the shelves.  We had to remind them occasionally that just because they read a third grade book in second grade doesn’t mean it goes in the second grade pile.

Maggie and Reese work on organizing the K-1 books

Kate trying to figure out how she can read and work at the same time

Kate and Bryson work on the 5-6 grade books

Olivia works, I mean reads, K-1 books

Having a little fun in the process

Peek-a-boo.  We had many lookie loose.  Children would come in from time to time to see what we were doing or they would peer in the windows if they were too shy to come in. 

Once the books were sorted, then we placed them on the shelves.  We compiled all the book that were part of a series together and placed the lower grade books in easy reach of little hands.  

Erica organized the teacher reference area, which was a big job all by itself.  We moved book shelves, cabinets and tables around to best utilize the space and organized all the student projects.

All finished! Took us 8 hours to complete!  Some things the kids found in common with their own school libraries back home were posters on the wall and the words of encouragement to read and the power of learning.
The principle (pink sweater to the right) and some of the school children that either helped finish or wanted to check out what we had done.

Playing outside with the kids after school

Go Kate!

The kids have a running race with the students...on your mark.....get set.....


View from their playing field

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