Pre-Maria, Hands Across the Sea helped 90% of the schools in Dominica with creating or rejuvenating their libraries. Now, post-Maria, Hands Across the Sea commits to restoring the libraries of two schools in the northeast villages of Vieille Case and Woodfordhill. This commitment will give 160 school children and youth and 15 teachers access to library resources, including approximately 1,875 books.
Hands Across the Sea will manage the restoration that will include painting walls, creating a colorful mural, and providing materials to a local carpenter to install and paint wooden bookshelves. Hands Across the Sea will work in concert with Macario Advantage to monitor the restoration process and will also work with volunteers from the school community, as well as with the local sailing community to carry out the project. To support the local economy, all the materials for the project (except the floor mats) will be purchased at a discount in Dominica. Along with a local carpenter, Hands Across the Sea will hire a local artist to paint the mural with help from volunteers.
Once the libraries are restored, Hands Across the Sea will help the schools set up the libraries using its library methodology. Hands Across the Sea’s Program Officer will train ten students to be librarians and reconvene a teacher-led library committee of five teachers to oversee the libraries. Hands Across the Sea will encourage teachers to use the resources in the library, including utilizing lesson plans provided in Hands Across the Sea’s Teachers Resource Guide. Hands Across the Sea will also foster parental involvement by encouraging parents to allow their children to borrow books and read at home. Hands Across the Sea is committed to ensuring that books can be lent by the third term of the 2018-19 school year, aiming for at least 100 books to be borrowed in the third term.
Hands Across the Sea understands the profound impact that new books, available in a bright, child-friendly school lending library, will have on boosting the literacy levels of children, as well as promoting positive mental health after a traumatic event such as Hurricane Maria.
January to March 2019: The team will purchase materials and restore Woodfordhill and Baroness Scotland (Vieille Case Primary School Libraries) with assistance from NGO Macario Advantage. Hands Across the Sea will monitor and sign off on restoration work.
April to July 2019: School library committee will place books on shelves with support from Hands Across the Sea’s Program Officer. Hands Across the Sea will train student librarians and conduct ongoing outreach with parents and teachers. The team will keep records to measure the success of rejuvenated libraries through tracking the number of books borrowed. Hands Across the Sea aims to reach the milestone of 100 books borrowed during this period
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria severely impacted most schools in Dominica, damaging many newly rejuvenated school libraries. Specifically, the libraries at the primary schools in the villages of Vieille Case and Woodfordhill were water-blasted and destroyed. While the school buildings have been rebuilt, there are no plans to refurbish and rejuvenate the schools’ formerly active and well-loved library spaces.
Libraries play a critical role in providing access to education, especially with children’s literacy being a major ongoing issue in the English-speaking Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries of Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
Access to quality education for all children has been challenging in this region. Only since 2005, with the OECS Education Reforms, have primary school children had universal access to secondary school education. Many adults in the region have only a sixth-grade education, and because many schools in the region do not have new, appropriate, exciting books for their students, interest in reading is low — and so are the literacy levels of many children.
For the past eleven years, interest in creating or rejuvenating school lending libraries has grown significantly thanks to NGO support. In addition, the US Peace Corps is now 100% dedicated to literacy intervention. USAID is partnering with the OECS on a four-year, grades K to third teacher professional development project to improve children’s reading outcomes.
It is for these reasons, in addition to creating an inviting space in the wake of a traumatic event in the region, that reestablishing the libraries impacted by the 2017 hurricane season is critical to promoting children’s reading habits and sustaining the literacy gains made in the past few years.
Hands Across the Sea has the local partnerships needed to execute the library restoration project. At this time, the total amount needed for these two projects is $8,000 USD. Hands Across the Sea has $4,000 in-hand and is therefore seeking $4,000 USD to help complete the projects.
Hands Across the Sea can provide written resources and guidance to other NGOs to create or rejuvenate lending libraries at primary and secondary schools in the Caribbean.