Christian Union Primary School
132 students • Grades K to 6
Mrs. Brenda George, Principal
Vernella Henderson, Teacher in Charge of the Library
The Comeback Kids. “When Hurricane Maria hit our school, the storm took everything,” remembers Principal Brenda George. “Our library was left with nothing—not a single book!” Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm with 160-mile-per hour winds and a firehose of horizontal rain, smashed into Dominica on September 18, 2017. It quickly peeled away the tin roof of the Christian Union Primary School library, located on the top floor, and vacuumed out the contents of the room. The rest of the school, of course, suffered greatly as well; the winds exploded a standalone classroom block, leaving only studs of the concrete-block foundation. And the school’s classrooms were water-blasted when doors and windows were smashed. Picking themselves up after the storm, staff and students began the long road to rebuilding.
“The children have contributed greatly to our school’s recovery,” says Principal George. “They are so good! They love books and reading, and our Student Librarians have made the library a special part of the school.” The newly-refurbished library, with jazzy paint and eye-catching book displays, is attracting students every day (each class is timetabled for library visits). Book borrowing is strong and steady. Hands Literacy Link Giselle Laurent has been hands-on with Christian Union Primary, helping to speed the recovery. School staffers Kizzy Charles and Vernella Henderson are fired-up promoters and sustainers of the library.
The school has come a long way since the hurricane, but there are still challenges to address—the loss of the standalone classroom block means that classes are being held in the cafeteria until the classroom is someday rebuilt. But if you visit Christian Union Primary School you’ll find optimism and excitement. These are the comeback kids!
Mahaut Primary School
75 students • Grades K to 6
Mrs. Victoria Roberts, Principal
Ms. Kellisha Roberts, Literacy Coordinator
Reborn. It takes quite a while to recover—physically and emotionally—from the direct hit of a Category 5 hurricane. When Hurricane Maria smashed into Mahaut Primary School on September 18, 2017, the rain turned the nearby river into an overflowing torrent of mud, rocks, and tree trunks, and the one-hundred-sixty mile-per-hour winds tore off the school’s roof. The school lost all of its library books.
When the rebuilding process got underway, classes were moved to tight quarters in the Mahaut Village Council building. Grades K, 1, and 2 squeezed into the ground floor, and the principal’s ‘office’ and Grades 3 to 6 were upstairs. Both spaces were open, separated only by blackboards and short bookshelves. Only recently has the school been re-opened (and then closed, due to Covid-19), but the recovery has reached a crucial point, reports Hands Literacy Link Lize Bardouille. “There is no library at Mahaut Primary School—the students use small classroom libraries—however the school is now building shelves for their new library. They need books, and the reborn library will be ready to open with the school year in September.”
Wesley Primary School
106 students • Grades K to 6
Mrs. Nadia Prevost, Principal
Ms. Leann Joseph, Teacher in Charge of the Library
No Internet? Open a Book! The library at this small rural school, perched on a rainforest ridge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the north of Dominica, has been going well for several years now. Here’s the latest from Giselle Laurent, one of the Hands Literacy Links for Dominica.
“Wesley Primary has been doing digital lessons via Whatsapp while schools were closed during the Covid-19 lockdown. The teachers are sharing online stories with the students, but students without internet access are missing out. Principal Prevost may expand that to include take-home homework packets, including library books for the students, per the Hands Takeaway Books Program. At present, there is no internet access at the school—a legacy of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that ravaged every inch of Dominica a couple of years ago.
“The majority of the school’s library books have are well worn and in need of repair—the school’s strong reading culture is the ‘culprit.’ The Student Librarian team is energetic, from tidying up and sweeping the library to reading aloud to the younger pupils. The library is small but has been maintained well. Unfortunately, the encyclopedias have suffered water damage. The bookshelves are tidy, but need an infusion of new books.”