Moving Literacy Forward in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Hands Across the Sea

Moving Literacy Forward in
St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Thanks to Hands Across the Sea and its collaboration with our great friends at the Mustique Charitable Foundation, libraries and schools across St. Vincent and the Grenadines are active and thriving. Working together, our organizations have provided extensive literacy training and distributed books to schools of all sizes in the last few years despite disruptions in the islands caused by COVID, dengue fever outbreaks, and the eruption of La Soufriere.  

We know that our investment in SVG is yielding powerful outcomes in the form of a joy of learning and literacy. We feel encouraged and motivated by these accomplishments and believe you will, as well. Read on to hear the inspiring story of literacy growth in SVG so far this academic year. 

Tapping Into the Power of Community

This year, with the blessing of the Ministry of Education, Hands shifted its long-standing practice of providing onsite trainings to offering a series of hubs that leaned into the power of community cohorts. Hands worked with community and education partners to identify and secure facilities where we could host groups of up to 25 library workers, including teachers, librarians, Peace Corps volunteers, and government YES (Youth Employment Service Programme) or SET (Supportive Education and Training Programme) workers (apprentices).

SVG Literacy Links Enna Bullock and Yvette Pompey led the four sessions. Ninety-five (95) participants representing 51 primary schools from across Saint Vincent and even a library apprentice who traveled as far as the Grenadine island of Canouan attended the half-day training in the resource center in Barrouallie. Hands Director Amanda Sherlip helped to plan the cohort training model in her capacity as Program Director; she was pleased to be on-island to participate in the fourth and final training in the series.

The trainings covered the librarian role, available support services provided by the National Public Library, and how to prepare well for students’ library time. These development opportunities helped fulfill our larger goal for Saint Vincent, which was to ensure that all schools returned to a pre-pandemic new normal while allowing the team to build on one another’s knowledge and skill sets. The experience outpaced our greatest expectations.

The Power of Community | Hands Across The Sea

From Collaboration to Sustained Implementation

In these coaching sessions, Hands Across the Sea employed a highly effective strategy of individualized collaboration to maximize efficiency and minimize resource waste. The teachers displayed high levels of enthusiasm and actively shared their experiences and insights during the sessions thanks to this personalized approach. In this way, participants learned from each other. This collaborative atmosphere promoted learning and growth to a high degree.

The impact of the training extended beyond the sessions themselves, with participants expressing hope and commitment to implementing what they  learned in their schools. Post-program evaluations consistently revealed high levels of buy-in, indicating a lasting impact that carried on for several months. This positive feedback underscores the effectiveness of Hands Across the Sea’s approach in generating enthusiasm and driving meaningful change within school communities.

Specific trainings and events organized by Hands Across the Sea served as catalysts for further improvement in school libraries. By inviting representatives from schools to participate, the Literacy Links provided targeted support and guidance that aligned with the unique needs of each institution. These workshops not only motivated schools to enhance their library facilities, but also empowered participants to become advocates and evangelists for literacy within their own communities.

Hands Across the Sea team members also followed up with school leadership. By maintaining open lines of communication and providing resources such as workshop materials and PowerPoint presentations, they ensured that the momentum generated during the training was sustained over time. This collaborative approach laid the groundwork for continued success and growth, garnering support from key stakeholders such as the Chief and the Ministry of Education.

The evaluations conducted by Hands Across the Sea highlight the unprecedented impact of our training programs. On-site evaluations revealed positive feedback from 77 percent of the participants, while post-evaluation surveys provided valuable insights into the implementation and effectiveness of the training. With comprehensive feedback from 36 school principals and leaders, Hands Across the Sea continues to refine and improve their approach, ensuring that their efforts result in tangible benefits for school libraries and the communities they serve through the Caribbean Literacy and School Support (CLASS) program.

Handing Over Ceremony ‘Charts a Brighter Path’

The annual Handing Over Ceremony of books and other resources was held on October 20, 2023 at the National Public Library Conference Room with the theme “Charting a Brighter Path for Child Literacy.” Even amidst the busyness of Independence Day preparations, many of the school principals we invited to receive books and floor mats during the ceremony were able to attend.

At the event, Senior Education Officer Mrs. Mavis Joseph represented the Ministry of Education. She offered brief remarks and expressed sincere thanks to the organization for their yearly donation of books to schools. Ms. Natalia Gill, Project Director of the Mustique Charitable Foundation, also addressed the principals and spoke of the importance of being literate in today’s society. She also expressed deep appreciation to Literacy Links Mrs. Enna Bullock and Mrs. Yvette Pompey for their role in creating and sustaining libraries throughout the island. Mrs. Michelle King Campbell, Director of Libraries, gave a brief address and endorsed the need for us to work together to build a reading community.

Amanda Sherlip reaffirmed Hands’ commitment to charting a brighter path. She reflected particularly on the resiliency and inspiring progress that has occurred in St. Vincent and how children used their beautiful voices to express the importance of reading while their parents and other adults united around the library efforts. Amanda also shared the impact of the country’s artistic and poetic spirit on promoting literacy.

Hands Across The Sea

“At the heart of everything we do is a deep commitment to the basic fundamental right all children have to read. We know that when children have access to books and stories, it unlocks their limitless potential. We dream of and dedicate ourselves to working towards a world where children can achieve anything they set their minds to.” – Mrs. Amanda Sherlip, Executive Director

The stars of these events are always the children, and this year’s event didn’t disappoint. The children dazzled us with their expressive performance and readings. One student from Belmont Government School declaimed from a handmade big book, expressing the creativity of our students. This shining moment was topped off when students from the CW Prescod Government School stole the hearts of the audience with their melodious rendition of “Lean on Me” on steel pan. Mrs. Sheridan Edwards thanked the principals for coming, followed by a heartfelt thank you from Mrs. Yvette Pompey.

Several media representatives covered the occasion, which was publicized on national television and other news media.

CW Prescod Government School | Hands Across the Sea

Book Distribution and library sustainability

For the 2023-24 school year, Hands, in collaboration with the Mustique Charitable Foundation, has provided a donation of roughly 2,600 new, world-class books in support of 11 primary and secondary schools in SVG. In addition to these books, Mustique Charitable Foundation committed to backing the vital work to ensure Literacy Link endorsement remains available in support of all Hands Across the Sea partner libraries in SVG.

As a part of the CLASS program, 93 Hands partner schools receive ongoing library sustainability programming, which includes onsite supports, visits, mentorship, student librarian programs, and trainings. Additionally, as is customary, each year a number of schools are selected based on need, readiness, and initiatives to receive new books. This year’s book shipment arrived in late October, 2023, and after clearing customs and sorting the 2 pallets of boxes, distribution of books to schools commenced in November, 2023. Schools that were not on the list to receive books were extremely grateful when we presented a box of World Books and a package of nonfiction books to them during routine visits. Principals were thrilled by this generous initiative that boosted their book collections. 

Literacy in Action at Local Schools

To highlight the impact of Hands’ work in SVG, Belmont Government School and New Prospect Primary School come to mind. Belmont held a Literacy Week recently. A ‘read off’ exercise held throughout the entire school climaxed the week. In this activity, students from different grades prepared and read stories to other classrooms in their building. At the end of the story, the reader asked the class questions they had prepared, while the teachers sat in the back to allow the children to lead the reading time. It was a great success and helped promote literacy leadership in the building.

SVG, Belmont Government School

The Belmont students in Grade 5 are particularly enjoying series books, such as the Nancy Drew series. Many of the girls have already read all the titles. Other books they have enjoyed recently include Wings of Fire, Bad Kitty, and School Daze. The Belmont kids are getting excited about reading, and we’re excited for what this will mean for their future life and success. 

Another shining example of Hands’ work in the SVG comes from New Prospect Primary School. Here as well, the students in Grade 5 really shine in their love for fresh new books. When they finish reading them, they exchange the titles among themselves to keep the reading going. The students and teachers at the school enjoy their little library and are very grateful to Hands Across the Sea for their donation of interesting books.

At New Prospect, student librarians Dzhane Jacobs and Kozarni Samuel from Grade 5 both enjoy reading and look forward to hours of reading from the new book collection. As young librarians, they help students choose age-appropriate books and keep the shelves tidy so students can find the books that interest them. 

New Prospect Primary School | Hands Across the Sea

Training Young Librarians

Training students as young librarians is a key function for effective school libraries. Shared leadership among students helps them learn responsibility, model good behaviour, learn from one another, and build a culture of healthy reading habits. This year so far, Gomea Methodist School trained 10 students as young librarians, Georgetown Government School trained 16 students, and Barrouallie Anglican School trained 11 students to provide student staffing for their upgraded library spaces and lending programs. The libraries run more efficiently with this extra student help, and the Literacy Links are especially grateful to the students that they are eager to help with these important responsibilities.

Barrouallie Anglican School | Hands Across The Sea

Thanks To Our Partners

We give our deepest thanks to Mustique Charitable Foundation for their unwavering support for children’s literacy and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With the partnership of Mustique Charitable Foundation, Hands Across the Sea reaches nearly 20,000 children in need each year through school and community libraries and lending programs, as well as critical disaster response initiatives. Mustique Charitable Foundation and Hands Across the Sea’s shared vision for charting a brighter future for children and SVG continues to be an inspiration and a driving force that enables our work and impact.

Our sincere gratitude is extended to the Ministry of Education and the Customs teams who helped ensure our book deliveries cleared Customs and were transported and delivered safely and without concern. The Ministry’s endorsement, partnership, and trust continue to be an invaluable resource in enabling timely and effective implementation of literacy programs in partner schools and communities.

We want to express an additional thanks to the National Public Library for storing the books and providing a safe space for Literacy Links Bullock and Pompey to sort out the boxes and make book packages for distribution. We especially appreciated one library staff member for their extra help packaging and moving a heavy load of books. 

The Library also kindly hosted Hands for the Handing Over ceremony and 2 zonal workshops in their conference, and we are grateful for that hospitality. In addition, the Director Mrs. Michelle King-Campbell allowed us to use their projector and screen and equipped us with a technician to help in the workshops. Ms. Dana Neverson from the library worked along with us to facilitate a segment of the Library/literacy workshop to empower teachers about accessing reading material from the Public Library. 

Together, Making a Difference

Literacy Link | Hands Across The Sea
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