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Caribbean literacy tour yields rewards

Sunday, August 05, 2012

FOUR hundred children from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands were this past year the beneficiaries of a programme that saw more than 1,500 tourists visiting their schools to help them with reading.

The Sandals Foundation and Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours' Reading Road Trip is a campaign to improve literacy skills in Caribbean communities.

Culloden Early Childhood Institute in Westmoreland, Parry Town Primary in Ocho Rios, Boscobel Primary in St Mary, Leanora Morris Early Childhood and Preschool in St James, and West End Early Childhood in Negril were the Jamaican schools which benefited.

Cedar Grove Primary and Willikies Primary in Antigua, Enid Capron Primary and Ianthe Pratt Primary in Turks and Caicos, and Balata Primary in St Lucia were also beneficiaries of the programme.

Guests interested in volunteering sign up with Island Routes Tours and are later transported to one of the early childhood institution or primary schools, which has been adopted by the Sandals Foundation.

It comes at a cost of US$20 to the guests. This sum covers the cost of reading material, transportation and a donation of US$4 to the Sandals Foundation Education Fund, used for scholarships, school building, teacher training, parent workshops, and other educational projects. As a result of this contribution, Island Routes Tours was able this year to handed over US$4,800 to the Foundation.

"Guests are transported by Island Routes Tours to the participating schools and are invited to spend time with the children. They are guided by a structured programme that addresses recognition of sight words, listening, comprehension, and reading," said a press release from Sandals Resorts International.

The Sandals Foundation is now working to create partnerships to obtain new material and books in time for the upcoming school year that will allow the adopted schools to have small learning corners with level one and two books available for use by the teachers and students.

"Give-back vacations have become so popular these days, with people wanting to do more during their vacation and feel like they're a part of the community in which they're vacationing," said David Shields, general manager of Island Routes Tours. "No longer is a vacation in the Caribbean solely about sun, sea and sand, but also about exploring and making a difference in the lives of the people."

He noted that the Reading Road Trip is gaining momentum as they promote "the betterment of our local community through our first 'voluntourism' project".

"The programme is our way of giving back to the communities we live in and to the youngsters who will, one day, be the leaders of our Caribbean nations," he said.

Janet Briggs, principal of the Culloden Early Childhood Institute in Westmoreland, Jamaica, said the school has noticed a great improvement in the students' literacy.

"I just completed the Ministry of Education assessment with them and I'm so pleased. Out of 33 students, 27 of them achieved mastery, which falls in the grade category of 80 - 100 per cent. This is a definite improvement over the previous year and we credit the Reading Road Trip," she said.

"The children look forward to Thursday mornings and always ask, 'When are the guests coming?'. They just love interacting with the guests and all the teachers are very happy with the programme. I hope it continues for many, many years," Briggs added.




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