Yesterday, Press Today’s Ashley Rochefort had a chance to take part in the Sandals Foundation’s Reading Road Trip in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos.
It was quite an experience, and what follows is the story she has to tell:
We visited the grade one class at Ianthe Pratt Primary School, and met the lovely and bright misses Damiya and Kmala and read aloud together about princesses and pigs and practiced our printing.
Reading Road Trip offers Sandals and Beaches guests a chance to give back during their vacation when they are paired with a small group of students to read with at a local school. It’s a rewarding experience in which visitors can share their favourite story with students to help improve listening, learning, and comprehension skills.
Reading Road Trip is currently scheduled once per week while school is in session at all Sandals and Beaches properties in partnership with Island Routes Caribbean Adventures, which organizes transport and logistics. Guests can book their visit online at www.islandroutes.com, onsite at any Sandals or Beaches property at the Island Routes desk, or travel agents can book online too.
Guests are encouraged to donate new or gently used books, as well as other school supplies, to help build a library of exciting books.
“When we started the program, we found many school libraries had old encyclopedias, which don’t necessarily encourage a love of learning or reading,” explains Heidi Clarke, Executive Director, Sandals Foundation. “But now kids are rushing to the libraries and so excited by the new books brought by visitors.”
If you or your clients aren’t sure what to bring, check out www.packforapurpose.org which posts school’s wish lists involved in the Reading Road Trip program.
In 2010, the program was formalized after it was discovered guests were visiting schools independently; though well-intentioned, this was often disruptive to classrooms and frustrating for teachers.
Since that time, the program has grown in popularity. Recently, in 2016 alone, growth in community tours increased an incredible 34%.
Clarke attributes this to Sandals and Beaches many repeat guests who experience Reading Road Trip once and continue to participate each time they come back to a Sandals family resort.
These school visits also encourage larger philanthropy.
“People visit a school, see a need, and say we’d love to do a book drive back home or donate a couple of computers,” says Clarke. “So the schools are really benefiting way beyond the one visit. Some schools have even received whole new playgrounds.”
It’s a great reminder to travellers and your clients that their vacation to Caribbean nations affected by last fall’s hurricane season matters more now than ever.
“Just by being a guest at our resorts, you’re helping to make a difference. The ability to employ people and help them help their families shouldn’t be overlooked,” says Clarke.
Sandals Foundation started in 2009 to formally build on the community work they’d already been doing on islands with Sandals and Beaches properties for more than 30 years.
For more about the Sandals Foundation, visit www.sandalsfoundation.org.