My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Hands Across the Sea, Inc., Boston, MA, USA
Harriet Linskey called me at my school in St. David, Grenada just eight months into my 2-year Peace Corps service. I was at a school with no special ed. teacher and I was busy conducting remedial literacy pull-outs for half of the week with the slower students. I had no curriculum and no beginner-level books. I told Harriet in our conversation that we needed leveled, Basal readers for my students in addition to some bright, new titles to share with the teachers. Hurricane Ivan came through in 2004 and destroyed whatever library was in existence before and 6 years later, there had been no attempt to make it new again. Most of the students would have read through their teacher's limited, classroom libraries and most of the titles had faded and were really worn or outdated.
In response to our request, Harriet, T.L., and the Hands team set us up on their website and shipped us 6-7 boxes of books of those titles I had requested, including some beautiful, donated books from partnering organizations and BRAND NEW books. Students flooded my room every day at recess wanting to get their paws on the illustrated titles, having never seen such pretty pictures!
Due to the large amount we received, I took it upon myself to begin establishing the new library, from scratch. When Harriet and T.L. visited Grenada early in the year, our school had only managed to get a hold of some donated wood for shelving but we were still lacking funds to finish the empty room and make it library-worthy. They saw our plight and Hands donated enough money to paint the floor and walls, catalog each book and assign a hand-made envelope and card to each, laminate wall decor, and stain our shelves. It was incredible how much more inviting the room looked after we were finished. Hands even lent us rollers, tarps and trays so we could get the job done.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, partnering with Hands Across the Sea has been both a privilege and a joy. They really helped get things going, especially after community resources had already been donated and funds were stretched thin. Their purpose is really worth while, as most schools similar to those in Grenada and across the Caribbean, have students learning to read from a chalk board and not from a story book. Reading out loud is rarely practiced and children are not exposed to a world of literature from an early age.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
Our books were shipped in an organized way, they arrived in beautiful condition. We received enough to create a small library and Hands provided the funds to make it a reality. Harriet and T.L.'s personal visit to my school was really meaningful.
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Partnering with Peace Corps volunteers is a good way to ensure the monies are well-spent and the books are put to good use. In the developing world, sustainability and follow-through in projects similar to mine, are so key! Often, locals fail to see the 'big picture' and may not have the concept of a library well understood. Hands must make sure that the school they are going to partner with will have interested persons who want to make the books available to students.