May | 2015
The Hands Literacy Links: Taking Hands to a Higher Level
The Hands Program/Operations Director, Amanda Dombach (left), and the Hands Literacy Link for Dominica, Celia Sorhaindo, compare notes about a primary school library checkout system
. There, we've said it: pure passion for child literacy best sums up the work of our six Hands Literacy Links (one each in Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada). With their deep belief in the life-changing power of books, reading, and literacy, our on-island team members are widening and deepening the reach of Hands—truly a quantum leap for our organization.
Literacy Links interact with school principals, teachers, librarians, directors of reading programs and after-school programs, Ministry of Education officials, U. S. Peace Corps Volunteers, and representatives of companies or NGOs that are supporting Hands. The Literacy Links help manage the distribution of Hands Wish Lists shipments and work to optimize the impact and sustainability of Hands' assistance. In everything they do, the Hands Literacy Links are opening the door to literacy for Caribbean children.
Elaine Ollivierre | St. Vincent and the Grenadines
| the principal delivers
With over 30 years of experience in the education system of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, both as a high school principal and as a senior education officer, Elaine Ollivierre (right, in photo) knows the education system from bottom to top, from tiny rural schools to large urban institutions. Ollivierre excels at evaluating schools and the educators that run them—and she enjoys helping lift them above the daily struggles and guiding them forward. Ollivierre is much more than talk. She's hands-on, whether pruning a school library of its old, "donation dumped" books or mentoring teachers or shepherding a hundred boxes of new Hands books from the customs dock to the front door of St. Vincent schools. This principal delivers.
| the makeover artist
Everyone loves Olivia. That's partly because of her warm, gentle, "we can do this" powers of persuasion. And it's also because she really can do anything—there's no school library that she can't turn into a sparkling space that exerts an irresistable pull on children. Before she joined Hands, Olivia Phillip created the best high school library in all of Grenada. Since joining Hands she has continued to create and rejuvenate lending libraries at primary and secondary schools across the island. Sometimes she does it with a paintbrush, sometimes with a deft re-organization of shelving and book displays, sometimes through conversations with school staff. However she does it, children, teachers, and school principals are responding to her magic.
Celia Sorhaindo | Dominica
| every child a reader
A native Dominican with a career background in writing, photograhy, and information technology, Celia Sorhaindo's abiding interest is literacy. For years she's been a mover and shaker for the Dominca Literary Festival. And now as a Hands Literacy Link she gets to indulge her passion for child literacy every day—nothing makes her heart flip more than Grade 1 students streaming into a school library and rushing for their favorite books! School by school, Sorhaindo is creating a web of child-literacy-focused relationships with educators, community volunteers, Ministry of Education officials, and U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers. It's working. If Celia Sorhaindo gets her way—thus far, she has worked with 60 schools—every child on Dominica will be a reader.
Jacqueline Vidal-Atherly | St. Lucia
| the whirlwind
Talk about French passion! And nonstop energy! Jacqueline Vidal-Atherly (right, in photo) not only taught secondary school for 22 years on St. Lucia, she also taught French, English, and Spanish on four continents at the secondary and university levels. And she is not done yet, not by a long stretch. As the Hands Literacy Link for St. Lucia, she has trained her focus on child literacy and lending libraries in schools. Often this involves culling—it's more like a one-woman whirlwind—thousands of "donation dumped" books that have been parked on school library shelves for decades. In her first nine months on the job, Jacqueline has worked with 54 schools; that's a lot, but we have the feeling that she's just getting started. Like Victor Hugo, another passionate French citizen, she believes that "To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark"—and Vidal-Atherly is lighting the fire of child literacy on St. Lucia.
Dion Browne | St. Kitts and Nevis
| community power!
Before Dion Browne joined Hands as the Literacy Link for St. Kitts and Nevis, we'd seen him in action for several years. At Irishtown Primary School, an underserved urban school in St. Kitts, he made the fledgling school library bloom—organizing the collection, making physical improvements to the space, acting as the school librarian—into the nucelus of literacy at the school. Browne has a way of tapping into the power of a community and pulling it together. He is president of the Leo Club (affiliated with the Lions Club), a United Nations Youth Representative for St. Kitts and the Eastern Caribbean, and manages a placement program for college students’ community service activities. People are attracted to Browne's soft-spoken dedication. His passion for child literacy shines for all to see.
| always a teacher
When you teach primary school children, you learn a lot about the teaching tools and methods that kids need to learn to read. And you also learn about the inner workings of schools and the education system. That's why the skills and institutional knowledge of Lisa Tomlinson, a former Grade 3 teacher on Antigua, are proving so valuable to Hands. Tomlinson is adept at cutting through obstacles that stand in the way of the all-important goal of child literacy. She means business and she gets things done—in a very short time she's made a huge impact on Hands projects in Antigua. And she does it all in a very nice way, of course. Everyone appreciates someone who can pull off that kind of balancing act. Especially, as in Tomlinson's case, when it's so clearly driven by one thing: passion.