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Families Still Struggle Through Recovery in Anse la Raye

The island is doing well after the catastrophic Christmas Day flood. Nearly all Host Community Partners in Anse la Raye are back up and running as usual. The village has been cleaned up, but many families are still without bedding and other necessary household goods. The Health Clinic was severely affected, but despite the set-back, is back in normal operation. We’re assisting our partners’ recovery in many areas – replacing some materials that were lost, and continuing to help clean up areas that were affected.  There’s more to do, and we can engage volunteers in many ways – come join us and make a world of difference!

ST. LUCIANS’ DIFFERENCES IN ACHIEVEMENT

We began at the Global Volunteers Resource Room at JJ’s, selecting some donated materials to add to the curriculum at Kids Steps.

Carolyn and Susan spent the day at Kids Steps, including helping the children learn to write their own names; about a third of the four and five year olds are unable to do so at this point. The Mother Goose nursery rhyme book from the GV Resource Room turned out to be a hit with the children. It will remain at Kids Steps for use by the teachers.

Christina and Jim tutored at the primary school with the same students as before. Glen, one of the teachers, dropped in to discuss the hope that we could write a brief assessment of each student’s current level of progress when we end on Friday, so as to give the next Global Volunteers team who tutors, an idea of where to begin.
Glen noted that though our tutorial students are significantly challenged academically, the full time teachers and we as volunteers have the same goal, to help each student achieve their maximum potential. Some of the students show little progress day to day; in others we can see progress more readily. We plan to use the reading progression series books, flash cards and math cards as achievement markers for future teams.

Notably, January 23 is a shared birthday for the Honorable Derek Walcott, born 1930 and Sir Arthur Lewis, born 1915, died 1991. Today the wall of classrooms next to the playground at the primary school is full of placards describing their achievements. All week the principal’s opening ceremony discussion has focused on helping students recognize the unique circumstance that St. Lucia, an island of 238 square miles and less than 200,000 people, has produced two Nobel Laureates. Their perseverance is an example for all of us.

Both Lewis and Walcott were born in Castries, just up the coast from Anse La Raye. Sir Arthur Lewis received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1979 for his work on the economics of developing countries. Derek Walcott, the author of twenty plays and numerous books of poetry, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. His work explores the complex dynamics of West Indies culture in the transitional state of a post-colonial, post-slavery society.

At dinner we welcomed Gabriela “Gabby,” a Peace Corps Volunteer working at the Infant School in Anse La Raye. She is one of seven Peace Corps workers on the island. Her story of integration into the Anse La Raye community, including her direct experience of the Christmas Eve flood, was a welcome insight into the local culture.

ST. LUCIAN NOBEL LAUREATES

Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott

This week St. Lucians are celebrating Nobel Laureate Week. Two Lucians, as local people call themselves, have received the Nobel Prize – Derek Walcott for Literature and Arthur Lewis for Economics. These two from a population of 160,000 are being remembered and celebrated throughout the island. It is said St. Lucia has more Nobel Prize winners per capita than any other nation!

They were born on the same day – January 23, but in different years. The current team of Global Volunteers join with students in Anse La Raye schools in this celebration by daily readings of poetry from Derek Walcott. Here is a sample of his works from his latest book of poems “White Egrets.”

“This small place produces nothing but beauty: the wind-warped trees, the breakers on Dennery cliffs, and the wild light that loosens a galloping mare on the plain of Vieux make us merely receiving vessels of each day’s grace. Light simplifies us whatever our race or gifts.”

A PRODUCTIVE DAY OF SERVICE

After being here for a week and a half, we are now in somewhat of a routine. After breakfast, which was a delicious omelet by the way, we headed to the church storage area where Richard picked up some tools for construction of a storage building at the primary school.

Mary SLP

Global Volunteers Volunteer Coordinator Mary Delorie entertains children at Kiddies’ Homey Daycare.

Susan and Carolyn were dropped off at Kids Step and Jim, Christina and Richard headed to the primary school. Jim and Christina tutored third through sixth graders in math and reading. Richard worked with Jonah, the night watchman of the school, mixing mortar and laying block at the evolving storage building.

Warren, Jonah and Richard went to Total Construction Supply with a materials list to construct new bookshelves and a partition in the Library and Literacy Center space. They have in hand an open bill quoting the cost of materials and Warren has made arrangements with Global Volunteers headquarters for materials funding when GV Team 19 is here on site.

The children know us now at Kids Step; Auntie Susan and Auntie Carolyn are part of the team. We are reading stories to the children from books we have brought to the school. Auntie Carolyn brings her “magic bag,” a shopping bag which folds into a wallet. We play guessing games or do number and letter activities with it.
Auntie Susan brought her video camera today, so it will be fun for the children to see themselves singing and moving to music.

The 4 and 5 year olds played the telephone game today. The children whispered to one another and at the end, the message was said aloud by everyone: “We love our teacher!” (Luckily, Wilcina left the room for a minute so we could orchestrate that.)

Our team sees so many needs here on the island; we have many ideas of what could be done to help. We know that we cannot do it all. I am sure that we are not alone in those feelings.
After a productive evening Team Meeting discussing the day, we were off to Julietta’s for dinner. The coconut shrimp was had by all and all agreed it was absolutely delicious!

- Carolyn

Taking Stock and Making Purchases

Our group being in the unique position of visiting St. Lucia after a devastating flood, today we again embarked on a mission to find out where help was most needed.

Our first stop was the Health Center where Warren made an appointment for us with Nurse Angela Antoine to meet with her tomorrow.

St. Lucia volunteer program

Photo by Marcy Friedman

Miss Frederick at Kiddy Homey preschool said they had some plumbing needs. Wilcina Gabriel at Kids Steps told us that her preschoolers talked freely about the storm, how their clothes and shoes and toys were washed away. Some of them had diarrhea, she said, probably from drinking the water, and more liquid hand soap was needed at the school.

We stopped at the church’s storage area where Richard checked out the available tools and equipment. “A saw and a drill, you can do almost anything with that, “ he reported. It was decided that liquid hand soap, paper goods, pencils, and hopefully some toys could be purchased for the primary school and the Roving Caregivers. Richard and Jill agreed to do some hands-on work at the primary school library while the rest of us would go shopping for these supplies.

On our way out of town we met John Smith, the walking postman of Anse La Raye. Houses have no numbers. He walks the entire town delivering mail, using names only.

We heard the blowing of the conch announcing fish for sale a block away. We met Cecilia who said, “Everything  — stove, freezer, washer – go to the sea. I have my life, so we can say ‘Praise God!’ “

After eating box lunches, we headed to the Mega-J store outside of Castries. Circling the port at Castries, we saw gigantic cruise ships docked, a container ship piled high, and tourists galore. Subway, Burger King and the La Place Carenage shopping center seemed to be the draw for those disembarked from the ships.

After passing a huge coastal cemetery and some beautiful resorts including Sandals, we reached the Mega-J. We bought 8 boxes of paper goods, 16 gallons of liquid hand soap, various other supplies and some toys. Yay!!

At our 5PM Team Meeting, Jill and Richard reported that there was no “hands-on” work done at the school, but Richard met with Jonah and they decided to meet tomorrow with the principal regarding plans for construction and repairs in the library and literacy center. Jill and Richard each tutored at the school and Jill socialized with several students.

We then all helped to sort out our Mega J purchases in order to deliver them in an organized way tomorrow. On our way to Julietta’s for dinner!

Meeting People is the Highlight of the Day

Message of the Day:  “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” — author unknown

Our first workday – after raining on and off yesterday, today was beautiful. We saw the village up close and from some beautiful vistas – and saw the valleys/rivers which gave us a better understanding of how “the troth” happened.

We met so many interesting people, and I can’t do everyone justice – so I am going to focus on two people we met.

volunteer vacation

We’re impressed with St. Lucian’s dignity and resilience.

Camellis – when we saw him by church, I recognized him as one of our acolytes from mass on Sunday. He was working on taking down the nativity scene. He was being assisted by trainees (not students) from CARE.  Warren asked him about the troth. He told us what they had gone through, and what they needed – and his role with the Red Cross. All during his explanation he was smiling. Camellis explained how the community came together during the troth – as in other times. I liked his story about the bucket brigade – how if there was a fire in the village the fire department would take too long. So when someone yells fire everyone rushes out with  buckets of water and stones. Stones to help squash the fire. At one point when asked about getting enough supplies for everyone his response was “it is our hope.” And smiled. That stayed with me.

We also met Lucy who runs the Roving Caregivers Programme. Lucy told us about trying to distribute supplies evenly and how difficult that could be – you have to deal with hoarders, and people who find a way to the front of the line – always. She also talked about the fact that some people still don’t have water. Lucy was not feeling well, so I sensed it was harder for her to be positive. But – when asked to come up with a list of what they needed she started the list by saying we would be eternally grateful for…  That stayed with me.

teach children in St. Lucia

Primary School Principal Flavian Esenbert

Because of the effects of the flood, we don’t know exactly what we will be doing tomorrow – and for the rest of the week, but I am excited by the prospect of working together with the amazing people of Ans la Raye.

We enjoyed an amazing meal – with Flavian and his wife Barbara. I’ve never seen a plate as clean as Richard’s after the meal. :) Great food and wonderful conversation.

Then a night cap with our small – but energetic – group of volunteers. I ended the night looking forward to tomorrow and grateful for the team I am working with. Unless one of them steals my “message of the day” from the primary school.
- Jill

“I Know Why We’re Here”

Today’s Message of the Day by Warren Williams:   “Leap and the Net Will Appear”

Upon landing at Hewanorra Airport, I was engulfed in a long line of people who were getting nowhere and not knowing anyone.  Then a remark by the Customs Official reminded me why I came.  Instead of grilling me like he did the others,  he asked me one question: “Where are you staying?”  I replied:  “JJs Hotel.”  He smiled and said: “So you are a volunteer.  Go right on through.”  That’s when I realized how respected Global Volunteers is by the people of St. Lucia.

Early Sunday morning, we seven (Team Leader Warren and 6 volunteers) arrived at St. Mary’s Church in Anse-la-Raye for the 10:00 high mass.  Catholicism is earnestly and enthusiastically celebrated here.  A talented choir sang beautifully without accompaniment.  Energy shown during the sign of peace was amazing and unlike anything back home.  Parishoners left their pews to greet me warmly.  Then then at the end of mass,  Father Raj recognized the presence of Global Volunteers and asked us to stand.  We were welcomed with a song and then applause.  I felt grateful for the welcome they gave to us.

Volunteer in St. LuciaEverywhere we walked and drove, the people of the village were carrying on in a calm and dignified manner.  They had just suffered a devastating, cruel storm on Christmas Eve.  Yet I saw no anger and heard no complaints. From the principal of the Primary School to a humble laborer, the message was the same: “We had a bit of difficulty here, but it’s alright.”  More Americans should show such grace under pressure.

As I prepare for bed, I am serenaded by the symphony of the tree frogs.
-Susan

Another Beautiful, Productive Day in Anse la Raye

Our third day of service, and fourth of seven days in the community of Anse La Rey has concluded.  I always find that time begins to fly by when the mid-point of the program comes around.  After a breakfast for champions including generic raisin bran, toast, eggs, yogurt and bountiful coffee, we prepared to go our separate ways to our morning projects.

teach children in St. Lucia

Primary School Principal Flavian Esenbert is a constant, affirming presence on campus.

We arrived at the primary school by 8:30 and waited until 9:45 or so to drive to the Students’ Christmas Show.  This time gave us a chance to spend time with especially those students who would be staying behind that day because they could not afford the transportation and ticket cost.  I explained my iphone and showed a few videos and webpages to a few young women who crowded around me.  One of them said her father has a phone like mine, yet the other one had never seen anything like it.   They seemed to pick up the method of swiping and opening new links like second nature despite this being a very foreign concept. Shortly before leaving, the students gathered, as they do each day, to say the Lord’s Prayer, sing their school song, listen to announcements and even sing a few Christmas carols.  Yesterday, the principal and a volunteer from the community who teaches sports, awarded one young student with a trophy for being the best table tennis player in their region.  The principal highlighted the gracious act of volunteerism and recognized Global Volunteers as international volunteers and connected the sports teacher as a local volunteer.  He noted the importance of volunteerism and stressed that to the children that they should all strive to volunteer at some point, and not just to do acts of kindness only for money.  What a perfect opportunity to explain the act of volunteerism to the students.  The morning was off to a great start.

We drove 45 minutes or so to the Christmas show where dozens of schools, and hundreds and hundreds of children gathered to see the plethora of local talent.  We heard Christmas carols from children of all ages, a group who played Jingle Bells on recorder, a few dance numbers incorporating what appeared to be cultural dances past down from generations, and the highlight of the day… Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  This 9 or so year-old couple sang with their arm around one-another seemingly in love, to one of Kenny Roger’s Christmas songs.  Soon, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus took to the stage along with a young man in Santa Claus outfit.  They flanked Kenny and Dolly setting the stage to a perfect Christmas number.  They were pretty adorable and the crowd loved it!

After lunch, we enjoyed several important training sessions such as compliance reporting, cash handling, country blogs and social media, and scenarios with Bud.  Many of us enjoyed a lively presentation by Diane who shared demographics and statistics with us.  Some of the percentages were a little surprising while others followed the same trend from years prior.  I also gave a short talk on Institutional Relations and discussed many topics with the country managers.  Their questions and ideas were energizing and I look forward to discussing opportunities for students and student groups with them further.

Edward and Sam provided country information for us and endured dozens of questions.  I was reminded how wonderful it is to be able to ask questions, in-person and face-to-face.

Warren led our evening conversation, which was prefaced with the question, “Which of the 12 Essential Services did you provide today?”  The question was a valuable one, as we all challenged ourselves to think about our impact on the communities were served in today.  How did we make a difference?  Did we provide more than one Essential Service?  Is there more we could be doing?  We had a great conversation and learned from one another.

Christmas in St. Lucia

Co-founders Bud Philbrook and Michele Gran delivered presents to Global Volunteers staff and team leaders.

Last, but not least, we made our way to Juliette’s again for a delicious Christmas meal complete with ham, turkey, potatoes, carrots, rice, plantains and even pumpkin pie!  Many of us were looking forward to singing a few Christmas carols, but Bud and Michele had quite a surprise awaiting us.  Bud was dressed up a beach Santa and Michele had her Journey Band/Christmas t-shirt on that said “Don’t stop believin’ in Christmas” complete with green and red reindeer antlers.  They handed out gifts to all the good little girls and boys working long hours this week.  We also sang a few Christmas carols and heard several in 10 different languages!  It was quite the international Christmas celebration!  Annual awards were handed out recognizing staff for their well-deserved dedication and service, concluding with Dorota who received a beautiful glass etched award for staff person of the year.  A big thank you goes out to Michele and Bud for a wonderful celebration enjoyed by all!

There were many of us who remarked about looking around the room and seeing so much talent, dedication and overall great people together in one room.  I believe others join me in my feeling that it has been a pleasure to be part of such a fantastic team!

-Christina Larson-Dickson

Although the morning began with no running water, it only served as a reminder about how fortunate I am and how much I continue taking for granted in my day-to-day life at home.

We are well into our morning routine of breakfast, message of the day, journal reading and morning meeting which as usual, all ran smoothly.

DSC_0251We departed for our service projects, and I was excited to return to the primary school. The staff and children always seem happy to see us. And, as what typically happens on Global Volunteers programs, things naturally fell into place. With the help of the children and Chamida, we just about completed unpacking and organizing the literacy center while listening to reggae music and watching rain showers in the background. It was awesome to see that as the children were helping us shelve books, many of them stopped to read or look through the books, and a group of children assembled around Cynthia as she read out loud to them. This was a great example of indirectly delivering one of the essential services; improving IQ.

At lunch time most of us met up at the parish hall for the holiday party for the RCP’s program recipients. We sat around for a bit before the festivities began, but it was exciting to see so many mothers with their babies and young children there. I have no doubt about the success of the Roving Caregivers Program, and I am honored to indirectly be a part of it by simply being a member of the Global Volunteers family.

However, in Warren’s true form, we were promptly ushered back to the van to ensure we were punctual (an important team characteristic) for our afternoon training.

The evening ended with a good meal and great conversation with friends at JD’s. I feel privileged and honored to have made new friends here at the annual staff training from all over the world and to have had the opportunity to learn more about the culture in St. Lucia.
- Julie

The Children Make all the Difference – St. Lucia

help children in St. LuciaThe task in my mind start to ponder as I am getting off the bus today. What can I do to truly make a difference at the school today? The kids smiling and greeting us as we exited can only put bigger smiles on our face! The true joy of happiness fills my heart instantly! I sat next to Kenry as I have done since the first day I came. The day begins as every day with a few prayers and songs. Trudy, Denice and myself helped end the morning circle time with a few common American Christmas songs, Santa Claus is coming to town, “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and “Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer”!

Along to the classes the children go. First Trudy’s class then Rising Fives, followed by tweenie two’s. The rising Fives went right for juice break.

I was asked to work on the stove. The stove has my mind racing. After taking off each burner plate, I used a pipe cleaner to clean the burners. I found that only two of the four burners will work. My thoughts are that I want to get back home and start a fundraiser to help fund a new one. It is not repairable efficiently. The burners can be replaced but it appears to be beyond just that.

DSC_0263I was eager to see the Earth Boxes. Today was my last chance to see this project in person. Emily came to report that they’ll soon stop working on the boxes this week.  I accompanied Denice, who had asked permission to take one of the small children “Ayla”, and Darren to the church. I was there and introduced to Ms. Reed and Mr. Jonah, and Jacob.    I was pleased to see that a mother had shown up and Monica was assisting her on the new box. It was not long before Wendy soon had another mother show up as well. Much to be surprised, Bernard the 13 year old son to the mother working with Wendy, took ownership and couldn’t wait to get his hands dirty!  It was revitalizing to see the program in person and the town pitching in! It was soon to be lunch time. We all headed back to school.

The Rising Fives were at outside play time. Two children, Barack and Asia were inside the class room so we sat and worked on white boards where we practiced 1-10 numbering. Progress was indeed in the doing. Asia had serious numbering problems, she really just didn’t know them and Barack was not independent on his skills. We made progress and the children were excited with the individual time. That in itself was rewarding to me.

It was lunch time now. Pizza was brought in as a special treat for the children thanks to a generous donation from Trudy. They were so excited and ate it down. Naptime followed immediately. Lunchtime as it has been all week next door with Darren, Sandy and Unice was enjoyable and great conversation. We then went for a short walk to the elementary school to enjoy a walk with Unice so she could see the students.

We made it back to the school. The children still as quiet as a mouse. Soon after that school was coming to an end. The children woke up, and the same two children, Asia and Barack asked to revisit the number writing on the white boards. We did this and both the children could write their numbers 1-10.

Asia came and said thank you followed by a hug! It was such a rewarding feeling. We soon joined the other kids in the toy room and the day came to an end.

It come to my conclusion that with small repairs that I have made during the week, being able to teach Nevian how to spell his name by the end of the day, when he couldn’t even write a letter, and now helping yet another two students writing there numbers when one of them couldn’t make out any numbers, and now able to write them on their own. I know in leaving that I have made a difference.
-Larry

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