Chapter One: Shipment to Soufrière, St. Lucia.
GUELPH — September 18, 2012
by Joanne Shuttleworth
This is a textbook case of do-gooders doing good and at the end of it Richard Clewes and Sonya White would like to see a few cases of textbooks.
They’ve already shipped 10,000 pounds of used books and textbooks collected through bookdrives at local schools to a school in St. Lucia and they hope to send another shipment next year.
“We hope to make a connection between students here and students there,” said Clewes, who together with his wife White are co-founders and executive directors of the OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation.
“We want to close the gap between the two worlds. We need to engage kids here and encourage kids in the Caribbean to develop a culture of reading.”
Many people might think of St. Lucia as a luxurious tourist destination, but like many Caribbean countries, the world seen by tourists and the world lived by inhabitants are night and day.
Clewes, who often travels to the Caribbean on business, had seen the devastation Hurricane Tomas had leveled at the island nation in 2010. The school in Soufriere was damaged by floods and all the school’s supplies were ruined. White is an educator with the Upper Grand District School Board and together the couple hatched their plan to collect outdated textbooks here and ship them there.
“There are so many books in schools that are underutilized or are replaced with electronic texts,” White said. “The books are often sent off to be recycled. As a teacher I have access to people who can make this work, and so with permission, I asked teachers to harvest resources from their classrooms and storage rooms and the thing just exploded.” White, Clewes, and their nine-year-old daughter Marlaina travelled to the school in St. Lucia last March and talked with the principal, who was eager to receive support from OneWorld.
“He told us the children in St. Lucia have no dreams because there’s no opportunity there for them. As a mother and a teacher, I can’t bear to think of children not having dreams. It’s just wrong,” White said. “It was a compelling enough reason to do something.” They’ve developed kits for teachers who want to run their own two-week book drives that include shipping boxes, packing and collection guidelines, and labels.
“We wanted to make it turnkey,” White said. “I appreciate how busy the school day is.” Centennial CVI and College Heights Secondary School held book drives last spring and with contributions from schools in Peel, Simcoe and Niagara school boards, 10,000 pounds of books made their way to St. Lucia by ship in August.
White said she’s in awe of the support they received locally, and Clewes in awe of the appreciation the foundation received from St. Lucia when the shipment arrived. “You see the kids and then the penny drops,” Clewes said. “People without access to education aren’t able to get a career. And people without access to books just don’t have a chance.”
Article originally appeared in Guelph Mercury© 2012 Metroland Media Group Ltd.