Postcard: Volunteering at the Sandcastle Library in Honduras

Today’s post comes from Cate Carlyle, the ILN Ambassador for Canada sharing her adventures volunteering in Honduras: 

Recently I spent Study Break Week at the university where I work volunteering in the Sandcastle Library on the island of Roatan Honduras. I covered my own travel and accommodation costs and used personal holiday time away from work. With the help of a generous donation from our Faculty of Child & Youth Study, as well as the monetary donations and donations of school supplies from colleagues and family, I was able to take two extra suitcases of school supplies and ship Spanish books to Roatan as well. These books and supplies were very much appreciated by the Partners in Education Roatan (PIER) and Sandcastle Library staff. The kitchen timers (used to train teachers on how long to plan and deliver lessons in the classroom) and the magnifying glasses I donated were of particular interest. The staff also proudly wore the Nova Scotia and Canada tartan lanyards I took down for them.  I worked from 9am to 4pm most days organizing and cleaning the library, classifying the collection and assisting staff with the translation of language arts lesson plans. I also conducted a brief PD session with staff on book talks, conducting read-alouds, reading response, promoting reading and selecting materials for children.

There are no other public libraries on the island and only one school library. Sandcastle Library was created in a former resort dive centre, by an ex-pat couple, for the community of Sandy Bay. The PIER President, Cam O’Brien, and Sandcastle staff (shout out to the incredible Celaura in the library) are incredible people; all seem highly motivated, generous, caring and committed to improving the quality of life on the island. Plans are in the works to move the library closer to town, off the beach, and to increase its size, scope and influence. PIER also runs two bookmobiles which travel to local schools and PIER and the library staff work on training local teachers in more current educational practices. The island does not have a newspaper, parents share the belief with their children that “reading makes you crazy”, and most reading is of the Bible (learned by rote). Reading for pleasure and reading comprehension are two of the hurdles the staff face when promoting literacy on the island.

Geckos on the bookmobile, in the books and on the shelves, mouse droppings, and biting bugs were a new challenge for me (bugs and geckos in the bed also made sleeping a bit tricky). I was able to initiate a “Get Caught Reading” campaign which the library will soon implement, as well as plant the seeds for an open house/community day to try to dispel some of the negative images which the parents have of the library and reading.

Here are a few of my pictures, including one of the many interesting locked doors which you find on private docks in Sandy Bay.

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