St Lucians will not soon forget the passage of Hurricane Tomas. So much was lost and Tomas continues to affect life in St Lucia today and unfortunately children are among some of those still impacted. Already low student literacy rates were further challenged by that devastating storm of October 2010. With stocks of reading materials destroyed, many students were left without a chance to enhance their education through books. Fortunately, in Soufriere this past Tuesday, thanks to a non-profit Canadian organization called OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation, more than 10,000lbs of reading materials arrived to replenish and exceed what was once lost. With the help of several Ontario based schools in Canada, the books, which cover a broad range of topics, were collected through various book drives in April, May and June 2012. At a ceremony on Wednesday evening at Ladera Resort, OneWorld’s Co-Director, Richard Clewes thanked everyone involved in the charitable project. “We filled about 750 to 850 boxes with these books and they are now conveniently on the campus of [Soufriere] primary schools,” he proudly announced. From Soufriere Primary, where the reading materials were first delivered, books will be delivered to Soufriere Comprehensive and Les Etangs Combined. Mr Clewes began working towards this generous endeavor with his wife Sonia White, an Ontario schoolteacher and deaf educator, in March of this year. Being a former educator himself, the couple was inspired to improve the literacy situation in St Lucia after countless visits to the island. “At a certain point, when you really get to know the people of St Lucia, you realize that you can do more than just be a tourist. You can go beyond the status of a visitor and you can do something meaningful,” said Mr Clewes. And they did just that. OneWorld was officially established with this St Lucian project as its pilot. Teachers and principals across Soufriere were delighted by the news that books were coming. “A child learns so much from reading; it opens up a whole wealth of knowledge. It helps with their vocabulary and creativity and everything else,” said Joan Hippolyte, principal of the Soufriere Comprehensive. “It is true that persons are moving with technology. You have the Kindle, you have the Internet but a book is something that every child can have in his or her possession.” Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education, Marcus Edward, also attended Wednesday night’s ceremony. “I was very delighted and the Ministry of Education was very pleased with the donation,” Mr Edward told the STAR, “The use of printed material is of paramount importance; several fresh titles and subject areas can now be accessed and explored by the children.” The Ministry of Education assisted with the project by handling clearing the books for entry. As for next steps, Mr Edward wants to ensure these generous donations are put to good use. He plans to have the Curriculum Officer review the material and advise of strategies for how to get the students involved in and excited about reading. Mr Clewes reminded everyone that the job is far from over. OneWorld plans to return in March 2013 to assist the remaining schools in District 8, including Canaries, Bouton and Fond St Jacques. There are also plans to help schools around the island. He left us with some inspiring words: “This is for the children. This bridge is going to take a long time to build, but we can maintain it together. Closing the gap between the developed world and the developing world, it’s the right thing to do.” For more information about OneWorld and this project, visit neworldschoolhouse.org.