This year was my third year in a row attending the Social Media in the Sand conference in partnership with Beaches Resorts. I have shared with you my experiences at Beaches Turks & Caicos, and this year the conference was held that the Beaches Resort in Negril, Jamaica.
By far, the most amazing take away for me was my time spent on the Sandals Foundation Reading Road Trip which allows for hotel guests to travel out to partnering schools to read and encourage literacy with local school children. I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity if you will be visiting a Beaches destination.
Yes! This opportunity is available to anyone staying at a Beaches Resort! I’ll give you more details on how to participate at the end of this post.)
The drive out to the school was very eye-opening. My children (ages 11 and 9) joined me for this trip out to the school, and I am so thankful that they did. We visited the Castle Cove Primary School in Negril. It was a very simple building. The kids all wore matching uniforms and they all greeted us with huge smiles and waves upon our arrival.
They even put together a song presentation for us:
After meeting the children, we were partnered with an child to read. The young boy that I was paired with is 9 years old and his name is Damantae. He instantly stole my heart with this sweet smile and curiosity about the American culture. Thanks to the folks at HP, we had HP Sprocket Portable Printers with us and we were able to take photos and print them out right there on the spot. I LOVE that we were able to do this, and I carry my photo in my wallet so that I can remember this special day.
It is so easy to take things for granted. We all know that, but moments like this really make you realize it. We were told that my son would be able to play soccer with the children at the school and on the bus ride out he realized that he had forgotten to wear his tennis shoes. I was really upset at him. Only to feel horrible when we arrived to realize that not only did many of the school children not wear tennis shoes to play soccer, but they played in their bare feet!
These are the moments that give us life lessons and put things into perspective. I can’t tell you enough how much these moments meant to me and how imbedded in my heart they are. Both of my children speak of this experience often, and we can’t wait to go back for a visit. We are also working through the Sandals Foundation Reading Roadtrip to further our relationships with these children and find ways to help to continue to support them.
I don’t think that my kids will EVER complain about their lunches again. The school children in Negril get a bowl of rice everyday and they were very excited about it. Again = perspective.
This experience was also a great reminder that love and friendship are two things that are universally spoken and understood. The girls loved braiding my daughter’s hair, and they warmed up so quickly as if they had been friends for a long time.
Wouldn’t this world be such a better place, if we could all just hold onto each other, right from the start?
About Reading Road Trip
In May 2011, the Sandals Foundation launched the Reading Road Trip, its first voluntourism initiative aimed at improving literacy, comprehension and vocabulary among students. The trip, which takes place every Thursday, is available through Island Routes Adventure Tours and allows guests of Sandals and Beaches Resorts – in Jamaica, Antigua, the Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Lucia and Exuma in the Bahamas – to visit a Foundation adopted school and lend literacy support to students.
The tour takes visitors on a stimulating volunteer travel experience, during which they are invited to spend time with children at the primary and early childhood levels. Guests are guided by a structured programme that addresses recognition of sight words, listening, comprehension and reading.
Guests interested in volunteering may sign up with Island Routes Tours via the tour company’s website, www.islandroutes.com, its call centre at 1-888-429-5478 (toll free from Jamaica), or Island Routes Tours desk at any Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple resort.