Hands Literacy Links are on-island team members dedicated to making each Hands Wish Lists project a success, now and for years to come. Literacy Links work closely with educators, education ministries, and local communities to: identify schools ready to partner with Hands •
help renovate library spaces and cull old and inappropriate books •
coordinate the distribution of the Hands shipment •
encourage the use of Hands library methodology •
help train students, teachers, and library managers to care for the books and run the library •
sort, level, label, and shelve the new books • share innovative ideas and resources
to develop the joy of reading and integrate libraries into schools •
support schools with strategies to encourage the long term sustainability of their libraries • ensure that Hands donations are properly utilized •
assess the impact of Hands assistance.
And finally, there's passion
. Pure passion for child literacy sums up the work of our six Hands Literacy Links (one each in Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada). With their belief in the life-changing power of books, reading, and literacy they are taking Hands to a higher level.
Christobelle Ashton | St. Vincent and the Grenadines
| the art of gentle persuasion
“I love helping children learn to read, to discover the world of books,” says Christobelle Ashton, who uses her polished interpersonal skills to bring out the best in children as well as school staff. Christobelle’s extensive experience working with the St. Vincent community—she taught at a secondary school for ten years, and has spent the last 16 years as a social development specialist and national coordinator of programs for disadvantaged youth and rural communities. Christobelle has also worked with the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and organizations such as the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations Development Programme. “Gaining knowledge is a beautiful thing,” Christobelle says of her work creating and sustaining lending libraries for Hands. “Knowledge is something that no one can ever take away from you.”
Elaine Ollivierre | St. Vincent and the Grenadines
| the principal delivers
With over 30 years of experience in the education system of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, both as a high school principal and as a senior education officer, Elaine Ollivierre (right, in photo) knows the education system from bottom to top, from tiny rural schools to large urban institutions. Ollivierre excels at evaluating schools and the educators that run them—and she enjoys helping lift them above the daily struggles and guiding them forward. Ollivierre is much more than talk. She's hands-on, whether pruning a school library of its old, "donation dumped" books or mentoring teachers or shepherding a hundred boxes of new Hands books from the customs dock to the front door of St. Vincent schools. This principal delivers.
| the makeover artist
Everyone loves Olivia. That's partly because of her warm, gentle, "we can do this" powers of persuasion. And it's also because she really can do anything—there's no school library that she can't turn into a sparkling space that exerts an irresistable pull on children. Before she joined Hands, Olivia Phillip created the best high school library in all of Grenada. Since joining Hands she has continued to create and rejuvenate lending libraries at primary and secondary schools across the island. Sometimes she does it with a paintbrush, sometimes with a deft re-organization of shelving and book displays, sometimes through conversations with school staff. However she does it, children, teachers, and principals respond to her magic.
Celia Sorhaindo | Dominica
| every child a reader
A native Dominican with a career background in writing, photography, and information technology, Celia Sorhaindo's abiding interest is literacy. For years she's been a mover and shaker for the Dominica Literary Festival. And now as a Hands Literacy Link she gets to indulge her passion for child literacy every day—nothing makes her heart flip more than Grade 1 students streaming into a school library and rushing for their favorite books! School by school, Sorhaindo is creating a web of child-literacy-focused relationships with educators, community volunteers, Ministry of Education officials, and U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers. It's working. If Celia Sorhaindo gets her way—thus far, she has worked with 60 schools—every child on Dominica will be a reader.
Jacqueline Vidal-Atherly | St. Lucia
| the whirlwind
Talk about French passion! And nonstop energy! Jacqueline Vidal-Atherly (right, in photo) not only taught secondary school for 22 years on St. Lucia, she also taught French, English, and Spanish on four continents at the secondary and university levels. And she is not done yet, not by a long stretch. As the Hands Literacy Link for St. Lucia, she has trained her focus on child literacy and lending libraries in schools. Often this involves culling—it's more like a one-woman whirlwind—thousands of "donation dumped" books that have been parked on school library shelves for decades. In her first nine months on the job, Jacqueline has worked with 54 schools; that's a lot, but we have the feeling that she's just getting started. Like Victor Hugo, another passionate French citizen, she believes that "To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark"—and Vidal-Atherly is lighting the fire of child literacy on St. Lucia.
Heidi Fagerberg | St. Kitts and Nevis
| champion of child literacy
Deeply committed to and skilled in the art and science of raising child literacy levels, Heidi Fagerberg is a children's book author and an educator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language with an emphasis in Elementary Education. A resident of St. Kitts for ten years, Heidi is known throughout the community for her volunteerism, her sensitivity to local culture, and her concern, in this age of digital-device addiction, with the challenges of cultivating a new generation of readers. Heidi enjoys working hands-on with schools to get the job done, whether culling old books from the school library or collaborating on children's-book-specific lesson plans for the classroom. And she does it all with a smile, a laugh, and a gracious, welcoming spirit of partnership.
| always a teacher
When you teach primary school children, you learn a lot about the teaching tools and methods that kids need to learn to read. And you also learn about the inner workings of schools and the education system. That's why the skills and institutional knowledge of Lisa Tomlinson, a former Grade 3 teacher on Antigua, are proving so valuable to Hands. Tomlinson is adept at cutting through obstacles that stand in the way of the all-important goal of child literacy. She means business and she gets things done—in a very short time she's made a huge impact on Hands projects in Antigua. And she does it all in a very nice way, of course. Everyone appreciates someone who can pull off that kind of balancing act. Especially, as in Tomlinson's case, when it's so clearly driven by one thing: passion.