Just like other island countries, St. Lucia’s economy basically rests under one single industry: tourism. Endowed with gorgeous beaches and other natural wonders, approximately 1.5 million tourists visit St. Lucia every year to enjoy a piece of paradise. At the end of January, five volunteers returned to the island for the official resumption of the service program — serving as the first team on the ground in Anse la Raye in two years. In this story, we share volunteer testimonials on this return to service from both first-time volunteers and alumni. Twenty-time volunteer Tim Cunniff who served in St. Lucia in 2014 as well makes observations about how the pandemic has devastated the island’s economy. Read on for these testimonials from St. Lucia volunteers.
The Effects of COVID-19 on Students and Their Learning
In Anse la Raye, most students did not have the luxury of attending virtual classes during the COVID-19 lockdown. The lack of devices and internet connection simply made this impossible for most students. Since 2012, Global Volunteers have provided classroom support and one-on-one tutoring with students. Now, after two years without classes and still advancing to the next grades out of pure necessity and as a matter of policy, extra volunteer help is needed more than ever while students struggle to catch up.
By Tim Cunniff, 20-time Global Volunteer
I had the privilege of being part of the first Global Volunteer’s team to return to St. Lucia in January of this year. It was my second visit there with Global Volunteers – having been there in November of 2015. Of course, the world in 2022 is greatly different than it was in 2015 and St. Lucia is as well. Because this island nation is so dependent on tourism to drive its economy, the absence of tourists for two years has had a very visible effect. For example, many restaurants that we visited in 2015 were no longer in business.
From an educational point of view, students hadn’t been in school for close to two years, so the loss of the progression from year to year was evident. Our volunteers at the primary school noticed that students that should be reading at a fourth or fifth grade level were still back at second or third grade. My two weeks at the C.A.R.E. organization also showed the negative effect of the long pause of training and access to volunteers supporting their advancement.
St. Lucia remains a spectacular Caribbean paradise and the local people are genuinely warm and welcoming. The importance of showing the people of Anse la Raye that Global Volunteers is an organization of caring people coming to help the community achieve their goals is now even more vital.
The last two years of shutdown represent losses on so many levels. So being able to embrace the Global Volunteers commitment to the community is now especially significant. The impact of Covid-19 did not appear to be as great in terms of people’s health, possibly because in Anse la Raye so much of life is lived outdoors. The economic impact is much greater.
Being part of a future Global Volunteers team is an excellent opportunity to show our Anse la Raye community partners that we can indeed help them realize positive changes in St. Lucia.
“The importance of showing the people of Anse la Raye that Global Volunteers is an organization of caring people coming to help the community achieve their goals is now even more vital.”– Tim Cunniff, 20-time Global Volunteer who has served twice in St. Lucia
By Penny Louise Flavin, three-time Global Volunteer
In this journal excerpt, Penny Louise Flavin shares: “I really enjoyed the students today as usual. I see growth just in the time I’ve been here in confidence in reading and expressing their thoughts. I truly believe if these children that have been singled out had more one-on-one attention, they would have the confidence to step up. What I see and has been confirmed by our team leader is that these children need extra help but none is available. They do not hold other students in the class back. The hour a day for the last two weeks has evidenced improvement. It hurts me to think that once our team is gone, the progress might be lost. One child told me his dream is to be a diver (for fish) like his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He has such bright insights that actually astonished me. He asked deep thoughtful questions. Several times he made me look at him in such a different light.”
by Beverly Draine, first-time volunteer
My primary service assignment was at C.A.R.E. where I was charged with supporting students in the development of their portfolios. Portfolios to showcase the skills and coursework. My extensive skills in managing, hiring, and mentoring adults enabled me to guide students in creating CVs (résumés) that highlighted their unique talents. This is the first time I traveled for volunteering purposes. I would describe this experience as rewarding and informative.
Being afforded an opportunity to provide services to St. Lucia is an invaluable experience. I developed comradery with my teammates as well as the staff at C.A.R.E. One individual both surprised me and created a memorable moment — Ajani, a student with extraordinary skills in art. Within my stay, this student blossomed. He is insightful and caring. I realized that Black people have a unique culture that is the same all over the world. The only thing that separates us is at what port the slave ships left us.
“This is the first time I traveled for volunteering purposes. I would describe this experience as rewarding and informative. Being afforded an opportunity to provide services to St. Lucia is an invaluable experience.”– Beverly Draine, first-time volunteer
by Christina Plessas, first-time volunteer
My service project was at Anse la Raye Primary School. I worked with sixth graders on math skills and with their writing. My focus with third and fourth graders was reading fluency and vocabulary. Fifth graders need assistance in writing their book reports. I learned I needed to go with the flow – everyday was different.
This was my first service project. I have lived in two countries and traveled through four continents. I chose a service project in order to get closer to the people and culture of the country – I have a skill/talent of teaching and I wanted to serve in that capacity.
This has been a wonderful service experience. I learned a lot about the culture and way of life. The people are friendly. The food is fresh and delicious. The public schools have the students pray four times a day. Having traveled the world and lived in Malaysia and Australia, I was familiar with the Birtish way of doing things. I was also familar with poverty. My team leader, Chem, was wonderful! Excellent leader, thoughtful, informative, and an excellent driver. I think it is important for people to visit new places. You learn — kids are kids, people want the same thing — to love, to work, to be seen and heard, and to care for their family. This was truly rewarding experience.
You are needed in St. Lucia
No teaching experience is required to be able to help students in St. Lucia learn reading and math. This is something that anyone can do, and like these volunteers, will find both rewarding and meaningful, and a great way to learn about a different culture in a gorgeous island setting. Volunteers are needed on upcoming service programs for us to fulfill our commitment to our community partners in Anse la Raye. Volunteers are urgently needed to serve starting May 7 or May 21 for one or two weeks. You can make a difference in the lives of these beautiful, eager children who need extra help to catch up.
Read more on the pandemic and St. Lucia: