The Sandals Foundation’s Reading Road Trip program is getting Sandals Resorts' guests off the beach and into a book, offering them an opportunity to visit Caribbean schools and help students improve their literacy skills.
More than 1,500 visitors have taken part in the program since Sandals Resorts founded it in 2011.
Tour operator Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours partnered with the Sandals Foundation last year by offering a two-hour excursion that brought guests of Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple resorts into communities to visit schools adopted by the foundation in Antigua, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos.
“Give-back vacations are so popular these days, with travelers wanting to do more during their vacations to feel as if they are a part of the community where they’re vacationing,” said David Shields, general manager of Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours.
“No longer is a vacation in the Caribbean solely about sun, sea and sand but also about exploring and making a difference in the lives of people,” Shields said.
The Reading Road Trip is a way “of giving back to the communities where we live and to the youngsters who will one day be the leaders of our Caribbean nations,” he added.
One of the paricipating schools, the Culloden Early Childhood Institute in Westmoreland, Jamaica, reported “great” improvement in students’ literacy since the launch of the program, according to Janet Briggs, the school's principal.
“Out of 33 students, 27 achieved mastery, which falls in the grade category of 80% to 100%. This is a definite improvement over the previous year, and we credit the Reading Road Trip,” Briggs said.
The program will resume in the fall, when school is back in session, and again Island Routes will be involved, according to Heidi Clarke, director of programs for the Sandals Foundation.
Reading Road Trip will be offered Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. when schools are in session. The cost to guests is $20 per person, which covers roundtrip transportation and all supplies.
The Reading Road Trip program generated $4,800 in revenue in its first year of operation, which benefitted more than 400 students in the Caribbean, according to Clarke. The money came from program participants, many of whom made donations on top of the $20 registration fee.
Children between ages 8 and 12 can participate at no cost.
Volunteers are encouraged to bring a new or used book to donate to the school library.
Guests who wish to participate can sign up at www.islandroutestours.com, by calling (888) 429-5478 or at an Island Routes Tours’ desk at any of the resorts.