I’ve never been high-fived and hugged as much as the day I dropped by Enid Capron Primary in the Caribbean island nation of Turks and Caicos.
As my 10-year-old daughter Grace and I pulled into the parking lot children in sharp yellow-shirt-and-brown-shorts school uniforms instantly gathered at the foot of the stairs and waved.
When we walked up the stairs the crowd parted and it was high-fives all round as we passed every pupil.
The high-fives would continue in the classroom through introductions, story time and the checking of workbooks.
The hugs wouldn’t come until we were about to leave and Grace and I were surrounded in a collective embrace in which the kids declared over and over again that they didn’t want us to leave.
A few even said: Take me with you.
Needless to say it was a feel-good day and an eye-opener of what people are up to outside of Canada.
Enid Capron Primary is mish-mash of low-slung cinder-block buildings surrounding a dusty courtyard.
While there are palm trees on the property swaying in the breeze, this isn’t the tropical paradise of the nearby all-inclusive five-star resorts and upscale condominium complexes.
Turks and Caicos isn’t necessarily poor, but government schools are basic and anything extra, even a library and books, basketball court and playground, usually has to be paid for with fundraising.
This is where the Sandals Foundation and sun-seeking Canadian tourists come in.
Sandals is the chain of luxury all-inclusive resorts that has properties throughout the Caribbean, including a Beaches Resort (Sandals’ family-friendly brand) in Turks and Caicos.
Its foundation raises money for projects on all of the islands where it has properties and on Turks and Caicos that’s Enid Capron Primary.
The Sandals Foundation has helped put in a library stocked with books, a reading garden, playground, basketball court, science building and provides food for its breakfast, lunch and snack programs.
Every Thursday Beaches Resort runs its Reading Road Trip excursion so guests can drop by the school for a quick tour and read to a class.
Tourists are invited to bring their favourite kids’ book to share and then leave it for the library.
Grace and I arrived armed with Mermaid Sister and Perfect Picnic.
The one about mermaids struck a cord because the kids live by the ocean.
Perfect Picnic featuring the gang from Sesame Street on an outing to New York’s Central Park seemed a little lost on them.
The excursion also costs $20, which goes straight to the foundation.
It only takes two hours out of your week long all-inclusive holiday, so it can be considered voluntourism light or giving back while on vacation 101.
The kindergarten class Grace and I visited was full of the cutest most inquisitive kids.
They wanted to know if we were staying at Beaches (yes), if there’s snow in Canada (yes) and why I had such hairy legs (must be my Scottish bog person ancestry).
There’s a character in every class and this one’s is little Daryl Greene.
He decided to be my caretaker right off the bat, sat beside me during story time, introduced me around, served as my photography assistant and didn’t want me to leave.
Again, a pull at the heartstrings.
If you go…
-The Reading Road trip to Enid Capron Primary is offered as a vountourism excrusion from Beaches Turks and Caicos every Thursday.
You are encouraged to bring a book to read to a class and leave behind for the library.
Cost of $20 is donated to the Sandals Foundation.
-Check out Beaches.com and SandalsFoundation.org.