Staff and a volunteer at Dunnottar School, St Lucia
I was so warmly welcomed by the children and teachers of Dunnottar School when I arrived.
The school is housed in a once beautiful, old colonial building - but is in need of repair in most parts. However, this does not affect the children as they are happy in their environment . Carolyn Archibald (the school principal) does her best to
keep on top of all the constant maintenance which is an ongoing need.
Carolyn is so devoted and passionate about her students and teachers alike, and this is clear to see. To be responsible for 81 students and 19 teachers... this lady demonstrates incredible motivation.
We had two volunteers assisting in the school. I found Maureen in the basement of the school (although she refers to this room as the dungeon) baking cakes. When I arrived some were in the oven, but the first baked batch were resting on the table, guarded by four students who did not take their eyes off them for a second!
Meanwhile Karen was in the workshop happily making dolls. These are made to help raise much-needed funds for the school. Karen too had finished a baking lesson and had made a delicious macaroni cheese dish, to which she had added local flavours of garlic and peppers.
The students attend Dunnottar mainly from the local area, however it was sad to hear that some children who live some distance away struggle to make it into school as their parents cannot afford the bus fares. In addition to the feeding programme in operation, sponsorship can also be made to fund the student’s bus fares.
I also had the pleasure of watching the school band in rehearsal as they were practising in preparation for their performance to the Saga guests onboard the Saga Sapphire cruise ship which had just moored in Castries harbour. The students were very excited as they were being rewarded with one of our famous afternoon teas.
Feedback from the volunteers is crucial to enable us and the projects to improve upon meeting expectations so when I asked Maureen and Karen to express what advice would they offer future volunteers, it was simply – don’t come with any expectations, be open to a different culture and enjoy all the affection that the children so easily offer.
Morne Doudon School
Saga Volunteer Travel has supported Morne Doudon School for over three years and as we have sent more volunteers here than anywhere else, I was very much looking forward to meeting the staff and students. The school is only five-minute bus ride from the Bel Jou Hotel where it is located at the top of the hill with panoramic views over the Castries harbour.
Miss Janice Jules, the School Principal, offers an easy warmth and charm, yet you can clearly see how masterfully she runs this school which has 300 students aged between 4 and 13 years. The children come from the surrounding area so most walk to school each day.
The St Lucian Ministry of Education has introduced a school feeding programme so that children in need receive a daily meal. Although the cost is only one Caribbean dollar, which is equivalent to just 23p per day, many children still arrive without their lunch money.
Here, we had five volunteers undertaking their volunteering placement at Morne Doudon School and as I ventured around the school, I found Paula Bowles assisting the Special Needs teacher by giving extra tuition to two students. Meanwhile, Jef Forshaw was taking a geometry lesson and I delighted in watching Carolyn Eason take the infant class through a lesson using the method of phonics. Although it had taken some while to settle in - once enveloped in the 'laid back' Caribbean way of life it all fits into place.
Our group of volunteers had such a great time volunteering in St. Lucia - they are requesting to go back!
Bel Jou Hotel
It’s worth saying a few words about our lovely hotel, the Bel Jou. The hotel is nestled in a residential area atop a steep hill with brightly-coloured colonial houses dotted around the neighbouring area.
The views from the hotel are spectacular, with lush green, landscaped gardens running downhill towards Castries and the Caribbean Sea. For those who dislike the huge, sprawling commercial resorts offered throughout the Caribbean, the Bel Jou is the perfect alternative. There is much on offer here, including varied evening entertainment, plus a comprehensive choice of interesting excursions. A trip to the rum distillery was well worth the visit, rounded off with a fun rum tasting session.
If you do want to laze on the beach you can always hop on the hotel's courtesy bus service for a short drive to Pigeon Island.
Read more about Saga Volunteer Travel and the opportunities available