FACTORYVILLE — After learning that Sandilands Public Primary School, located in Nassau, Bahamas, had only eight books in each classroom library, Crissy Wiswell felt the need to take action.
The Lackawanna Trail first-grade teacher talked to Brian Kelly, principal of Lackawanna Trail Elementary, and the wheels were in motion.
For two weeks in May, the elementary center held a book donation called Book Drive So They Can Thrive. Students, teachers, and administrators donated all kinds of new and gently-used books, fiction and non-fiction, about anything from fairy tales to reference books.
“All this happened because Mr. Kelly, without reservation, said, ‘Yes,’” said Wiswell. “I love that we (Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center) were able to put books in the hands of children who might never have a book. We’re trying to cultivate the love of reading, and we have a way to do it.”
The purpose of this book drive was to donate enough books so that Sandilands could have a small library in each classroom.
“When we started, my realist hope was that our school might help set up two or three classroom libraries,” she said. “By the end of the week, we had gathered over 1,000 books. On the final day, our number had rocketed to 2,047 books. My hope for setting up two or three classroom libraries changed to putting a book into the hands of every student in the school.”
Wiswell heard about Sandilands Public Primary School from her friends Lenore and her daughter Rebecca Hosier, who both lived in the Bahamas for a year. Lenore, who has a degree in education, helped out in a middle school on the island. Rebecca was a youth advisor and aid at Sandilands.
The Hosiers, who currently live in Liberty, told Wiswell about how they saw firsthand the poor conditions of the island.
The Hosiers told Wiswell that children who attend Sandilands live in one of the poorest areas of Nassau. She was also told that children who attend this school are required to wear a uniform, but the parents can only afford one.
“Rebecca shared with me that there are days that children do not go to school because their uniform is too dirty to be worn,” said Wiswell.
“We were pleased and humbled by the response from the staff and children at Lackawanna Trail Elementary School,” said Lenore. “To know that people would be so generous to other people from another culture and country that they had never met is an encouragement. We often assume that kids in our society are more focused on acquiring the latest toy or piece of new technology than giving to someone less fortunate than themselves.”
After collecting the books for the drive, the next task was to ship the books to Sandilands.
“It’s crazy expensive to ship a box of books down there,” said Wiswell.
The Hosiers found people in various communities to sponsor a shipment of books. Also, when they heard of someone going to the Bahamas for a work or vacation, they would send an extra suitcase of books for that person to deliver.
“Many of the books have already been delivered to the school and will greet them with the new school year starting next week,” said Lenore. “The rest will go with us and our mission team traveling to the Bahamas later this fall. We can’t begin to thank everyone at the school for their kindness and hard work.”
As a token of gratitude, the folks at Sandilands sent the Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center a note, a flag of the Bahamas, and photos of students holding books.
“When I think of the lives that were touched by the generosity of our students, parents, teachers, and administrators here at Lackawanna Trail School District, it just makes my heart sing,” said Wiswell.
Elementary principal Brian Kelly is proud of Wiswell and the Lackawanna Trail community for doing the book donation.
“When Mrs. Wiswell approached me about the idea and told me these students were in need, I knew she was determined to help,” he said. “Mrs. Wiswell is a woman who was born to teach and help others. I offered her immediate approval but never imagined over 2,000 books would be donated. It’s a wonderful story about a dedicated teacher and the Lackawanna Trail Community coming together to help others in need.”