TimeWorks, the volunteer initiative of the Lyford Cay Foundations, turned out in force to support Nassau Sunrise Rotary’s Third Annual Reading Fair recently.
The event targets children ages K–12, mostly from the Bain and Grants Town communities, and promotes literacy by exposing them to high quality books in an entertaining setting.
TimeWorks helpers read to the children from books provided by TimeWorks Committee member Nancy McDonald, founder of ReadBahamas.org, a programme that has donated close to 8,000 books to 51 needy schools throughout the islands to date.
“A lot of the children who are here today do not have books in their homes and this is a good way to introduce them to books and stories, get them interested in reading for themselves, and show them that adults love to read too! It is also a nice way to get the whole community involved,” said Mrs. McDonald, who served on the organizing committee for the event. “There are lots of parents here, plus we have high school students volunteering their time to read to the children, which is a big help. They are great role models!”
The TimeWorks volunteers also chaperoned the children as they moved across The College of The Bahamas grounds to enjoy lunch, a bouncing castle, face painting, and visits by clowns and ‘Dora The Explorer.’
The fair was the brainchild of Tanya Woodside, Nassau Sunrise Rotary’s former community service director. She came up with the idea in 2007 after Rotary International asked its clubs across the world to create an event to promote March as ‘Literacy Month’.
“I wanted to do something that would be significant, and it has worked really well,” she said. “Every year it gets better.”
“The fair has become something that the kids know about and look forward to,” said Andrew Pike, President of Nassau Sunrise Rotary. “And what you tend to find now is that the older kids bring their little siblings out, too. Each year it gets bigger and bigger so next year we’ll need to start planning a little earlier and get more resources in.”
The organizers estimate that 657 children took part, which was quite a handful for Lyford Cay Foundation scholar and Nassau Sunrise Rotary Secretary Yvette Bethel, who did an exemplary job in keeping the children organized as they moved from tent to tent to experience books on different themes.
She was assisted by members of Rotaract and Interact, the youth service clubs of Rotary, who “brought great energy to the event by assisting in every way,” said Adrian Sands, Nassau Sunrise Rotary’s current community service director, who spearheaded the organisation of this year’s fair.
Ms. Bethel noted that the school with the most students in attendance would be eligible to win a set of brand new computers, and that the fair also included a book report competition based on 100 copies of The Cay, by Theodore Taylor, which were donated by the Lyford Cay Foundations last year.
Ms. Woodside thanked all those who made the day possible, including the many corporate sponsors who donated cash and goods, and all of the volunteers.
“We’re very excited to have TimeWorks with us today, one of the groups that also participated last year and have made a tremendous contribution to the overall success of this event,” she said.
The reading fair was the third project of the 2008–2009 TimeWorks season. Last November, volunteers provided lunch and helped organize the games at the annual Special Olympics Family Fun Day. In December, the group assisted Hands for Hunger with a special holiday food drive during which 3,300 lbs. of food was collected and distributed to service agencies throughout New Providence.
Next on TimeWorks’ agenda is helping out with Ride for Hope, the annual fund-raising bike-a-thon to benefit the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, scheduled to take place in North Eleuthera on April 4.
Established in 2004 on the principle that the time and skills of people can be as valuable as their money, TimeWorks serves the Bahamian community by mobilizing a diverse group of individuals in volunteerism and civic engagement. To date, it has provided more than 3,000 ‘man’ hours to 18 local non-profit organizations.
TimeWorks’ corporate sponsors include Pictet Bank & Trust and RBC Royal Bank of Canada.
For more information about TimeWorks and to volunteer please visit www.timeworksbahamas.org.
Photos by Tim Aylen, A. Gabriella Fraser and Nancy McDonald