Union West Rotary Club located in Indian Trail, North Carolina and the St. Maarten Sunrise Club located on the island of St. Maarten, partnered in a literacy program.
Mr.Sidharth Bijlani-Cookie of SXM Sunrise Rotary Club writes on his Facebook page: “New Generations Month with the Theme of Basic Education and Literacy. This is a time to encourage the young people in your life to go to the library, pick up a good book, and explore new worlds.”
Rotarian Mrs. Robin Barron-Golobish of Union West Rotary Club had been planning to go to St. Maarten on vacation to enjoy the sun, sand, beach, and reading to elementary students at the Methodist Agogic Centre, Browlia F. Maillard Campus.
In 2019, she met face-to-face with a fellow Rotarian she only knew from Facebook, Mr.Prakash “Pete” Dialani. She was investigating clubs online via Facebook and thus, left messages. Pete was the one who reached out to her first. She communicated to him the different projects her club was undertaking and had inquired about projects his club was doing – thus creating bridges across the sea.
She finally met Pete and was taken to the most notable Rotary site on the island. He took her to the Rotary Peace Monument located in front of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library in Philipsburg… only to learn that this institution was destroyed in 2017 by hurricane Irma. Unfortunately, there were still signs of devastation on the island (mountains of debris), but this did not slow this community down from rebuilding.
In 2019, Mrs. Golobish was invited to read to the students during her vacation. She was greeted with happy children who were excited to hear someone reading to them. Robin shared, “They loved my American accent.” She said the children picked out their favorite book and brought it to her. Upon opening the book, pages were sliding out from the binding that was holding some of the books together. Needless to say, she continued to read to her captive audience.
Mrs. Golobish shared her experience with her club members and said she wanted to ship more books to the school to help rebuild their library: only to find out the cost was astronomical! So, she collected books for her next trip in 2020, but COVID-19 hit and shut down international travel.
She vowed to return nonetheless and take a suitcase full of books to the children. But, in the meantime, SXM Sunrise Rotary Club was raising funds to provide students with laptops, and Union West Rotary graciously sponsored a laptop for a student there.
In September of 2021, Mrs. Golobish and her husband, Sam, began planning their honeymoon/next vacation to return to the island and several club members of Union West Rotary all brought in new and gently used books for them to take. The couple carried a 50-pound suitcase full of Kindergarten-Grade 3 books for the students. Prior to their arrival, Mrs. Golobish had communicated with SXM President, Ms. Damali Bryson and, with her help, they coordinated the presentation of the books to the school and to read to the children.
Immediately after the shared reading event at the Browlia F. Maillard Campus, Mrs. Golobish met with Ms. Marianne Flanders, Adjunct Manager, and asked her about some of the other needs of the school. Ms. Flanders then walked Mr. and Mrs. Golobish around the school showing them their ‘garden’ which included a handful of homegrown veggies, the grassy area in which they would like to have playground equipment, and the music room with just a handful of instruments. Mrs. Golobish mentioned that she saw a drum that a student made with duct tape on it. The music teacher told her that they make do with what they have and the students are happy; he also showed pictures of his former years in the USA in the marching band.
Mrs. Golobish stated that the highlight of her vacation was spending time with fellow Rotarians, having dinner with Mr.Sidharth Bijlani-Cookie, and reading time at the “MAC”, the Methodist Agogic Centre. Mrs. Tessa Marsham Davis, School Manager, gave her a ‘wish list’ of supplies that Management would like to provide for the staff such as laminator, laminating sheets, die-cut machine, alphabet letters, just to name a few – sharing that her teachers spend their own money (just like our American teachers), but don’t have easy access to the supplies.
Truly, Mrs. Golobish’s goal was to get back to SXM and bring back school supplies which followed her plan to fulfill the four brief questions in The Four-Way Test (which are not based on culture or religion); they transcend generations and national borders which are as relevant today as they were when they were written.
Of the things we think, say, or do:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it Fair to all concerned?
- Will it build Goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
In my humble opinion then, I dare say – mission accomplished!