LEFT to Right - Elizabeth Cairns, Tyika Moss, Michele Johnson, Linda Petitfrere.
By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
THE Friends of The Library Committee, Eleuthera, is stepping up to be friends for the community during the pandemic.
The committee is best known for educational and community initiatives - including saving and restoring the now Haynes Library, which had been scheduled to be demolished in 1995.
As president of the committee, Michele Johnson led the way in opening the doors of the library in August 1996, which was the first full service library in the Family Islands. Along with team members, she saw a great need on Eleuthera for a learning centre where students, and community members alike could access information, technology, and a shared community space.
The committee members include Elizabeth Cairns, Tyika Moss, Linda Petitfrere, and Michele Johnson.
“Our number one goal and priority has always been to provide students with the ability to realise their full potential, by eliminating barriers in access to information and technology. During FOTL’s 24 years of operation, we have tried our very best to ensure that students do not get left behind and lose out on valuable learning opportunities, solely based on a lack of access to resources. We firmly believe that if students have the tools that they need to succeed, students will have the ability to succeed.
"Although the Haynes Library is now under the care and operation of the Ministry of Education, our committee has remained committed to carrying out our mandate within our island’s communities,” Ms Johnson told Tribune Woman.
Over the years, the library has assisted with academic programming, homework assistance programmes, camps, school textbook programmes, access to technology, and educational and community outreach in many forms. FOTL also started a five-day Jazz Festival to raise funds for the library. Eleuthera All that Jazz has provided a platform for Bahamian musicians, brought international musicians to The Bahamas, and promoted Eleuthera as a touristic destination for jazz lovers.
She said living on such a small island where people all know each other very personally means that deficits become very apparent. And when this year’s global pandemic first started to impact the island communities, the committee members watched the rest of the world start to shift to remote and virtual work and learning. From this, the committee could foresee that they too, would have to adjust.
“As our island’s primary source of income is tourism, and the travel restrictions due to the pandemic have resulted in a huge hit to our economy, we knew our parents and students would need assistance. We did not hesitate and we started making calls to raise the funds necessary to support a tablet donation. With the hard work and diligence of our team, along with our incredible funding partners, we were able to raise the funds for 200 tablets.
It is something that went without a second thought. We have always been committed to filling voids within our island communities. While it feels good to give back, it is bittersweet because we always wish that we could do more and help every child on the island who is in need. We will continue to give our best efforts as our island continues to shift and sway through these unprecedented times,” said Ms Johnson.
She said the feedback has been overwhelming. She said it has been emotional, touching, and heartwarming for the families, and the committee members alike. They all were truly able to witness how committed the Eleutheran parents are to their children’s educational success, and during such a difficult financial time for so many, how excited they were to receive the tools necessary for their children to succeed in school.
“For the remainder of the year, we will continue to carry out our mandate, and programmes that we have established, and always assisted with. To list a few initiatives, we are continuing with our tablet donation, as well as our textbook programme. Our goal is to continue raising funds for tablets and textbooks until we meet the remote learning needs of our students. Additionally, although our 2020 and 2021 Jazz Festivals have been cancelled due to COVID-19, we are in the planning stages for our 2022 festival. We are continuing to maintain the computer centre at the Haynes Library, and work with our island’s education representatives to assist with student needs,” said Ms Johnson.