Cruisers give back

Ruth says: To learn about a place, volunteer!

Photo: Hatchet Bay pond from the website

The protected Bahamian harbour we are in with its keyhole-type entrance is adjacent to a very friendly community.

Cruisers stop here in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, for short or longer stays and it is a very nice mix of both residents and a few tourists. In other words this place welcomes tourists but does not exist solely for the tourist.

This appeals to both of us, since we do not feel we can truly learn about a place and it’s culture by only visiting the normal tourist spots.

As we were planning to stay for a couple of months, I began looking for an opportunity to volunteer in the community, that was providing free of charge moorings and a safe albeit temporary home.

I have been fortunate indeed to spend two days a week at the local primary school working with kids who are having difficulty in school. The kids are polite, quick to smile and just generally fun to be around.

Photo: P.A. Gibson Primary School from the website

Initially, I wondered what I would be doing with each child, so the first day or two, we talked trying to get to know each other. We also read short books together and wrote stories. I was trying to assess what I could best focus on with each child as well as find out a little about their personalities.

This has been fun for me, and offers me a perspective on the community I would not have otherwise discovered. The school has included me in various activities with open arms. Far more children and their parents know me by name than would if I had  remained a slightly interested visitor.

Some adults have stopped me to thank me for my time! I had been wondering if I was being at all useful, if I had made a mistake entering the lives of the children for so short a time ( several weeks). This question has been recently answered for me.

One teacher says her student has improved the legibility of her writing, another is at last learning cursive writing, and two others have begun to improve their ability to read.

The thing I am happiest about, is having been able to arrange  eye glasses for a child whose parents cannot afford them. This young person will make great strides simply by being able to see her work, thanks to a kind sponsor.

It has been fun to share stories about my home with these curious children, and show them the route our boat took to travel here.

Interesting also is their reaction to learning we have things like an oven aboard, or the fact that “They let me drive the dingy all by myself.” These exchanges offer little windows into the cultural norms of the area.

It will be hard to leave these wonderful young people behind when I begin my journey home soon. Along with the fun, I have also learned things that have made me very sad, and in some cases angry. The children have taught me more than I have shown them.

Would I do it again, given the opportunity? Indeed I would, it has been worth every minute.

I feel privileged to have been allowed to participate in the community in this way. I feel like I have received much for the donation of a small amount of time.

I would encourage others to join in community ventures while cruising, when the opportunity presents itself.

An EEO (Exceptional Education Outreach Bahamas) volunteer wrote this about Ruth’s involvement for their newsletter and passed it on to Women and Cruising:

“A woman who came by boat from Canada and anchored in Hatchet Bay stopped by P.A. Gibson Primary School to see if Mrs. Ingraham, the Principal, needed a volunteer to help with children with learning disabilities.

Her name is Ruth Allen.  She raised two sons who are now middle-aged and both had a variety of learning disabilities. She began coming in on Tuesday and Wednesday to work with the EEO students that were in need of special one-on-one attention with their various disabilities.

One little girl had trouble reading and had a wandering eye which Ruth also had as a child.  She realized that the girl might need glasses.  She mentioned it to someone in her travels through the community and they offered to pay for her to get glasses. The little girl doesn’t know about this yet but will be thrilled to be able to read better.

Ruth has also taken a special interest in one little boy who she feels will do best if he is directed into some sort of technical training for his career choice.  She has offered to take him onto her boat and introduce him to various mechanical/engineering facets of boats in order to spark his interest in pursuing learning a boat-related skill.  He already shows great interest in anything even remotely associated with the sea and will be thrilled when he learns that his father has agreed to allow Ms. Ruth to take him onboard.”

ruth-P-E-Bay- Sailing-Sept09 About Ruth Allen

I have been living aboard Witchcraft, my Tom Colvin designed ketch for the last six years. As soon as my four children were launched my husband (Mark) and I emptied the house, and left the land behind.

We are not full time cruisers since we are not retired. I work at West Marine Canada which gives me the opportunity to combine work and pleasure.

I live in Canada and sail every chance I get. I came to sailing later in life and found a new passion.

Visit Ruth’s blog:

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