Hands Across the Sea

Watching students discover the joy and wonder of reading is magical.

Helping children learn to read and enjoy reading is at the heart of Hands Across the Sea, a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to raising children’s literacy in the Eastern Caribbean. The program provides onsite libraries and literacy support at primary and secondary schools. Nearly 11,000 students across 52 primary and secondary schools in Antigua and Barbuda benefit from the Hands program each year.

Hands began its presence in Antigua in 2010 with the donation of several thousand books to three island schools, and it has steadily grown since then. Age-appropriate books are specially chosen with cultural relevance and children’s interests in mind, and the program includes regularly scheduled school library time.

“The Mill Reef Fund has been the anchor charitable partner for Hands Across the Sea’s library and literacy programs in Antigua for more than 10 years. Their vital support ensures that we can provide engaging and relevant books for our students, as well as consistent, onsite support from our paid Literacy Links.” - Amanda Sherlip, Executive Director

The Mill Reef Fund has partnered with Hands to fund two full-time staff members called Literacy Links who work closely with educators, the Ministry of Education, and local communities to identify schools in need, renovate library spaces, sort and shelve new books, support schools with strategies that encourage long-term sustainability of the libraries, and assess the effectiveness of the program.

During the Covid pandemic when schools were shut down, Hands launched a mobile book initiative, delivering books to children who were unable to access learning resources.  In 2021, the organization partnered with the Ministry of Education to establish an academic-recovery summer camp to help children who showed severe learning losses due to the pandemic. The three-week literacy camp, supported by the Mill Reef Fund and known as Camp Read-a-Lot, is now offered country-wide on Antigua and Barbuda.