Reading Road Trip ~ Negril, Jamaica

In the Spring, my oldest son and I had the opportunity to visit a primary school in Turks and Caicos. It was such a good experience for both of us that I knew I wanted to attend with the younger boys as well, on our most recent trip to Negril, Jamaica.

Started in 2011, the Reading Road Trip, is The Sandals Foundation’s first voluntourism initiative aimed at improving literacy, comprehension and vocabulary among students. Unfortunately, many schools throughout the Caribbean are overcrowded and have few small group sessions, leaving children who struggle with learning skills behind. The West End Basic School that we attended was definitely one of these schools. 

west end school


west end basic school classroom


The West End Basic School hosts 186 students aged 3-5 years old. 64 children work with only one teacher at the kindergarten level, which was shocking for not only me, but my boys were completely overwhelmed just peeking into the noisey classrooms. The rooms were dark, crowded and classes were only separated by a chalkboard. Still, the children were a happy crew and their faces lit up with joy when they saw us arrive! Big smiles and cheesey covered high fives guided us through the rooms!


west end school


The Reading Road Trip in Negril is set up so that one adult spends some quality time with two or three children who need the extra help. I sat down at a small picnic table with Brittany, Kino and Quin, and started with reading them a story. It became apparent immediately that teaching in this environment is a struggle. The noise that came out of the open window above us was so loud, that my voice was strained just so that the children next to me could hear. It’s no surprise that the children had a hard time paying attention and we quickly moved on to their work sheets.


west end reading roadtrip 2


west end reading roadtrip


Because my younger children were about the same age as the West End children, they were able to work on the same lessons and my oldest son made for a good helper! We completed three different activity sheets together and I was able to help the children along with their work. 

As a reward for all of their hard work, we headed to the playground for some fun before it was time to leave!


west end tree


west end swing


The playground is dilapitated and badly in need of repair and equipment. It consisted of little more than tires and a tree to climb in. The swing set only had one working swing left for the children to fight over and a simple climber and small metal slide completed the grounds. Still, the children were nothing but glad for a little time to run around and burn off some energy!


west end girl


west end tunnel


This was a great opportunity for my boys to get to know the children of West End and they became fast friends on the playground!


west end landon and girls


west end G


west end bars 2


While it’s always nice to head to the Caribbean for the sun and surf, I encourage you to take the Reading Road Trip too! It’s a great opportunity to get off of the resort and meet the people of the country you are visiting! You’ll love meeting the children and leave knowing you made a difference on your holiday! My children learned some important lessons this day. Lessons on being grateful for what you have, that other children in the world don’t have the same opportunity as they do and how we should always help when we can. Mom learned something too, that children don’t need as much as we think they do! My youngest spent most of his time pushing around an old tire with the biggest smile on his face! 

west end basic school


The Sandals Foundation is Making a Difference!

The West End Basic School is about to break ground on a new building that will be located in the vicinity of the current school. This new school will include all the facilities needed to provide sustainable and improved outcomes for the teaching and learning experience through Project SPROUT, which is a targeted intervention designed and developed by the Sandals Foundation, in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Jamaica. The project targets children at the early childhood level and is aimed at improving their readiness to matriculate into the primary school system. It provides a specialized teacher and social worker, an improved environment for learning through play and instruction as well as the  facilitation of  greater parental involvement. 

The new school building is expected to have 8 classrooms, an administrative block (which will house the sick bay, staff room, principal’s office, canteen area with kitchen), a recreation/kids play area, reading and computer room, and at least 4 restroom areas for the children and a parking lot.

Knowing that the children of West End were about to receive a much needed brand new school, made our trip that much more special. We could see how desperately it was needed and left knowing that the children had a brighter future ahead of them. We presented the teacher with books and supplies we had brought from home to donate to the school and said our goodbyes. The children gathered for a special song that ended in a surprise mass hug! It was a day we won’t forget!


west end group


The Reading Road Trip excursion operates from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Thursday, September to June in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Saint Lucia, Antigua, and Great Exuma, The Bahamas at a cost of US$20 per person, ages 13 years and older. Children between the ages of 8-12 are complimentary and all minors must be accompanied by an adult. 

You can follow the Sandals Foundation on Facebook and on Twitter @SandalsFdn, for updates.

Looking for other posts on Beaches Negril? Check out these:

Beaches Resorts is Luxury All Inclusive

Dining at Beaches Negril

Beaches Negril ~ Beachfront Concierge Family Rooms


  1. What an amazing experience!! And something that will impact your boys for the rest of their lives!!

  2. Tiffany Steadman-Collins says:

    I sit here and kick my self in the butt knowing that I missed out on such an amazing experience when in Montego Bay. I bet your kids will remember it for years to come. Being able to read about what’s happening in schools in other parts of the world truly makes me appreciate what we have here even more.

  3. Wow – what a great experience. First – to be able to have your kids see what school is like in a different country, and to be able to see how different life is, and second – that you got to help make a difference in the lives of some kids who need it. Thanks to Sandals for helping make needed changes.

    It’s so tempting to just enjoy the tourist side of the Caribbean and the like instead of looking into the actual community and life there.

    I love the smiles on the kids’ faces – both the locals and also your sons! If we ever head on a trip that way – I’ll be sure to look into this as well.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • momvstheboys says:

      it’s so nice to relax on the beach, but the heart of travelling lies in meeting the people of the country and seeing first hand what life is like there

  4. Rebeckah White says:

    I think this was wonderful and something your boys will remember for the rest of their lives.

  5. Wow! So many students to one teacher! Glad they’re getting a new school. What a wonderful experience for your boys.

  6. Lynda Cook says:

    We take so much for granted, over here there is parents that complain about this and that about what goes on in classrooms and teachers complain also, but look over there the classrooms are over crowded they are hot and noisy but the day still goes on, it was an amazing trip for you I imagine and it would be nice to go just to see what it’s reaaly like and to see all the smilely faces, they looked all so happy to see you!!

    • momvstheboys says:

      yes, so true Lynda. Parents love to complain about teachers and schools, if they only knew how good we have it!

  7. My parents and husband are from Jamaica, we’ve only been on a family trip once with my kids- I would love for them to experience school there – my mom & husband can tell stories but only after experiencing it first hand can you fully appreciate what privileges we have up here. Great program!

    • momvstheboys says:

      so true Sharlene, seeing it first hand really makes an impact, especially for the children who can’t even imagine living another way

  8. What a memorable experience. It is hard to explain to my kids that they are so lucky to live in Canada. I love the smiles on the kids faces in the pictures you posted.

  9. Stephanie LaPlante says:

    Looks like a very rewarding experience. So much love and cuteness.

  10. Cheryl (@loucheryl) says:

    How awesome is this. And it’s so cool that your boys got to come too! 🙂

  11. Amazing experience! Thank you for sharing!

  12. Chantal A says:

    Can’t believe there are so many kids in one class. It always amazes me how quickly kids can make friends even if there is a language barrier, something we could learn from them

  13. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    Your youngest pushing around the old tire with the biggest smile on his face was a fantastic photo, I loved it.
    I must mention that younger people often don’t realise how good they have it in school these days. I remember being in a class of 56 when I was in primary school. How on earth the teachers managed I’ll never know but they did.

  14. Kate Hearn says:

    Your boys are very fortunate being able to see the world. I am totally terrified of planes myself, so there isn’t much hope for mine getting to travel lol

  15. Darlene Demell says:

    It must have been a wonderful experence for both you and your boys. Its a memory the boys will have forever. As for the school, it wll be so nice when the new one is built and the kids have a better place to learn. They do look very happy though.

  16. What a trip!!!!

  17. What an amazing experience for your kids.

  18. Such an amazing adventure !

  19. kristen visser says:

    what an incredible experience!!

  20. Rosanne Robinson says:

    Your story is very enlightening and makes me realize how truly blessed we are.

  21. Marilyn Legault says:

    What a great project, and an amazing experience for your boys.

  22. That would be a great place to visit. The children looked so happy.

  23. Judy Cowan says:

    What an amazing experience for your boys! I am sure they will remember this!

  24. Haroon Khan says:

    What an amazing trip!

  25. What an amazing and inspiring adventure. I am sure your boys will never forget their experience.

  26. Chandra Christine O'Connor says:

    truly amazing experience for your boys hopefully they remember and it impacts their lives growing up

  27. Beautiful photos of such a beautiful experience! Thanks for sharing!

  28. Thanks for the information about the Sandals foundation. I wasn’t aware they existed but now I read on their page all the big name sponsors helping so many children.

  29. kathy downey says:

    So happy to hear they’re getting a new school.Beautiful children

  30. What an amazing experience!

  31. DARLENE W says:

    What an amazing teaching opportunity

  32. Cheryl (@loucheryl) says:

    I would love to do this one day. LOVE the people of Jamaica!

  33. Marina M. says:

    It looks like an amazing experience for your boys!

  34. kathy downey says:

    What a memorable experience.

  35. I am envious. I foster a boy in South Africa and hope to make the trek to see him at the orphanage he now resides in.

  36. Victoria Ess says:

    What a great experience! Thank you for sharing!

  37. What a fantastic experience for you and your boys.

  38. Wow what an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing

  39. Elva Roberts says:

    The Sandals Foundation is doing a tremendous with these young children. As a former teacher, I applaus that teacher doing her daunting tasks. They would surely welvome any help with these young and eager students. It’s an esperience one would never forget.

  40. kathy downey says:

    What an amazing adventure !

  41. tara watkins says:

    That looks liked a brilliant experience, loved reading about it 🙂

  42. What a great opportunity!!

  43. kathy downey says:

    I love the smiles !

  44. Beautiful pictures of sweet children. My heart melts.

  45. What a great foundation making a difference. What a life changing experience.

  46. My husband and I visit the Caribbean every year, but I didn’t know about the reading road trip. What a fun way to help out and be an example to your children.

    • momvstheboys says:

      You should definitely check it out, lots of resorts offer something like this. The Reading Roadtrip is through Sandals and Beaches resorts

  47. kathy downey says:

    It hurls thinking we waste so much and there kids have so little

  48. What a wonderful experience for your children. Such an amazing opportunity the resort offers.Thanks for sharing!

  49. Elva Roberts says:

    I am so glad that these youngsters are getting a new school in the near future. Children certainly need to be in smaller classes for less distraction and , hepefully, less noise.

  50. This is really cool. Its great to show our kids how other people live in this world. What a great experience for both of you.

  51. Treen Goodwin says:

    wow what a great experience , makes me wanna count my blessings , i always said there’s always someone way worse off than me … thanks for sharing 🙂

  52. This type of experience has to put things into perspective. We expect so much in our lives, and it takes so little to complete theirs. I think they can teach us something.

  53. Angela Mitchell says:

    This like a really rewarding activity and a learning experience for all.

  54. Lynda Cook says:

    What I love about these pictures is they all look so happy and don’t have a care in the world, truthfully they look happier than the kid down the street that has everything! awesome pictures and a great trip for the boys!!

  55. kathy downey says:

    What a great learning experience for the children

  56. Kristian Weavers says:

    Amazing adventure

  57. That high five is precious!

  58. Sara Lima says:

    I had absolutely no idea such a thing existed. What a great chance for your boys to visit a different place, and make some new friends. And how great that you can bring attention to this great place.

    I hope your boys enjoyed themselves. <3 All the kids are so cute!

  59. This sounds like a fabulous idea. I love that they offer this at the resort!

  60. Erika Belanger says:

    Awee great pics, the kids look so happy. SO awesome!!

  61. Darlene Demell says:

    Such happy smiley faces on those kids who live over in that part of the world. It was quite an experience for you and your son I am sure.

  62. Wayne Lecoy says:

    What an amazing experience!! And something that will impact your boys for the rest of their lives!!

  63. Beautiful pictures, That is so wonderful what you and your boys experienced.

  64. What a great experience!

  65. Elva Roberts says:

    I have already made a comment on the school. I was interested and amused by your son playing with an old tire. My great grandson has scads of toys. When he comes in ot our home, we have a few toys and he seems to be quite contented playing with the same toys on every visit. Children are very adaptable and will really surprise you at times. That is part of what makes them so interesting and fascinating.

  66. What an awsome expierence

  67. kathy downey says:

    We could learn from this…look how fast these kids became friends

  68. An amazing experience with memories to last a lifetime. Wish I could go!

  69. That’s nice.

  70. Victoria Ess says:

    What a great experience for all of you! Thank you for sharing!

  71. kathy downey says:

    The Sandals Foundation is doing a tremendous job

  72. What a fantastic experience.

  73. James Robb says:

    That trip looked amazing, Your boys are so cute hanging with the local kids! I have always wanted to travel to Jamaica, but have never had the chance.

  74. what a wonderful amazing experience for all!

  75. kathy downey says:

    Wow,I can’t even imagine trying to get work done with that many students!

  76. Elva+Roberts says:

    I was impressed by the happy demeanour of the children in this crowded school. In spite of their poverty, they see, to be so happy and friendly, it makes your heart glad to see them. Thank you for telling us so much about this memorable trip with your boys.

  77. what a great experience for your boys to remember

  78. Amy Lovell says:

    What a wonderful experience your children have had!

  79. Elva Roberts says:

    I am so happy that there are Charitible organizations that help disadvantaged people in the poorer countries of the world. It gives one hope for the future of the world, that , at some point, most people will live in peace, have enough food to eat and have an adequate education. People, like you, give me hope as well. Mother Teresa was just one person and she helped many, one at a time. Hugs and prayers for all who help others, especially those who travel abroad to help them.

  80. nikki robak says:

    our kids don’t realize how lucky they are for the education system that they have it must have been a great experience for you and your kids

  81. kids

  82. kathy downey says:

    What an amazing experience!

  83. this experience will never be forgotten

  84. kathy downey says:

    What an amazing experience

  85. kathy downey says:

    Awe to see the schools and the country

  86. I went to Jamaica many years ago and would love to go back

  87. Elva Roberts says:

    I have already commented on how happy the children in this school seem to be, even though they are , to uw, so disadvantaged. One of my friends, a Religious Sister, spent some time in Central America.
    She said that tho most did not really know where the next meal was coming from, they were consistently happy people.
    I am appalled at the street people we have in Canada. I think We should be doing more to have half-way houses to help these people from sleeping on the streets.

  88. This reminds me of my foster boy in Safe Haven near Kenya

  89. Amy Lovell says:

    What a fantastic experience! I love how they went outside to play in the trees, instead of using electronics!

  90. Terri Baker says:

    Amazing! Your children have learned a great life’s lesson with this experience

  91. What a great experience for you and your boys. It must be bittersweet coming back home to see all the opportunity our kids have.

  92. kathy downey says:

    It was very nice that you presented the teacher with books and supplies you had brought from home to donate

  93. Elva Roberts says:

    One of my friends went to Africa with a Church group to help build a playground for children in an orphanage. Another man that I taught years ago leads a group to Mindori every year to help farmer grow better crops.
    We usually hear the bad news stories but there are many people who want to and do help. Kudos to all of them.

  94. I would love to do the same one day.

  95. Victoria Ess says:

    What a wonderful trip for all of you!

  96. Elva Roberts says:

    I applaud the Sandals Foundation and the Miestry of Education in Jamaica for their support of the project Sprout which intervenes and helps children get an education. Kudos to them and to all the volunteers who go on these ‘ Reading Trips’ to help these children.

  97. kathy downey says:

    Sounds like they will have a beautiful school

  98. Jeanette Jackson says:

    Great experience for your family.

  99. Margaret MacKenzie says:

    Wow! What a great experience for you but especially your children. I can’t even imagine being a teacher in the schools that our children attend but to teach in a glass of 3-5 yr olds with 64 in the class…these teachers are amazing angels. Thank you for the great post, pictures and for sharing this with me.

  100. now that’s an unforgettable experience

  101. What an experience that must have been.

  102. I would love to visit them and take supplies! Thank you for sharing with us.

  103. Christina Van Somer says:

    Sounds like it was a blast and a great learning experience!

  104. Chandra Christine O'Connor says:

    very proud mommy moment you must have experienced

  105. kathy downey says:

    I like their uniforms

  106. FREDERIC BROWN says:

    What a memorable experience YOU ARE lucky

  107. Sandi Tymchuk says:

    Helps me appreciate just how lucky I am in the lottery of life–to be born in Canada, and to be able to travel.

  108. I love this idea! Sometimes I think taking vacations to exotic locations is so self-centered. I think that spending time giving back is a great way to even things out!

  109. love the pictures

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