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Festival at Sea Passengers Donate Thousands of Books

St. Croix was blessed with a HUGE donation of new children’s books Tuesday from an unusual source…cruise ship passengers! Hundreds, perhaps 1,000 or more books, as well as school supplies, were presented to “the children of St. Croix” by the organizer and spokesperson for the Festival at Sea event, which arrived in Frederiksted Tuesday morning on the Carnival Valor cruise ship. The St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association organized the ceremony at Buddhoe Park to recognize and express the island’s gratitude to the Festival at Sea passengers for their donations and to warmly welcome them to St. Croix.

How did this extremely generous act come about? Each year Blue World Travel Corporation hosts the Festival at Sea event on a Caribbean cruise. If you haven’t heard of Blue World Travel, you’re not alone. They operate essentially by “word of mouth”; that being said, this is their 23rd year of presenting the Festival at Sea cruise event and it sells out every year! Each year for the last 22 years they have kindly asked their passengers to bring a new children’s book with them onboard to be donated to one of the islands they will be visiting. Patricia Yarbrough, President of Blue World Travel, contacted and told us they wanted to donate the books collected this year to the children of St. Croix! In their words, according to their Blue Notes newsletter, the book donations “…show our neighbors in the Caribbean that we want to give something back for their hospitality.

“Peggy Taylor Presley, the Director of Teacher Support of the Los Angeles Unified School District and spokesperson for Festival at Sea, gave an inspirational speech on the importance of knowledge and education for all children and stated: “…we come as vacationers to see what the Caribbean has to offer and, today, what St. Croix has to offer. We are here to have a good time, but also to share the love of learning.” Patricia Yarbrough, President of Blue World Travel, spoke next and let everyone know that the passengers take the time to buy and donate books for the children out of the goodness of their heart, so she hopes the children will take the time to look at the sticker placed on each book that has the name of the person that donated the book and where they live. She hopes that these stickers will show the children of St. Croix that people from all over the U.S. and abroad care about them and their education.

The donated books will be be distributed between St. Croix’s schools, libraries and charitable organizations. To recognize the impacts the book donation will make, special thanks was offered to the organizers and spokespeople for the Festival at Sea one at a time by: Fran Geocaris and Suzanne Rosbach of the St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association; Ingrid Bough, the Territorial Director of Libraries, Archives & Museums; Gary Molloy, the Insular Superintendent for the V.I. Department of Education; Richard Evangelista of CASA of the Virgin Islands (on behalf of Governor John P. deLongh), Jr.; Chantal Figueroa, President of the USVI Department of Tourism; and, Neil Canton from the St. Croix chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of the USVI. The books also came at an especially opportune time as the St. Croix chapter of the Boys & Girls Club, as well as many children island-wide, are participating in the annual Governor’s Reading Challenge.

While St. Croix did it’s best to show our sincere thanks for the donation, and the caring and thoughtfulness behind it, the most rewarding part for the donors had to be the thanks and smiles they received from the kids in attendance from the St. Croix Boys & Girls Club who accepted the books on behalf of the children of St. Croix. It was rewarding, even as a spectator, to see the children’s eyes light up and their fingers get itchy to dig into the boxes of new books just waiting for them!

Ingrid Bough put it best when she said: “Books are gifts for a lifetime.” Not only can books can be shared and passed down from generation to generation, but the places, characters, stories, and knowledge contained in books can live on in a child’s mind for a lifetime as well. Books have the power to transport you to far off places, ignite your imagination, inspire creativity, and instill knowledge. These books offer the children of St. Croix not only the pure satisfaction and enjoyment of reading, but also give them something more valuable – wisdom, hope, dreams and aspirations.Thank you again to the Blue World Travel Corporation and the Festival at Sea passengers, we hope you enjoyed your visit to St. Croix and we hope to see you again soon!

– Jennie Ogden, Editor