Sailors Give Back to the Caribbean


In “A Life of Giving” Carol Bareuther explains how Ann Wallis-White began her quest to make a difference in the Caribbean, and in particular, for children. Wallis-White has been able to combine her two dearly loved activities from an early age— yachting and reading—to give back to others. Today, there are a number of yachts and yacht crews who are giving back to the islands they love thanks to Wallis-White’s inspiration and example. Yachting is something Wallis-White has known all of her life and so is a love of reading. “I was a charter child,” she says. “I was reading books before I could walk.”

Ann Wallis-White was one of the first charter brokers in the U.S., opening an office in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1976, and booking her first charter while still in college. Trips to the Caribbean would inevitably bring her to places where children owned few possessions. “I don’t like the idea of handing out money. That only solves the problem for a day,” she says. Instead, “like seeds that can be planted to grow a garden full of food,” she started handing out books that she hoped would foster a love of reading and education. For over 30 years, Wallis-White says she has “begged, borrowed and got donated” thousands of books that have been distributed to Antigua, Dominica, Bequia, Grenada, St. Vincent, Union Island, and other Caribbean islands. Libraries, which annually discard used books, have been a key source of donations. A dozen years ago, Wallis-White partnered with a nonprofit group called B.I.G. Books (Books for International Goodwill), which works to recycle books for the benefit of people as well as the environment.

After obtaining and boxing the books, another challenge is transportation. Yacht skippers who sail through Annapolis en route to the Caribbean have often been asked to transport a few boxes of books. With the help of other people interested in giving back to the islands, Wallis-White has been able to find people who will gladly transport the books to their Caribbean destination. For example, over the past several years, Karen Kelly (Nicholson Yachts Newport) has worked with Wallis-White to enlist the help of skippers in Newport who are undertaking their annual north to south migration.

The real story, says Wallis-White, isn’t about her or her book drive or what she’s done; it’s about how easy it is for anyone to perform a small act of kindness. She is often recognized throughout the Caribbean by people, young and old alike— those who grew up reading her donated books and those who await them. This anecdote seems to sum it up: Last year, she was delivering needed items to an elderly friend in a rough neighborhood in Antigua. Three teenage boys walked up to her car and started tapping on the window. “I rolled down the window, not knowing what to expect, and they asked me if I had anything to read,” says Wallis-White.

 For more information or to contribute, contact Wallis-White at

For full article by Carol Bareuther, see

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