With a recent donation of some 260 new, durable backpacks, parents of the Sudbury All Age School in rural St. James have one less item to worry about as the current new school year ends and they begin to turn their attention to the new school year.
The idea to gift the backpacks came from United States travel agent Wanda Keefer who first visited Sudbury All Age last November on one of her regular visits to Jamaica.
At the time she had gifted the school some batches of educational supplies. It was during this visit to Sudbury All Age that Keefer learned of the need some families face in supporting their children’s academic needs.
“I asked what items were most needed by students at the beginning of each school year and I was told backpacks. I promised the principal I would personally ensure each child has a backpack for the next school year,” said Keefer who had been selling vacations at Sandals Resorts for over a decade.
Upon her return to the United States, Keefer reached out to her associates and community members and succeeded in collecting nearly 300 new backpacks for the children of Sudbury All Age. She then reached out to the Sandals Foundation that helped to ship the backpacks to Jamaica and supplemented the gifts with teaching and learning supplies for both teachers and students. The Sandals Foundation also sponsored a treat for the children where they were feted and entertained by Sandals Foundation ambassadors from the three Sandals Resorts properties in Montego Bay.
Keefer said she was moved to tears by the gratitude of the students.
“I’m fulfilling a dream that my late husband had. He loved kids and he made me promise him I would give to those in need. Because of the partnership with Sandals and Beaches and Sandals Foundation, I was able to do just that,” Keefer said.
Principal of the Sudbury All Age School Simone Beecher Wright said the gesture by Keefer and the Sandals Foundation is truly appreciated by the school and wider community.
“A good backpack can cost up to $4,000 or more and some parents have more than one child attending school. It is really a great thing that the Sandals Foundation and Mrs. Keefer did. They spent time with the children, engaging them in fun activities; it was a memorable day,” Beecher Wright said.
Director of the Sandals Foundation Heidi Clarke, lauded Keefer, hailing her as a true Sandals Foundation ambassador and friend of Jamaica.
“Keefer is not just a travel agent. She is a giver with a big heart. She has a fruitful relationship with the Sandals Foundation, being one of the sponsors of our Care For Kids scholarship programme which supports students attending secondary and tertiary schools across the Caribbean,” Clarke said.
She continued, “We are happy we were able to facilitate this donation. As the Sandals Foundation celebrates 10 years, we promise to continue making meaningful partnerships that benefit the people in the countries where Sandals and Beaches resorts are located.”