Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, is celebrated nine years of operation on Sunday March 18. Focusing its efforts on the community, education and the environment, the Sandals Foundation was founded to continue and expand upon the philanthropic work that Sandals Resorts International has undertaken since opening their first resort in 1981. Sandals Foundation President, Adam Stewart, said celebrating nine years should be a proud occasion for everyone directly or indirectly connected to the foundation. “It represents nine years of playing a meaningful role in the development of this incredible region, a region we call home. Like most things in life, everything is better when done beside your friends and I’m honored to say that the Sandals Foundation has truly wonderful friends in all four corners of the world,” Stewart said. He added that the organization’s success could not have been achieved without the support of Sandals Resorts International team members, guests, partners and government agencies who believe in the foundation’s mission. The Sandals Foundation supports projects in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas however, in periods of natural disasters such as the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the foundation has lent support to other Caribbean countries.
Throughout its nine years, the foundation has remained committed to uplifting, engaging and empowering individuals through community programmes, tackling issues related to violence, poverty, disaffected youths and access to healthcare, supporting programmes and projects valued at over US$45 million. “Through our partnerships with various entities and individuals, we were able to reach a large cross section of persons who were found to be disenfranchised and vulnerable. We believe things can be better for these persons and we want to help to make them better,” said Heidi Clarke, Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation. Since 2016, the Sandals Foundation has also joined forces with the Bob Marley Foundation to address the chronic issue of gender inequality in the Caribbean by launching the Women Helping Others Achieve (WHOA) programme. “The WHOA programme focuses on the rounded development of the women we serve throughout the region from educating pregnant teenage girls, providing health equipment, counselling and mentorship for abused women, skills training and funding for women in sports and the development of women in agriculture with a linkage to the tourism sector,” Clarke said. Through WHOA, the foundation has supported programmes such as the Women’s Centre of Jamaica, PACE (Providing Access to continued Education) in The Bahamas and The Grenada Women in Agriculture Project.
Empowering Lives through Education
With a firm belief that education is the vehicle to success, Clarke said the foundation also continues to pay keen attention to the education of young people across the region, looking closely at literacy levels and development through sports. “Through partnerships with organizations like Hands across the Sea and programmes like the Reading Road Trip, we are able to connect with children and supply much needed supplies to bolster their enthusiasm to learn and encourage them to become productive citizens of their countries,” Clarke said. These programmes, she said, also provide the opportunity for visitors to the region to engage with citizens, facilitating and encouraging impactful work and meaningful cultural exchanges. In 2017, the state of the art West End Infant School was opened in Negril, through funding from the Sandals Foundation and the CHASE Fund. Clarke said, with the continued generous donations and partnerships from individuals and groups, the foundation is committed to continue its work in the region.
Protecting the Environment
Since its inception, bringing awareness to environmental issues and helping to address some of these issues have been a top priority of the foundation. With a focus on marine conservation and protecting the reefs and underwater ecosystem, the Sandals Foundation manages and supports multiple marine sanctuaries across the region as well as turtle conservation and environmental education in schools. In recent times, the foundation has started engaging visitors to the region in coral dives as well as hunting dives targeting the invasive lionfish. To date, the Sandals Foundation has impacted well over 700,000 lives across the region and is committed to expanding that reach under their mission to improve lives in the Caribbean.