The Season Of Giving Part 2
Sandals Foundation Spreads Goodwill Beyond The Beach

Open Jaw
by Martha Chapman

School children

Reading road trip - Seville


Earth Day

Earth Day Tree planting

Sandals & Beaches are renowned for their inclusions, innovations and glossy ad campaigns. But beyond the beach, the bars and the bathing suits there is an enormous amount of good work being achieved by the Sandals Foundation.

Over 30 years ago the Stewart family, founders of Sandals, started supporting local schools near their resorts in Jamaica. The Foundation was formally created in 2009 and today supports a host of initiatives under the banners of Community, Education & Environment with money, time and goods.

“Children’s health and education, including providing students with upgraded schools and technological resources, are both particularly important to us,” Heidi Clarke told me over the phone from Kingston, Jamaica. Clarke, who is Director of Programs for the Foundation added, “Many of our programs are ongoing, but in other instances we ensure they are up and running, that the administrators know how to bring in funding and work with government agencies such as the ministries of health and education, and then we move on. We don’t want to create a dependency.”

And it’s not just the Foundation staffers who get involved: about 20 Sandals “ambassadors” are chosen from staff volunteers in each resort to raise awareness and get guests engaged in outreach.

One way clients can get involved is in the Pack for a Purpose program whereby guests are asked to bring up to 5 lb. of supplies as suggested  on the website (in the Bahamas, for example, they are looking for chalk, books, chess sets, USB sticks, skipping ropes, etc.) “We’re thrilled that Pack for a Purpose has become so large that even people staying in other resorts or coming by cruise ship are contributing,” says Clarke.

There’s even a Canadian connection: the Foundation has partnered with Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital and will be investing USD 200,000 to have Bajan Dr. Chantelle Browne-Farmer train in pediatric hematology. “The survival rate for pediatric cancer in the Caribbean is about 1/2 what it is in North America,” Clarke told me. “Sick Kids is a fantastic hospital and we love their holistic approach.”

The Foundation even shares its wealth beyond the islands where there are Sandals & Beaches resorts, providing, for example, earthquake relief in Haiti and mudslide recovery assistance in Dominica.

Is there 1 initiative which especially resonates with Heidi Clarke? “That’s a tricky question. They are all so worthwhile but I feel our scholarships have been something dear to my heart. We’ve seen kids who come from very poor homes make a difference – for example a young lady who is now a doctor here in Jamaica. We get so many scholarship requests from young people with great potential but not the money… it breaks my heart.”

Since it was formally founded, the Foundation has distributed some USD 1.6 million, though as Clarke explained, the value is actually USD 35 million. Something to be very proud of indeed.

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