A little over 30 years ago, a group of Caribbean nationals ran with the bold idea to build a resort that would function as headquarters for community outreach throughout the Caribbean. With Jamaican native Gordon “Butch” Stewart at the helm, the first Sandals Resort dropped anchor in Montego Bay in 1981. Fifteen resorts and over 300 programs and initiatives later, Sandals Resorts has become a global household name, with the Sandals Foundation connecting planners and travelers to vibrant Caribbean communities.
“The Sandals Foundation is committed to investments that create a positive and sustainable impact on the people who live here and the environment that surrounds us,” says Partnership Marketing Director Liz Kaiser. “As beautiful as the Caribbean is, it is a very vulnerable region that needs attention and focus.”
Sandals Foundation programs seem to sprout as quickly as a resort’s foundation is laid, with ongoing projects in Jamaica, Antigua, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands. In Barbados, where Sandals Barbados is undergoing an extensive renovation and is scheduled to reopen in January 2015, telemedicine rooms were created as part of the Sick Kids-Caribbean initiative. The rooms foster collaboration between medical professionals in the Caribbean and Canadian oncologists and hematologists of the Sick Kids Foundation. A new dove conservation program is currently under way in Grenada, where Sandals LaSource Grenada debuted in December 2013.
The same grassroots, “roll up your sleeves and dig in” energy that propelled Sandals Resorts through its initial run in the early 1980s seeps into the foundation’s programs, making corporate social responsibility (CSR) and teambuilding initiatives a breeze to plan. Kaiser says many groups are gravitating toward the Reading Road Trip program, where they are helping kids in underprivileged Caribbean schools develop reading and comprehension skills. Tree planting and minor revamps and painting activities in local community buildings such as Jamaica’s Montego Bay Boys and Girls Club, have been arranged for groups as large as 500.
Sport also casts a wide net over Sandals initiatives, capturing, in essence, what Kaiser describes as the developing character of Caribbean youth. “Programs like the Sandals Foundation’s Golf Academy in Jamaica and Cricket Academies in Saint Lucia and Antigua have had very positive results on today’s Caribbean tweens and teens.”
To date, the Sandals Foundation has trained close to 550 teachers, awarded 140 scholarships, assisted over 55 schools and created 28 computer labs. Over 4,200 trees have been planted, hundreds of turtle hatchlings saved and close to 8,000 pounds of trash removed from coastal areas.
The common denominator in all of the foundation’s work is an investment in human capital—whether through healthcare, skills training or simply providing kids a safe place to play and “live funner,” the motto of Sandals’ Island Routes, a Caribbean DMC specializing in group adventures and excursions.
“The promise that the Sandals Foundation has made to the Caribbean community is fulfilled each time a child learns to read; when a new community center opens its doors; when neighbors come together to preserve and protect our resources,” explains Kaiser.
Education. Community. Environment. Sounds about right.