Today, the Sandals Foundation – the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International – celebrates 10 years of fulfilling its promise to the Caribbean community of investment in sustainable projects that improve schools and build capacity in the education system, restore and conserve marine wildlife and help marginalized people transform their lives through training and other community development programs. Over the next decade, the Foundation is planning to double down on protecting the Caribbean ecosystem and bringing its 14,000 employees and customers together to support over 120 projects and programs annually across Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Turks & Caicos.
“Our goal has always been simple – to unite the Caribbean region, elevate its people, and protect its delicate ecosystem – and I am so proud of how far we’ve come in our first decade,” said Adam Stewart, Deputy Chairman of Sandals Resorts International and President of the Sandals Foundation. “To build on our momentum and bring even more awareness to importance of supporting the Caribbean, we are tapping into the power of social media to launch a campaign to galvanize the world to join in our efforts.”
Called #FaceTheCaribbean, guests across the company’s 19 Sandals and Beaches Resorts will have the opportunity to change the face of the Caribbean for generations to come – whether they choose to donate in support of a particular project, participate in the Pack for a Purpose® program and bring needed supplies to local schools, purchase merchandise and items from Caribbean Artisan Collections available in the Sandals and Beaches Resort Shops or get hands on through unique voluntourism excursions, such as the Reading Road Trip, that take them directly into local communities.
Ten Years of Supporting the Faces of the Caribbean
Since its inception in 2009, the Sandals Foundation has worked with its extensive network of donors, volunteers, partners, team members and social media activists to build schools, outfit computer labs and libraries, foster youth engagement through sports programs, manage marine protected areas, offer free medical, dental and eye care, provide women with the tools they need to thrive, and much more. To-date, the Foundation has raised $11,182,955, impacting well over 850,000 people in the region, with the overall dollar amount of projects and programs implemented valued at over 58 million dollars.
Some key examples of the Foundation’s projects to-date include:
Education: Worked with 578 schools across the region providing capacity building for teachers, awards scholarships to deserving students, initiatives to promote literacy and technological advancement in schools.
Environment: In partnership with CLEAR Caribbean, established restoration programs inside Saint Lucia’s Soufriere Marine Management Area and trained local stakeholders to build, install and monitor two coral nurseries. So far, over 2000 corals have been propagated.
Community: Launched the Women Helping Others Achieve (WHOA) program, an initiative aimed at positively impacting marginalized women across the Caribbean and helping them find the inspiration to transform their lives through vocational training, counseling, agricultural programs and more.
Over the past decade, the Foundation has also extended support to neighboring islands on the ground in times of crisis, including natural disasters in Haiti, Dominica, Barbuda and some of the out islands of the Bahamas.
Helping the Caribbean Marine Ecosystem
While the Sandals Foundation will continue to support projects across each of its core pillars, the organization is placing a special emphasis on the environmental component today and in the years to come.
“The Caribbean Sea connects more than 700 islands and coastlines, which is a source of livelihood for thousands of people. The role we all play in supporting protected areas and teaching the next generation the importance of caring for their precious environment is crucial now more than ever,” said Heidi Clarke, Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation. “The Sandals Group of companies and Sandals Foundation have intensified our efforts by reducing plastic pollution through our operations and in our communities as well as ensuring we engage all the key stakeholders in our efforts.”
The Sandals Foundation is already invested in countless projects that support marine conservation and environmental awareness, including:
Floating Classrooms: Encouraged the development of responsible behaviors toward the natural environment through this unique program, which brings children face-to-face with the marine ecosystem. This is just one way the Foundation has educated more than 34,478 people on proper marine and land based environmental activities.
Boscobel Sanctuary & Whitehouse Fish Sanctuary: In partnership with the Government of Jamaica, the Foundation established and manages the sanctuaries of the Boscobel and Whitehouse Special Fisheries Conservation Areas to combat the effects of overfishing along Jamaica’s coastline. Between 2013 and 2017, there was a 1300 percent increase in fish population in the Boscobel Marine Sanctuary.
Endangered Species Conservation: Provided education and resources to impact the ecological conservation and protection of important species including the Grenada Dove, Sea Turtles and Parrotfish. Additionally, the Foundation has worked with land-based organizations to protect fauna and flora including the Lansan tree – unique to St. Lucia and Winward Islands – which has been victim to deforestation and over exploitation for its aromatic white resin used locally as incense.
Last year, in partnership with Oceanic Global, a non-profit focused on providing solutions to issues impacting our oceans, all 19 Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts eliminated the 21,490,800 single-use plastic straws and stirrers used across the resorts each year, along with plastic laundry bags and plastic bags throughout gift shops. As of February 1, 2019, all resorts have eliminated Styrofoam. The company is currently exploring opportunities to eliminate other plastic across its resorts by September 2019.
Environmental sustainability is critical to Sandals and Beaches Resorts’ core mission, and the company has earned its place as the only hotel chain in the world to have all of its resorts certified by the EarthCheck benchmarking and certification program, with nine resorts currently holding Master Certification. All resorts ensure environmental policies are put in place to reduce the company’s overall carbon footprint, as well.
Face the Future
While the Sandals Foundation has made tremendous progress in the region, the work is far from over. The Foundation remains committed to investments that create a positive and sustainable impact on people’s lives and the environment.
Over the next year, the non-profit will put a special emphasis on expanding awareness and funding to support the beautiful, yet vulnerable, Caribbean ecosystem. The Sandals Foundation has pledged to lead the charge in driving a sustainable future for the region and protecting its precious marine resources.
With the help of partners, key stakeholders and volunteer team members, the Foundation is committed to engaging 100,000 people in environmental protection and conservation over the next 10 years. This commitment includes working with schools and educators to integrate marine education in their lesson plans, spearheading hands-on field trips to protected areas and engaging residents in coastal communities on proper solid waste management programmes. In line with its mission to reduce waste, the Foundation will also provide school children in the region with reusable lunch kits to reduce their dependence on Styrofoam.
Funds raised through donations and partnerships will help to expand on training workshops aimed at building the capacity of educators and environmental club leaders on environmental conservation, as well as engage wardens and provide enforcement equipment to ensure proper management and protection of marine areas.
With even greater focus on turtle conservation, the Foundation will work to certify Sandals and Beaches Resorts in turtle protection, continue support of its highly successful turtle tour and rehabilitate beaches to provide safer nesting grounds.
The Foundation pledges to strengthen the resilience of coral reefs in the region, with a commitment to plant 30,000 coral fragments onto reef systems over the next 10 years. As part of this, locals will receive training in coral restoration, and guests at Sandals and Beaches Resorts will be able to participate in coral planting dives.