Sandals Foundation now a reality

Published: Friday | March 20, 2009

Hope Evans, Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Bruce Golding (second left) gets a hug from a Sesame Street mascot, while Monsignor Richard Albert (right) looks on. Occasion was the official launch of the Sandals Foundation at Sandals Cay, located on the Sandals Royal Caribbean Hotel property in Montego Bay, St James, on Wednesday. - Contributed

Sandals Resorts International (SRI) is no stranger to giving back to the community. For the last 27 years, its constituents have managed several projects and maintained a low-key involvement in helping the community, as was revealed at the official launch of the Sandals Foundation on Sandals Cay Island in St James, Montego Bay, Wednesday evening.

Adam Stewart, Sandals Resorts International chief executive, along with several partners and the help of many members of staff members, created the foundation with a purpose to integrate the projects of SRI and promote the improvement of economic and social conditions. Several of the programmes have reached out to many of Jamaica's communities, according to Stewart.

300 community projects

Marylin Nash, representative of the Flankers Peace and Justice Centre, receives a $500,000 cheque for the community centre from Sandals Resorts Chairman, Gordon 'Butch' Stewart. - Photos by Hope Evans

"For almost three decades, we've had 300 community projects and never spoke about them publicly, until now," Stewart said. "That's because we didn't do it (the projects) for public relations or promotion."

The environmental component of the Sandals Foundation aims to preserve marine life as well as the island's terrain with anti-litter campaigns, beach cleanings and tree-planting sessions. The foundation also supports environmentally-friendly tours such as Reliable Adventures Jamaica, an eco-friendly community tour offered by Sandals Whitehouse. Wolde Kristos, Reliable Adventures Jamaica tour operator, offered an explanation as to why the Sandals Foundation intentionally stayed under the radar for so long.

"We're now in the time of the 'new age' traveller," Kristos said. "The 'new age' traveller demands to know how their money is being used to benefit the community."

Tourist profile

Sandals Foundation coordinator, Heidi Clarke, agreed with Kristos. She said the profile of a tourist these days is much different from 20 years ago and that through volunteerism, tourists are able to fulfil their need to give back. Clarke's upcoming environmental project in Whitehouse will allow tourists to help build Jamaica's first environmentally-friendly school.

The Sandals Foundation also works to deliver a range of educational projects. Sesame Street Workshop, a programme dedicated to educating underprivileged children, is one such project. Also included in the Sandals Foundation educational outreach are scholarships, adopting and maintaining schools, mentoring programmes and tourism action clubs for high-school students.

Amoya Roxborough, a second-year student at the University of the West Indies, has reaped the benefits of the foundation's scholarship. Roxborough said without the financial assistance, she would not be able to attend school.

Businessman Don Lindel (left) and Adam Stewart, chief executive officer of Sandals Resorts International, converse at the launch of the Sandals Foundation in Montego Bay, St James.

Wolde Kristos, Reliable Adventures Jamaica tour operator, cannot be missed in this outfit as he supports the Sandals Foundation launch Wednesday evening

Sandals Foundation scholarship recipient Amoya Roxborough used the foundation's financial assistance to study diagnostic imaging at the University of the West Indies.