Sandals Foundation marks 10th anniversary

Non-profit organisation pledges strengthened commitment to environmental sustainability

Monday, March 18, 2019

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Sandals Foundation is celebrating its 10th anniversary today with a commitment to placing special emphasis on expanding awareness and funding to support the Caribbean's ecosystem.

“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,” the foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, said in a news release.

“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,” the foundation said.

The non-profit organisation also said that in line with its mission to reduce waste, it will also provide schoolchildren 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 club leaders on environmental conservation, as well as engage wardens and provide enforcement equipment to ensure proper management and protection of marine areas,” the foundation added.

It also pledged 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, community members will receive training in coral restoration, and guests at Sandals and Beaches Resorts will be able to participate in coral planting dives,” the foundation said.

In addition, the foundation said it will give “even greater focus on turtle conservation” and will “work to certify Sandals and Beaches resorts in turtle protection — continuing support of the highly successful turtle tour and help to rehabilitate beaches to provide safer nesting grounds”.

The foundation — which currently operates in Antigua, The Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia, and Turks & Caicos — said that it is fulfilling its promise to the Caribbean community and impacting over 850,000 people. It invests in projects directly related to improving communities, fostering growth through education, and protecting the environment — bringing its over 14,000 employees and its customers together to support environmentally sustainable projects.

“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,” the release quotes Adam Stewart, deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International, president of the Sandals Foundation, and deputy chairman of this newspaper.

“To build on our momentum and bring even more awareness to the importance of supporting the Caribbean, we are tapping into the power of social media, our local and international partnerships, and the strong support that we have within Sandals Resorts International to galvanise the world to join in our efforts,” he said.

Since its inception in 2009, Sandals Foundation has worked with its extensive network of donors, volunteers, partners and team members to implement projects and programmes valued at over US$58 million. The foundation has worked with 578 schools across the region, impacted over 348,000 community members, and reached over 43,000 people through environmental programmes.

“We have been very fortunate in the support we have received over the past 10 years that has allowed us to impact so many people across the region,” said the foundation's Executive Director Heidi Clarke. “It has been especially gratifying to know that we have uplifted the spirits and improved the quality of life for thousands of children and adults alike, and this has fuelled us to make this significant commitment for the way forward.”

Over the decade, Sandals Foundation has constructed three early childhood institutions, awarded 180 five-year scholarships to deserving students, implemented programmes to promote literacy and technological advancements, and completed major infrastructural developments to schools.

The foundation has also taken significant strides to protect the environment, managing two marine protected areas and supporting another four in Jamaica. In addition, the foundation has taken steps to reduce plastic pollution in the region and educate adults and children on the dangers of irresponsible waste disposal, distributing 5,000 reusable water bottles to students and 10,000 reusable shopping bags in an effort to promote environmental protection.

It has also supported programmes aimed at protecting endangered species including turtles, conch, forestry, and coral reefs.

The foundation's work in communities has seen the donation of critical medical equipment to hospitals; support for women farmers, pregnant teens, artisans; and the provision of critical dental and eye care services to over 240,000 people.

Over the past decade, the foundation has also extended on the ground support to neighbouring islands in times of crisis, including natural disasters in Haiti, Dominica, Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, and some of the out islands of The Bahamas.

The foundation said that while it will continue to support projects across each of its core pillars, it is placing a special emphasis on the environmental component in the years to come.

Clarke said the Sandals group of companies and the Sandals Foundation have already started to intensify their efforts by reducing plastic pollution through their operations, which is indicative of the pledge they have made to protecting the Caribbean's natural resources.

“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,” Clarke continued.

Last year, in partnership with Oceanic Global, a non-profit focused on providing solutions to issues impacting the world's 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.

In addition, as of February 1, 2019, all Sandals and Beaches resorts have eliminated styrofoam, and the company is currently exploring opportunities to eliminate other plastic across its resorts by September 2019.

With the devastating effects of climate change on the environment more evident than ever, Clarke urged residents and organisations across the region to join the pledge to make sustainable environmental practices a part of their everyday lives and operations.

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