SIXTY students from Whitehouse, St James, are set to return to school in style, thanks to the generous efforts of Sandals Foundation.
The youngsters have been gifted backpacks with school supplies, all part of a heart-warming gesture to support their educational journey.
The special back-to-school presentations took place following the community's Recreational Shoreline Fishing Tournament held last week Friday. The fishing tournament is a summer activity aimed at engaging the community's youth, aged 5-17. Initially launched in 2020, the event returned this year with aspirations of becoming a recurring tradition for Whitehouse.
During the tournament children engaged in friendly competition, vying to secure the biggest catch using hand reels. Seasoned fisherfolk from the community supervised the event, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.
After all their efforts the children looked forward to an afternoon of food, fun and prizes. According to Beulah England-Kelly, a respected community member and event organiser, prizes were awarded to the top six participants. Awards were also presented to the boy and girl who caught the most fish, the child who landed the largest fish, and the individual who caught the first fish. Prizes included valuables such as laptops, tablets, remote-controlled boats, and trophies. Additionally, each participant received a goodie bag with fishing gear, snacks, and a commemorative tournament T-shirt; as well as $5,000 book vouchers courtesy of MBJ, operators of Sangster International Airport.
Among the day's highlights was the back-to-school presentation, facilitated by Sandals Foundation with the gracious support of volunteers from Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean.
"We are so grateful for the continued support of our partners â€” the Sandals Foundation and Sandals Resorts in the Montego Bay region; MBJ; businesses within the community including Tropical Bliss, Villa Maria, Kelly's Watersports, Snappers, Breezing, as well as the Whitehouse fishing community. Their collective efforts made today's event a resounding success," said England-Kelly.
School packages provided to the children included school bags, notebooks, pencils, crayons, erasers, rulers and sharpeners.
Renae Harwood, a parent, expressed her gratitude for the support. "I'm very happy for the school supplies given to both my daughters," she said. "Preparing our kids for school in September along with all our other everyday expenses can be financially draining, so getting this support from the Sandals Foundation is greatly appreciated," she added.
"I see that the kids also thoroughly enjoyed themselves during the Recreational Shoreline Fishing Tournament and we're eternally grateful to our fellow community organisers for having the vision to put on this event and engaging partners like Sandals Foundation to support our youngsters."
As the fishing Tournament drew to a close, the children's excitement was palpable as they received their new school bags and supplies, along with additional refreshments from the Sandals team.
Ariyanna Brown, a student entering grade 11 at Mount Alvernia High in September, expressed her appreciation for the gesture, underscoring how the items will aid her in the upcoming school year.
"Today's presentation of back-to-school supplies in the Whitehouse community was quite heart-warming just to see the smiles on the kids' faces and knowing that we helped to make that possible," said Sandals Montego Bay Hotel Manager Anna-Kay Wholas.
She lauded the collaborative efforts between Sandals and the Whitehouse community, commending the organisers, the resort's public relations team, and Sandals Foundation volunteers for their roles in making the event a success.
Preceding the Recreational Shoreline Fishing Tournament, the Sandals Foundation team engaged children and community members from Whitehouse in a talk on ocean conservation and shared useful tips on what can be done to protect the marine environment. Haniff Richards, Sandals Montego Bay's environment, health and safety manager, along with Georgia Scarlett, Sandals Foundation environmental projects coordinator, led the informative session.
Sandals Foundation's dedication to the Whitehouse community, however, extends beyond this event. The Sandals Foundation team in Montego Bay has previously organised Christmas treats and toy distributions and consistently supported the local basic school, demonstrating its commitment to fostering education, community enrichment, and environmental awareness in Whitehouse.