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Voluntourism has become a popular niche market presenting travelers with an opportunity to pitch in and help local people at the destination they’re visiting. While voluntourism opportunities abound in Asia, Africa and Latin America, they’re harder to come by in the Caribbean. A stand-out exception is the Sandals Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International.
The foundation recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Over the course of a decade, visitors to Sandals and Beaches resorts have assisted the foundation in its efforts, which include school programs and marine preservation.
“Since we became a formalized nonprofit in March 2009, we have found that more and more of our visitors really want to get into the local community and play their part in giving back to the islands where they love to vacation,” said Heidi Clarke, executive director of the Sandals Foundation. “We always reinforce to our travel partners that just by selling our resorts, you’re helping to make a difference, because Sandals Resorts International underwrites the governance of the foundation.”
Travel advisors can book Sandals Foundation’s voluntourism activities, such as a Reading Road Trip program and turtle hatching activities, for clients in advance. To do so, contact an Island Routes Tours Representative (a Sandals and Beaches partner) via Island Routes Caribbean Adventures’ website. Clients may also book once they arrive at their resort by visiting the Island Routes Caribbean Adventures desk located inside all Sandals and Beaches resorts.
For larger volunteer groups, advisors can reach out to Sandals Foundation directly at [email protected] They can then request more information in order to plan a designated outreach project.
Sandals Foundation has partnered with Pack For A Purpose, a 501(c)(3) organization that encourages travelers to include needed school supplies, medical supplies and other necessities in their baggage. These supplies can then be donated to locals in need.
“We encourage visitors to any of our islands to bring up to 5 pounds of school supplies via their packed luggage,” Clarke said. “These supplies can then easily be dropped off at the resort’s front desk.”
Advisors and their clients can view a list of needed supplies at Pack For a Purpose’s website. There they’ll find a list of items that are requested by the local schools and institutions that the Sandals Foundation supports across the region.
“Additionally, through the Sandals Foundation’s relationship with School Specialty, visitors can visit the School Specialty site and purchase much-needed supplies at a discount,” Clarke said. “These include pre-designated backpacks containing materials outlined by local school representatives.”
Every Sandals and Beaches resort observes Foundation Thursday: Each Thursday, the resort offers insight into the work of the Sandals Foundation and provides opportunities for guests to learn more and get involved. Guests can also support local artisans through the purchase of items that are sold in at the resort, with a percentage of these sales going right back into programs that support local communities.
In 2019, the Sandals Foundation has put a special emphasis on expanding awareness and funding to support the Caribbean ecosystem. This commitment includes working with schools and educators to integrate marine education in their lesson plans. In line with its mission to reduce waste, the foundation will also provide schoolchildren in the region with reusable lunch kits to reduce their dependence on Styrofoam and plastics. Guests can get involved by participating in the foundation’s new coral planting and lionfish-hunting dives as well as taking part in beach cleanups. Additionally, the foundation encourages visitors to bring books and reading materials that address environmental conservation for children ages 3 to 18, which will then be donated to local schools.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve been fortunate to have had more than 25,000 people participate in some sort of outreach opportunity with the Sandals Foundation,” Clarke said. “Oftentimes, these experiences are the direct catalyst for guests to want to make an even bigger contribution.”
The DetailsSandals Resorts Internationalwww.sandals.com