Just beyond the manicured lawns, private beaches and white-gloved hospitality workers of Caribbean resorts, there are often local residents languishing in lush green poverty.  The tranquility of the swaying palm trees and the lapping sapphire colored sea waves seem at odds with the harsh and sub-par socio-economic conditions endured by many Caribbean natives despite living in countries that take in millions of tourism dollars every year.  

Sandals Resorts International, a Jamaica-based resort corporation, spawned the Sandals Foundation to directly address the needs of the Caribbean locals who live near their 24 resorts in seven countries. 

During a media presentation on a luxury yacht docked at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, Adam Stewart--the 33-year-old Sandals Resort International CEO and president of the Sandals Foundation—reiterated the foundation’s commitment to the Caribbean community. 

“For many foundations only about 30% of donations go to the actual work of the non-profit, but 100% of the donations to the Sandals Foundation goes towards the Caribbean community.  The for-profit corporation pays for all of the over-head and other administrative costs,” said Stewart to a crowd of New York-based media professionals.  Stewart’s father, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, founded Sandals Resorts International in 1981. The Sandals Foundation was founded in 2009.

In addition to programs that allow resort guests to donate needed items upon arrival and even visit foundation-funded projects, the Sandals Foundation has also announced new partnerships.

Miami Heat Player and NBA Champion Dwyane Wade is pairing his charity Wade’s World Foundation with the Sandals Foundation for a three-year venture that will offer sports, recreation and healthy lifestyle activities to under-served Caribbean youth.

“This partnership was a natural fit for my Wade’s World Foundation as we both share the same mission to provide today’s youth with the building blocks for success. I look forward to extending our reach internationally to make a positive impact in the lives of children, “ said Wade, who founded his non-profit in 2003.

The Sandals Foundation is also working with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated Nassau, Bahamas Alumnae Chapter to support the Providing Access to Continued Education Program (PACE).  The program assists teen mothers and promotes ways to reduce teen pregnancy. Approximately 700 teenage girls are impregnated each year in the Bahamas and many of them end up delaying or foregoing altogether their academic studies. PACE seeks to provide a support system to help the young women make choices that will positively impact the lives of themselves and their families.

But the Sandals Foundation does not just partner with celebrities and esteemed sororities.  Any Sandals visitor has the opportunity to participate with time, money or other types of material donations. Heidi Clarke, who like Adam Stewart is a native of Jamaica, is the director of programs for the Sandals Foundation. One of the initiatives she helms is the Reading Road Trip.  Each week, Sandals resort guests are invited to visit a local school that is supported by the Sandals Foundation. Guests are able to interact with the children and get an up close view of the work the foundation does.

In its five-year history, the Sandals Foundation has raised $3.6 million, worked with over 10,500 volunteers and has created over 300 initiatives in the seven island countries that contain Sandals resorts.

Have you ever thought about volunteering during your vacation? Would the availability of a program like the Sandals Foundation make you choose one resort over another?