MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – For nearly 27 years, Sandals Resorts International has remained low-key about its Sandals Foundation, which works with local schools and community groups in Jamaica to improve the locals’ quality of life.
But as the U.S. economy continues to struggle, so do the charities who are no longer getting contributions. So last week Adam Stewart, Sandals’ CEO, and other representatives of the all-inclusive chain, decided to break the nearly 30-years of silence about the foundation and promote it during a live event at Sandals Royal Caribbean.
Travel Agent was on hand for a nearly two-hour presentation that included speeches by Stewart, his father and Sandals Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, and Bruce Golding, Jamaica’s Prime Minister.
Afterward, we caught up with Adam Stewart and chatted about the difficulty of raising funds during these times as well as the decision to promote this once underground foundation.
“If anyone thinks we are speaking out about it just so we can give ourselves credit, we can easily say, ‘Well, look at the last 27 years when we said nothing,’” Stewart told us during a one-on-one interview. “We have no choice now. Times are so hard that we need all the help we can get. And if that means talking about the foundation more and doing events like this one, then that’s exactly what we have to do.”
According to its mission statement, The Sandals Foundation seeks “to harness the resources, talents, partnerships and awareness behind the Sandals Resorts brand to tackle myriad of issues affecting the Caribbean under three broad headings community, education and environment."
The Sandals Foundation is led by Stewart, as well as a board of directors comprised of top Sandals executives who have been selected for their commitment to the foundation’s mission, their range of experience, and their personal life experiences. According to Stewart, the foundation will make a real difference in the Caribbean through “changing lives, shaping futures and lifting spirits” and will enable Sandals to significantly increase its financial commitment to people and communities most in need from the current $11 million (per year) by 2011.
Here’s some notable contributions from the foundation. According to Stewart, about 70,000 Jamaicans have received free dental care through the foundation. Shampoo, towels, silverware, mattresses and other materials no longer usable by the resort are donated to the community every year. About 300 books a year are collected and distributed to schools throughout Jamaica. From sponsoring schools and conducting health screenings to supporting local farmers and cleaning up beaches, more than 10,000 Sandals employees throughout the Caribbean are given opportunities to participate in for the communities where Sandals Resorts International operates.