I was invited to the Social Media on the Sand conference and provided with a discounted rate at Beaches Negril. No compensation was given. All thoughts and opinions are my own. My experience may differ from your own. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
In 2015 my family attended the Social Media on the Sand conference at Beaches Turks & Caicos. I was fortunate to be invited back in 2016 and this year it was at Beaches Negril! My husband and I had stayed at the Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay for a vacation many years ago and just LOVED Jamaica, so we were excited to come back.
In addition to the conference, seeing some of my blogging friends, and the gorgeous resort, one of the best parts of the trip is the Sandals Foundation component. Pictured above is Heidi Clarke, Director of Programs for Sandals Foundation. She talked with us about the good work the Foundation is doing for the environment, in schools, and for communities in the Caribbean. You might recall that Hurricane Matthew swept through just before this event, and many efforts are still being focused there.
Each year the Beaches Moms participate in Pack for a Purpose where travelers are encouraged to bring 5lbs of items to donate to schools. Pack for a Purpose is available all over the Caribbean. Next time you’re traveling to paradise, please consider donating to this cause. This is only some of what our group pulled together to contribute!
Thank you to School Specialty for not only offering us a discount on these purchases, but also being a Sandals Foundation partner that is donating a HUGE amount of supplies over the next year!
Resorts in Jamaica are gorgeous.That blue water, the warm sun, and the people. The people in Jamaica are so friendly and so much fun. They make you feel right at home. In fact, “welcome home” is what we heard most often on the day we arrived on the island. Outside of the resorts, life in Jamaica is a lot different.
It’s a very poor country, wobbly shacks and roadside stands lining every road. You’ll find goats wandering next to the streets. It feels very far from home and you wonder how the opulence of these resorts can exist next to the poverty you see in the streets.
Our Visit to Cove Primary School
Part of our Social Media on the Sand experience included visiting a primary school for a Reading Road Trip, something the Sandals Foundation makes available to all Sandals and Beaches guests. My daughter was able to join me and spending time at this school with these kids was the highlight of our trip. By the time we left I wanted to bring them all home with me.
In May 2011, the Sandals Foundation launched the Reading Road Trip, its first voluntourism initiative aimed at improving literacy, comprehension and vocabulary among students. The trip, which takes place every Thursday, is available through Island Routes Adventure Tours and allows guests of Sandals and Beaches Resorts – in Jamaica, Antigua, the Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Lucia and Exuma in the Bahamas – to visit a Foundation adopted school and lend literacy support to students.
The Sandals Foundation recently provided a new library and computer room to Cove Primary School, which is the school we visited! This is by far the brightest and most modern space in their building. The kids just love it!
The children here are so sweet, so kind, and they are SO thankful that we were there. They had a couple of songs prepared to greet us. Have a listen to a bit of one of them in the clip below:
Their school certainly looks nothing like the public school my kids attend. It’s very bare bones, dingy, and cramped. For all of the children that attend this school, there isn’t nearly enough space.
Each of us was paired up with a student to read a book and complete a few worksheets. Ashley is the little girl that I spent the morning with. Look at that smile! She is so beautiful.
Ashley said to me, “I never thought I would meet a friend like you.” *heartmelt* The children were so happy to have us there giving them some love and one-on-one attention. I wanted to take this little girl home with me. We really had a lot of fun together and chatted so much that we didn’t actually finish those worksheets. Her teacher preferred that we just enjoy our time together so that’s what we did.
After a little while we all went outside where my daughter and other kids that came with our group were playing with the older school children. They played soccer together, something my daughter does at home so she was really excited to be able to kick a ball with the kids in Jamaica. Once the younger girls came outside, the party started! Such innocent fun. I love all of their smiles.
While most of the girls seemed to filter off to sing and dance together, the boys were pretty focused on their ball game.
This little girl cuddled right up to my side and asked me if she could play with my daughter’s hair. She has such a serious look and is so loving and sweet. My daughter happily bent down to let them give her a new style. At one time she had three girls working on her hair!
When it was time to leave we all had a hard time saying goodbye. I miss these kids and promised to stay in touch, which thankfully the Sandals Foundation makes possible.
How You Can Help
If you happen to be traveling to the Caribbean:
Please consider Packing for a Purpose. This is so easy to do and you seriously can’t imagine how excited these children get when they have a new pack of crayons. The simplest things make them ridiculously happy. It’s such a joy to give to them.
If you are staying at a Sandals or Beaches Resort, go on a Reading Road Trip. I promise you, it is time well spent. I know it’s hard to leave that beach but this is a life-changer. Do it.
If you’re not going to the Caribbean you can still help. The Beaches Moms group is hosting a fundraiser for Hurricane Matthew relief that you are invited to contribute to.
You are also welcome to spend some time on the Sandals Foundation website and see what causes speak to you. I see they’re currently hosting a holiday toy drive in partnership with Hasbro! If you’d like to donate, you can do that here and specify where you’d like the money directed.
This was truly a life-changing experience. When you’re at these gorgeous resorts you might not realize what life is like outside of them, and you might not realize how simple it is to make a difference to these children. If you’re able to, I hope you will consider getting involved.