help build a playground alongside their employees. THAT had an incredible impact on me. Last year during Social Media on the Sand at Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos was the first time I was introduced to the Sandals Foundation and the reach of this charitable organization. They provided us with backpacks and encouraged us to bring school supplies for local children. I thought it was a nice experience, but had no grasp of the need for that package until this past weekend when I attended the 2016 S.M.O.T.S. event at Beaches Resort in Negril, Jamaica. This year, in addition to having us donate a backpack filled with school supplies, they loaded us on buses and took us on a reading roadtrip to the very schools that would receive those bags filled with educational necessities that we take for granted. The attendees were broken into different groups and shuttled to different schools. My group visited Mt. Airy Primary and Infant School where we once again were divided into the different classrooms. Our purpose was to offer students one-on-one opportunities as we read Scholastic Books to them. I headed to the back of the room where a very quiet young man sat. He was 5 or 6. He didn’t sound confident in his answer so I don’t think he really knew. It wasn’t that important but we were coloring and conversing and I learned so much more. His favorite color was orange and he had an orange tree in his front yard. I learned that he moved “here” because his family wanted him to be able to attend school. He waived at a young girl across the room and called her “sister”. When I stopped and acknowledged her as his sister, she said “cousin” as she rolled her eyes. Apparently this wasn’t the first time she had to correct him. After reading to him and briefly discussing the book, I helped him color and used my HP Sprocket to print some photos for him to bring home to his family.
When our one-on-one time ended, they sang to us, we had a chance to say farewell and we left with heavy hearts and a deeper understanding. What I discovered is that Sandals Foundation encourages any visitor to a Beaches or Sandals property to “Pack for a Purpose” and has made arrangements for guests to schedule a similar reading roadtrip excursion while visiting one of their properties. While I was enjoying a visit to the school, Scott and the girls were participating in a different Sandals Foundation initiative where they learned about the negative impact lionfish. These fish, often the focal point of saltwater tanks are actually harmful to the coral reefs. Found in Southeast Asia, they don’t have predators and have been preying on the smaller fish that clean the reefs. As a result, the Sandals Foundation has been working to find ways to control the population and one of those ways is through fishing and consumption. Scott and the girls had the opportunity to sample lionfish prepared by chefs. These are just a couple ways that Sandals Foundation works to help the communities that their resorts call home. In addition to developing major partnerships with companies like School Specialty and Scholastic, they also encourage guests to make a difference through programs such as the Pack for a Purpose program. This time, they’ve challenged me and the other #BeachesMoms to encourage our readers, families and friends to join in and provide Hurricane Matthew Relief to the Bahamas and Haiti which were devastated by the recent hurricane. School Specialty set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of Sandals Foundation and here’s where you come in. School Specialty has pledged to provide a dollar-for-dollar in-kind product match (up to $10,000) for the contributions we gather through this GoFundMe project. I want to ask each of you to consider donating just one dollar. If everyone makes this small contribution then it can make a huge difference in the long run. For those who choose to donate more, that’s awesome and a total bonus. They are keeping track of our efforts (and will be offering a prize to the BeachesMom who brings in the most donations, so please let them know I referred you by adding “Referral: Nicole Brady” to the comment section when you donate. I know it’s still a digital collection plate, but hopefully it will inspire you to someday take a reading roadtrip excursion or pack for a purpose on your next trip. Have you donated to programs and initiatives that help developing countries and ones struggling from natural disasters?