I attended Social Media on the Sand recently where my stay was discounted as part of the conference. While there we had a volunteer vacation experience I adored, but that’s only part of what Sandals Foundation does!
At home, I love finding volunteer opportunities. I’m in year 13 of PTO work, and I donate blankets and money whenever I can to our local animal shelter – just for a couple quick examples.
On vacation, I don’t generally have that opportunity. I love to get away, but I also feel guilty that I live such a different life from those who work where I stay and the quality of life for the vast majority of those who inhabited an island long before tourists arrived.
Sandals Foundation gets that, and a benefit of a company founded in Jamaica that grew up in the Caribbean is that those in charge know it’s on them to not leave anyone behind. Sandals Resorts provides a variety of ways to get involved.
My favorite part, however? Sandals Foundation spends $0 on administrative expenses. Sandals Resorts generously covers those, which means every single dollar you donate goes straight to making a difference in the Caribbean.
Hurricane Maria did a number on Turks and Caicos in 2017, and the island is still recovering. When we volunteered, some attendees went through the “library” and simply spent time deciding which books could be saved and which had too much mold and needed to be tossed. Hint: the vast majority couldn’t be salvaged.
Donate directly – now! (So easy)
Just $5 or $10 matters. Can you spare a coffee?
Can you help now? Donate to help rebuild the Ianthe Pratty Primary School in Turks and Caicos (and leave my name – Michelle Price – in your comments). Did I mention that 100% of every dollar you give goes straight to the organization with no overhead costs?
This is the primary school where we volunteered for just three hours on our vacation but wow did we make a change at the school. Forget air conditioning. Forget internet access. Definitely forget optimal student teacher ratios. Here they need just basics, and you can make that happen.
Sandals Foundation is is a 501(c)3 organization, which means your donation is completely tax deductible. The organization seeks to help fulfill the promise of the Caribbean community through investment in sustainable projects in Education, Community and the Environment which improve people’s lives and preserve our natural surroundings.
Pack for a Purpose
If you plan to visit a Beaches Resort or Sandals Resort, use some spare suitcase room to bring much needed supplies. After all, you don’t need to pack much outside swimsuits and a few outfits, right?
When I visited on my girls’ trip in September, they told me the most needed item at the time was backpacks for kids. In addition to notebooks, crayons, pencils, rulers, and pencil sharpeners, I purchased two fun backpacks that I know will bring joy to children.
You can check the Pack for a Purpose site to see what items are most in need for the location you plan to visit. Had I known the library situation, I would have packaged a ton of books, too.
The caveat I’ll give? Customs limits items you bring to five pounds per person, so be aware. It’s amazing how much you can bring that weighs under five pounds though!
Purchase a Dive Tag on Vacation
If you love to SCUBA as much as I do, Beaches Resorts are your place. I shared all you need to know about SCUBA diving on resort in another article, but I didn’t at the time know about this program.
When you SCUBA or snorkel, you can purchase a dive tag from the resort shop. These tags are a fun reminder of a fantastic vacation.
And they’re so much more. When you buy one, 100% of the proceeds go towards environmental projects.
Did I not mention that Sandals Foundation supports the environment in the Caribbean, too? This helps ensure that the islands and oceans you love will remain as pristine as you remember when you return.
Participate in a Reading Road Trip
Two years ago, I participated in a reading road trip in Jamaica for a morning volunteer vacation experience. Middle school kids at home do volunteer projects reading to elementary students because research shows reading together improves reading comprehension and skills.
Why not do the same on vacation? You pay a nominal fee that covers your round trip transportation (and a small donation), and for two hours, you help bring light to a child’s day.
You participate in a structured reading lesson, so you know exactly what the teacher needs to accomplish. The kids love the experience, and I can only hope it inspires a love of reading and learning that they’ll hold onto for years.
The excursion takes place weekly, so visit the Island Routes desk to sign up so you don’t miss it.
Island Impact Volunteerism
This was the volunteer vacation day we experienced this trip. Even better, full-time students can earn community service hours, something so many schools and organizations require.
You sign up for these excursions at the Island Routes desk, as well. The happen on set days and times to minimize disruption to schools and other organizations.
You need no special skills or materials to participate. Sandals Foundation provides what you need for the defined projects, while you bring the sunscreen and good attitude!
The visible difference you and the crew with you can make in such a short period of time makes any time away from your luxurious resort well worth any sacrifice.
Our volunteer vacation project took place about a five minute walk from the Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos. We left about 9am and returned before noon, but the school looked so much brighter when we left.
Volunteer Vacation Experience at Ianthe Pratt Primary School
I couldn’t wait to participate in this volunteer vacation experience. I love seeing a tangible difference, but I had no idea how much we’d change.
When we first walked in, the school looked nothing like what I see back home. While I’ve visited school in Las Vegas (ironically also to volunteer) with spare classroom buildings connected by sidewalks, this had none of the school vibe I expected.
The hurricane did major damage, and that means the already poor school has less. The playground serves nearly 600 kids ages 5-11, but we saw little equipment. My kids’ elementary school has two full size playgrounds for fewer kids than that.
All equipment appears dated, and some is clearly past its life expectancy.
Our job? To bring life to the school. We focused on the difference paint can make, along with the crew in the library sorting books for mold.
While one crew made a gorgeous and inspiring mural along a border wall, others created games for kids on the sidewalks.
My group focused on the kindergarten students. We painted squares filled with letters and numbers in a variety of colors that becomes a game for kids. Watch the video for all the details!
While they play on the hopscotch designed area, they learn colors, numbers, letters, and more. The teachers came near the end and shared their excitement over the games they plan to play with their students.
For older kids, other groups painted more hopping games that tell kids what to do in each area before moving on. Some hop backwards, others have to follow specific lines, and all have creative games built into a little paint.
In two hours, we brought light to a school still recovering from a hurricane – in addition to all the school supplies we donated that they need to learn.
Did we finish everything needed? Absolutely not, but you can step in to help take the next step on your volunteer vacation.
Have you ever done a volunteer vacation?
And remember to pretty please donate to the Sandals Foundation. If everyone who read this donated what they can, whether that’s $5 or $50 or $500, can you imagine the impact you could have?
Don’t forget to book your Beaches Resort vacation. Check here for the best offers and discounts available.
Want to know more about Beaches Resorts?
- SCUBA diving at Beaches Resorts – all you need to know
- Water sports activities at Beaches Resorts
- Where to eat breakfast
- What to know about Beaches Resorts
- How to get your Advanced Open Water Certification
- How to make customs fast and easy in Jamaica
- The best travel containers for your liquids
- 8 items to add to your beach packing list
- How to stay in touch for free when traveling internationally
- Why you need TSA precheck
- How to get passports for your kids
- Or check out all my travel advice and destination recommendations