The feature story below was written by Nick Pignato as part of an assignment for The Selling Power of Storytelling class, Spring 2021, at St. John Fisher College. Doctor Monica A. Hodis, Associate Professor of Marketing, selected Pack for a Purpose as a client for her class. Nick Pignato chose The Sandals Foundation and the Executive Director Heidi Clarke as the participant they wished to interview.
The Sandals Foundation was started in 2009 by Executive Chairman, Adam Stewart, and is the charitable arm of Sandals Resorts International, established in 1981. They are headquartered in Montego Bay, Jamaica and serve various islands across the Caribbean.
Adam Stewart, Executive Chairman at The Sandals Foundation
In 2011, The Sandals Foundation joined the Pack for a Purpose team through Nina Patel, a travel advisor and owner of Vacations That Matter. The impact that the partnership has left on each other, the multiple communities across the 7 islands in which the Sandals and Beaches Resorts operate, and the guests, has grown tremendously. Heidi Clarke, the executive director of The Sandals Foundation, has personally seen this impact expand throughout her time with the foundation and her direct involvement in the partnership.
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director of The Sandals Foundation
At the start of the partnership, Sandals created lists of supplies to target the needs of the specific communities. These lists were mainly comprised of school supplies for children, medical supplies, and feminine hygiene supplies for young ladies. To date, these compiled lists have allowed the partnership to deliver over 21,000 pounds of supplies to communities in need.
The rewards of their partnership have been endless. Heidi shared that for her, personally, the most rewarding part is seeing the impact on the communities and the guests. She says, “seeing the guests come down with small packages, feeling as if they have not done enough, and delivering them to the communities is amazing.” No matter how small a donation may be perceived to be, it can make a meaningful difference in the lives of many. She recalls one instance where a student received a pencil and then proceeded to share that gift by breaking it in half for a friend who was also in need. Kindness has no limit, and the kindness shared by guests is further expanded within every community reaching so many more persons.
She also says the ability to expose people to the program and increase its awareness is amazing. A large majority of the donations still come from repeat visitors to the resorts; many of them being young travelers.
Heidi states that some of the stories that really hit home are the ones with “the ability to expose people to this program. They’re travelers staying at Sandals or Beaches Resorts and they want to find out more about what we’re doing for the communities”. These travelers are then guided to the Pack for a Purpose website to discover for themselves the impact they could make. Many of the travelers garner help from their friends to bring supplies down during their trips.
In order to gain additional traction for the cause, The Sandals Foundation sends out pre arrival emails and information packages to guests, informing them of the opportunity and encouraging them to visit the Pack for a Purpose website to get involved. The Sandals Foundation is also on the road at travel shows and communicating with travel agents to explain the program and the partnership. They have seen that about 50% of guests are currently participating in the program, and this number has been growing steadily since the beginning of the partnership, in 2011.
Guests love the partnership and jump at the opportunity to add to the cause. A teacher, from Michigan, and her husband took advantage of the opportunity to support a local school system in Jamaica during one of their trips to the Sandals Resort. Megan Friend discovered Pack for a Purpose through the resort’s website. She writes, “I quickly began researching the organization and its mission and, as an educator, was thrilled to see that they placed an emphasis on the need of donating school supplies to those less fortunate – and even more excited to see that our Sandals Resort was a partner with Pack for a Purpose!” Through her students’ donations, Megan was able to bring 73 pounds of school supplies to be delivered to the community in Jamaica. Megan, and her class’, story inspires others to contribute to the cause and shows just how much of an impact Pack for a Purpose has on communities.
Heidi recalls another initiative that a third-grade class made to help the cause. Realizing they are more fortunate than many other communities, the students’ families and teachers sent out school supplies to be delivered to one of the communities. She remembers how meaningful it was to the students to receive the donations and saw how much of an impact it made on the school system. It’s efforts like these that keep the program running and remind us just how great of a cause it is.
The partnership has been a welcome support to The Sandals Foundation’s mandate to empower Caribbean people and make the region a better place to live. Through continued growth, Pack for a Purpose can attract more participation and together, help meet practical needs within communities.
The Sandals Foundation encourages you to visit the Pack for a Purpose website, to see how you can make an impact.