Are you ready to visit Jamaica? You might be after you read this! I'm sure when you are trying to decide how to spend the week off that has taken you all year to earn, the last thing on our minds is an opportunity to give back. But friends, let me tell you something. You are missing out! I had no idea what I was missing until I was invited to the Social Media On The Sand Conference in October, 2016. That amazing trip to Jamaica has me rethinking how my family will now plan trips and Choosing A Vacation That Gives Back will definitely be a priority.
How Is This Possible?
First, I must start with the amazingness knows as Beaches Negril. This place is heaven on Earth. Seriously! Say hello to PARADISE!
As an wife and mom of four, I totally welcomed this time alone with my husband. Our lives live in the cray zone and this place was a breath of fresh air. Something happened, though, that I didn't expect. The SMOTS Conference that works with #BeachesMoms (hey, that's me) partners with the Sandals Foundation to help bring school supplies to school near their resorts. This. Was. Life. Changing.
I'm an educator. My heart is for children. It almost exploded when I was given the opportunity to spend a morning at school in Negril. Better yet, a Primary School. My people! After spending ten years in a kindergarten classroom, this filled my cup to share my love for reading with children in Jamaica. So far from Texas but so much the same!
Pictures are worth a thousand words so I will let your heart explode with this greatness right here!
I'm sure after looking at these pictures it's easy to see that these children are just like the children sitting in your local kindergarten class. There is a difference though. These children do not have everything they need to be successful. Often, one class will share ONE box of crayons. Can you believe it? I feel like I can never complain about the amount of supplies I have to buy my own class after this experience. And let me tell you friends, I was SO impressed with how bright these children were and I could not get over how NEAT their handwriting was. Seriously, how did that teacher do that?!!
How Can You Help?
First, you can always donate to the Sandals Foundation. It's amazing organization that really does a lot for the islands it serves. They offer a Game Changer Program that teaches children sports and offers them a safe place where they learn life skills, teamwork and discipline. They also have a WHOA (Woman Helping Others Achieve) program that empowers woman in their community in areas of health, training, pregnancy, and cancer treatments (the biggest killer in Jamaica). To learn more about how you can help, click here.
Now, the vacation part! When you visit Jamaica or any location that there is a Beaches or Sandals Resort, you can go on a Reading Road Trip just for the price of a taxi ride. Isn't that amazing? Now, you may have visions of pina coladas and sun tanning, but I promise if you give up just two hours of your time, it will change your life.
I promise, if you consider choosing a vacation that gives back, you won't regret it. The children were beyond excited that we came to visit them and yet I was the one who walked away blessed. My life with a greater prospective by this humbling experience that changed me for the good. So, when you are considering your next vacation, I hope you will put Beaches and Sandals on your list and when you go, book a Reading Road Trip. It's wonderful to indulge and enjoy the clear waters and beautiful sunshine but nothing beats the smile on a child's face when you have been the sunshine in their day.
Oh, and one more thing…anytime you visit one of these locations, bring a backpack full of school supplies. I spent less than $20 to fill mine and it can potentially help an entire class. And, if you can't escape anytime soon, consider donating or adopting a class. Education is powerful and necessary. All children deserve the best education and we can help…one crayon box at a time.
Don't worry. I made time to relax, float, and make fun things like this too. It was a blessed week for sure and I can't wait to go back with my entire family!