Thank yu and God bless yu all!,” was the wish of Mrs. Hazel Barton to Sandals Foundation volunteers from Sandals South Coast as they existed her yard in Brighton District, Bluefields, Westmoreland. The loveable 96 year old, who is being cared for by her son, was an easy conversationalist, sharing stories of her colorful past and her greatest achievement; her children.
Mrs. Barton was among 25 shut-ins residing in several districts in Bluefields, Petersfield and Petersville who received a special visit and token of appreciation from a handful of Sandals Foundation volunteers recently.
“This year we were unable to carry out our customary infrastructural beautification type project for Labor Day due to the national ‘Stay at home’ orders which were in effect on May 24th”, said Sandals South Coast General Manager, Adrian Whitehead. “However we know that within the districts surrounding our resort there are many elderly persons who have laboured all their lives and this year we wanted to take a break from our labour to show our appreciation for them and theirs.”
It was with that thought in mind that Whitehead and Sandals South Coast volunteers from his resort loaded up goodie bags with groceries and the like and made their way to the districts in search of these persons.
Lending their support to help the volunteers locate these individuals were three community leaders, among them; Wolde Kristos, President of the Bluefields People’s Community Association (BPCA).
According to Kristos, it is extremely important for Corporate Jamaica to partner with community entities and to take care of the needy who are now many because of this pandemic.
“Many persons have lost their jobs, many caregivers are unable to care, many breadwinners are unable to provide bread because of the massive economic fallout we’ve experienced during this pandemic especially in tourism and the entertainment sector”, said Kristos.
He noted that it is always welcome and appreciated when corporate Jamaica, like the Sandals Foundation decides to do care packages and show appreciation for persons in and around the areas in which they do business. “We at the Bluefields People’s Community Association really welcome such move and we appreciate such partnership because persons who are struggling do get a day or two of ease from the things that are provided.”
Jamaica, like many countries around the world has experienced a rapid increase in its elderly population. According to the World Health Organization, in 2018, the life expectancy for Jamaicans was 76.2 years. As they become increasingly vulnerable to chronic non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and cancer, it is expected that these individuals will require more long-term care and rehabilitation services. But with only about 30% of the elderly population living in rural areas being pension recipients and having less consistent care and supervision, these services are becoming less and less accessible.
“Visits like these really open my eyes to the realities being faced by a lot of our elderly citizens or even those who, due to illness, have not been able to take advantage of gainful employment”, said Camille Marshall, one of the Sandals Foundation volunteers who participated in this outreach. “I was really thankful for the opportunity to give back, especially to Mr. Delroy Daley, a member of my own community, who I’ve known for quite some time. I could tell how happy he was to see us and the smile our visit brought to his face was priceless,” said Marshall of the 60 year old double amputee, who despite his condition still cooks, cleans and cares for himself.
While for Mikada Brown, yet another Sandals Foundation volunteer from Sandals South Coast, the most profound moment was perhaps realizing that one of the shut-ins visited was a distant relative of hers. “I had always heard that I had relatives in the area but I had never met them, I’m so thankful that I went on the trip as, in addition to the feeling of fulfillment I always get from giving back with the Sandals Foundation, this time it also provided me an opportunity to find some pieces of my own puzzle and really, what could be better than that.”
Since its launch in 2009, the Sandals Foundation has touched the lives of over 300,000 people across the region through Health and Community initiatives like this one. They’ve also partnered with various organizations to provide infrastructural support to various hospitals and health care centers, provided free clinics in Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, Turks & Caicos and supported the Sickkids Caribbean Initiative in Jamaica, Bahamas, Barbados and St. Lucia.
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation said the ability of the philanthropic organization to reach so many people over the years has been made possible due to the dedication and commitment of every team member. “This project, like so many others, was the brainchild of a passionate team and it is truly inspiring to help lead an organization where members are constantly on the look-out for areas in their communities where they can help. The Sandals Foundation is a representation of the men and women who work within the Resorts. Men and women, who all want to play an active role in making a positive difference.”