For the Sandals Resorts family, World Oceans Day is more than a pin on the calendar. For us, World Oceans Day (June 8th) is a momentous annual event and a checkpoint to which we measure our progress. With each passing World Oceans Day, we expect to do more than we did the year before. Each year on the 8th of June, we rededicate ourselves to our mission, look at what we’ve achieved in the last 365 days, and what’s on our shores for the next trip around the sun.
In 2009, the Sandals Foundation - the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts - set a goal to engage 100,000 people in educational conservation efforts and plant 30,000 coral fragments in the sea. Since then, we’ve celebrated 114,000 turtles safely hatched, 63,000 pounds of garbage collected, and 55,000 people trained in marine conservation awareness. We set new goals to safely hatch 20,000 more turtles, outplant coral fragments that would grow up to 2,000 corals per year into dying reefs, and teach 1,000 local Caribbean children how to swim.
But this year is extra special for us, because we’ve added a new goal – literally – to expand our impact. We’re saving the ocean through soccer, beginning in Curaçao, and teaching youth about sustainability along the way… and we’re just getting started.
Earlier this month, we celebrated the grand opening of Sandals Royal Curaçao, our 16th Sandals Resort and first venture into the Dutch Caribbean. But before even opening the resort’s doors, Sandals Resorts International and the Sandals Foundation joined forces with the Netherlands’ AFC Ajax team to launch Future Goals – a program that turns fishing nets sourced from the ocean and recycled plastic waste into soccer (football, for the locals) goals for children in Curaçao. Our partnership, aimed at expanding opportunities for locals through the power of youth sports, kicked off at primary schools across Curaçao in May, gifting the first set of Future Goals to students at MGR Niewindt College.
The process behind creating Future Goals starts in the ocean. “Ghost nets,” fishing nets lost at sea, make up nearly half of the world’s “plastic soup” – AKA, the accumulation of waste and plastic that ends up in the ocean. These nylon nets will never decompose and are known to harm marine animals. With all of the work we do to help preserve the ocean, we needed to help change that… one fishing net at a time.
While we continue to breathe fresh life into the Caribbean Sea, we want to ensure the habitat is one they can thrive in. Together with AFC Ajax, the Sandals Foundation tapped local Curaçaon plastic recycling company, Limpi, whose creative approach to plastic waste recycling and product development now includes the colorful Future Goals goal posts, which are made almost entirely of fishing nets collected from the sea and recycled plastic waste.
To create one Future Goal, Limpi collects approximately 65 pounds of plastic waste and abandoned fishing nets. Every corner of the goal is recycled, down to the net clips which are repurposed from plastic bottles.
Sandals' vision for Future Goals extends beyond making recess more interesting or keeping kids active. The Future Goals program is backed by a unique training program to mentor the ‘Future Coaches’ of tomorrow, led by official AFC Ajax coaches. These local coaches, recruited by the Curaçao life skills program Favela Street, will lead youth through a robust eight-week curriculum that will focus as much on technique as it does mindset.
In case you didn’t know, Ajax was founded in 1900 in Amsterdam, and is the record-holding champion of Dutch football, and thus, the ultimate coaching institution for local athletes. The team has four Champions League titles and 36 Dutch championships, and has shaped some of the greatest players in the world including Johan Cruijff, Luis Suarez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ajax believes today’s youth are the legends of tomorrow, and here at Sandals, we agree.
Close to 100 Future Goals and more than 600 Adidas soccer balls will be distributed across four dozen Curaçaon elementary schools. In time, these youth soccer teams will compete in an island-wide tournament featuring all participating primary schools, fostering connection across the island, teaching invaluable team building skills, and engaging in a bit of friendly competition. Our goal is to expand this program into additional Caribbean islands, tweaking and adapting the program to the unique scope of each destination.
Throughout Sandals' continued expansion of all-inclusive resorts and official entry into the island of Curaçao, environmental conservation remained top of mind. With each new destination we fold into the Sandals family, we want to ensure that we are enhancing and preserving the native culture, biodiversity, and beauty of the island.
Our new resort is located on a 3,000-acre protected reserve in the southernmost part of the island, embodying the beauty and geographic diversity of Curaçao. Nature is a prominent aspect of the Curaçao experience, and Future Goals is just one of many projects underway on the island for the Sandals Foundation. Thus far, we’ve organized beach cleanups that have helped rid the planet of nearly 900,000 pounds of trash and are developing a digital hiking app in partnership with IVN Tiny Forest the Netherlands to make the magic of the island’s natural resources more accessible to visitors and locals.
The Future Goals program has goals of its own. As we celebrate another World Oceans Day, we’re committing ourselves to new goals in Curaçao – 96 Future Goals to be donated, more than 20 future coaches to be trained, 48 local schools to engage, 1,250 square meters of fishing nets to recycle, and 5,000 happy children seen on the field.
Guests looking to support the Future Goals program can contribute via the Sandals Foundation, with 100% of donation proceeds going directly to the Future Goals program. Click here to learn more about the Future Goals program and the partnership between the Sandals Foundation and AFC Ajax.