Future Goals, a landmark partnership program between Sandals Resorts International (SRI) and AFC Ajax that turns fishing nets sourced from the ocean and recycled plastic waste into soccer goals for children, celebrates its first anniversary this month.
Founded to expand opportunity to Caribbean children through the power of youth sports, the program which began in Curaçao with the debut of Sandals Royal Curaçao one year ago, announces milestone achievements and events marking the occasion.
According to Heidi Clarke, Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation, SRI’s on-the-ground philanthropic arm, the Future Goals program has been a resounding success, providing goals for play, while removing plastic waste, training new coaches and most importantly, making a difference in the lives of local children.
Working with innovative local Curaçaon plastic recycling company Limpi, Future Goals has created 40 football goals since its launch last year; each made from recycled plastic bottles and caps, of which more than 600,000 have been collected through recycling efforts of residents as well as clean-up drives at beaches and in communities. In addition, 160 square meters of ghost fishing nets - nets that have been lost or abandoned in the ocean - were retrieved from the Caribbean Sea and used to make the goals with enough material leftover to make 300 nets for the transport of soccer balls (footballs) provided by partner adidas. Overall, Future Goals programming was available at 29 classes, impacting more than 750 students island wide.
“We are incredibly proud of this partnership with AFC Ajax for their commitment to Future Goals that has made a tremendous difference in the lives of Caribbean children,” said Clarke. “Over the course of this outstanding first year, we have watched young peoples’ love for the game of football be the catalyst that pushes them to learn important life skills such as teamwork, goal setting and resilience while empowering them to become stewards of the environment. We are grateful for all that they have achieved and look forward to an even brighter future and the opportunity to expand programming through Future Goals to others.”
“It’s a special moment for us here at Sandals Royal Curacao, as we not only celebrate the resort’s first anniversary but our continued commitment to the region. Although Sandals was new to Curaçao when we began our partnership with AFC Ajax, we were not new to the Caribbean, and have long understood the power of youth sports to lift kids up and teach them important life skills. We are so grateful to the team for their commitment to this community and to our new home, Curaçao. We are part of something wonderful here and I know, together, we will continue to make a difference for children and this beautiful country,” said Adam Stewart, Executive Chairman of SRI.
Celebrations kicked off yesterday when legendary AFC AJAX players including Ronald de Boer, Richard Witschge, Rob Witschge, Ricardo van Rhijn, Henk Timmer, Jari Litmanen and Nordin Wooter joined Sandals Resorts International CEO Gebhard Rainer and other SRI team members at Sandals Royal Curaçao to commemorate the extraordinary year.
On June 3, kids participating in Future Goals are invited to take part in The Legends Football Tournament, the annual event sponsored by The Curaçao Tourist Board, where this year, well-known former soccer players from AFC Ajax, Brazil, Colombia, and Curaçao come together for fun and friendly play. During the final match’s halftime show, local kids will participate in a crossbar challenge using the up-cycled goals from the Future Goals program. The event takes place at the Curaçao Airport Venue, in a specially built stadium with an artificial turf field.
Fishing nets lost at sea, also known as ghost nets, make up nearly half of the world’s ‘plastic soup’ – a term for the accumulation of waste, including plastic, that ends up in the ocean. Helping to address that in Curaçao was an important impetus behind Future Goals and why on June 8, World Oceans Day - designated by the UN to raise awareness about protecting our oceans, Sandals Resorts International will donate $100 on guests’ behalf to the Sandals Foundation for every reservation made at any of the company’s resorts throughout the Caribbean on this commemorative day.
Celebrations culminate when Future Goals will host its first “Trophy Event” for participants of the program at SDK Stadium in Willemstad, Curaçao, the island’s largest stadium, with a capacity of 10,000 spectators. June 20 Nearly 700 kids are expected at the event – which gives them the chance to vie for earned recycled plastic coins through a series of “sports stations” activities that reflect the core principles of the Future Goals program and are based on AFC Ajax values on the field including cooperation, respect, discipline and fun. Children will also have the chance to earn extra points for their teams by demonstrating the success of their recently concluded Plastic Challenge, a central part of the Future Goals sustainability curriculum that teaches how to repurpose waste plastic and ways to influence peers and the community. All kids also earn a repurposed plastic medal of participation and the school with the most coins will take home an impressive trophy made of recycled plastic.
Since its inception in 1981, Sandals Resorts has taken an unparalleled approach to supporting the communities where it operates. Through its philanthropic arm, the Sandals Foundation, the luxury all-inclusive resort company began its work in Curaçao - its seventh and newest destination in the Caribbean, ahead of the 2022 debut of Sandals Royal Curaçao, SRI’s first hotel in the country.