Great Shape! Inc. was founded in 1988 to help Jamaicans get back on their feet after the devastation of the unforgiving force of Hurricane Gilbert. Over the last 32 years, we have worked tirelessly to provide life-changing access to health care and education to people all over the Caribbean. By partnering with local communities, churches, schools, government agencies, Sandals Foundation and other nonprofits, Great Shape! has been able to realize remarkable results - positively impacting nearly half a million children, families and communities. A boy’s mind is opened to language arts for the first time because of the computer lab we installed and the intensive lessons we constructed just for him. A high school girl can now smile confidently because we saved ten of her permanent teeth that were six months away from extraction. With tears dropping onto the pages, an 80 year-old grandmother can read her bible again, for the first time in 10 years, because of the prescription glasses she received in our clinic. Service out of love, always free of charge.
Unfortunately, and sadly, Great Shape! will not be able to provide any of these services in 2020. Due to Covid-19, all volunteer projects have been cancelled this year. We know this is especially difficult news for those children and families all across the Caribbean that have come to rely on Great Shape! to assist with their dental, eye care and educational needs. And this is, of course, a huge disappointment to all our volunteers who had their heart set on serving others this year in the magic of the Caribbean tropics. Like all nonprofits and small businesses, this year will be a great challenge to Great Shape! staff and the organization as a whole.
While this decision is a difficult one, we just cannot foresee being able to guarantee safety to our patients, our volunteers, Great Shape! staff and even the staff and guests at Sandals and Beaches resorts. By design, our programs involve an intense amount of close human interaction. That’s exactly what makes our volunteer experiences so rewarding and it’s also exactly why we feel the need to cancel this year’s projects. In short, the risk of spreading the disease outweighs the benefits of programs to all concerned. As every doctor takes the pledge, so must we: “Do No Harm."
My hero and King of Reggae once sang in a song: “When one door is closed, another is opened.” Great Shape! was born out of a crisis. We are strong and resilient and we will be back in 2021 with renewed vision, passion and energy! We look forward to seeing you all in 2021 and we are praying for your safety and good health while we, all of humanity, find our way through these unchartered waters.
More now than ever, the Jamaican spirit of One Love is needed by all. Please take a piece of your Great Shape! One Love vibes and share with a neighbor, a friend or family member today … even if from six feet apart.
Please contact us with questions, notes of encouragement or concerns you may have. Perhaps you have a Great Shape! memory and pic you’d like to share on our Facebook page. We’ll be staying in touch, for sure!
Until then, Walk Good, Stay Safe and One Love!
Papa Joe and the Great Shape! Team