After more than three months of cleanup and repairs, the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC) has re-opened its doors but its executive director is far from resting easy.
Estella Scott is now facing another battle -replacing staff and raising funds to keep the shelter for battered women operational.
‘Having to shut down for a period of time is very difficult,’ she said. ‘It’s a lot like starting over.’
Two staff members left the island after Hurricane Ivan. Its children’s co-ordinator is leaving next month. The centre normally operates with a staff of six.
It’s meant a daunting workload for Scott who is also contending with meeting the costs of operating 24-hours a day.
The centre has an annual budget of $400,000. Half comes from the government, which mainly covers salary costs. The rest made up through fund-raising and donations. Of the $200,000 for operations and programming half goes to pay for around-the-clock security and utilities.
‘We spend as little as possible but we are getting to the point where there’s going to be no money,’ said Scott. ‘You can only skimp for so long.’
The centre, which re-opened shortly before Christmas, provides a safe haven for abused women and their children, offering counselling and support to help them rebuild their lives. It can house up to 18 women and children at one time.
CICC also provides community outreach programming and operates a 24-hour crisis hotline.
The shelter has struggled for funding since opening its doors in March of 2003. During its first year of operation, it provided refuge for 70 women and their children and its crisis line handled more than 150 calls.
Scott doesn’t have stats for this year yet but she anticipates a rise in clientele, given post-Ivan stress.
‘I think it is going to get worse but not all women are going to seek help simply because the hurricane is another thing to blame for why there’s violence.’
Scott said a big hurdle is getting the message across that domestic violence is widespread, impacting the entire community.
‘People think it’s very isolated but it’s a significant problem in this community.’
Its outreach work in schools, churches, youth groups, prisons and other organizations aims to raise awareness and dispel the myths of domestic abuse to help prevent and break the cycle of violence.
That’s challenging, Scott noted, in a community that is still reluctant to openly talk about sexual and physical abuse.
‘We are making headway but there’s still a lot of education to be done.’
To fund programming, the centre stages several fund-raisers each year such as the Jingle Bell Walk/Run but corporate and individual donations are essential to meet its budget.
Scott said the onus rests with the community to address the problem.
‘This shouldn’t be solely a government project. The ownership of domestic abuse is on the country as a whole. It is the responsibility of the country as a whole to ensure that people living in that country are safe.’
Scott is appealing to the corporate community to assist ‘in bettering the lives of people in Cayman’ and is seeking volunteers to help with fund-raising.
She said rebuilding has been a daunting task and while the road ahead remains challenging, inroads are being made.
‘We’re back at square one but the good thing is we have two years of operation under our belt,’ she said. ‘We just want to let the community know that we’re open again and we’re here to help.’