Acknowledge the good expats

The Good Life

Last Saturday night, just after sunset, a couple hundred people gathered in a candle-light vigil on Crewe Road to honour the memory of well-known resident Ken Chand who had died suddenly of a heart attack on the previous Wednesday.

A native of Guyana, Ken had come to Cayman 15 years ago to run the Motor & General insurance business and had built a reputation as the ‘guru of motor insurance’ here, but it was his impact on the community in which he lived that was most striking among the people who came there on that evening. As his daughter Nadira remarked, ‘the outpouring of love’ for this man was evident.

He had touched lives, and the people in the Motor & General parking lot reflected that. There were professionals there, working class people, tradesmen, old mothers and young ones, all sorts of nationalities – to quote a Guyanese expression Ken would know, ‘everybody, hand and foot’.

Caymanians make the justifiable complaint that many expatriates come here and do a good job in their chosen field but never make personal connections with the community around them.

Ken Chand was not one of those.

He had put down his roots here and taken on Cayman as his home. He acquired an impressive collection of Caymanian coins and postcards and stamps, and as soon as a book on Cayman came out, you would see a copy of it in his house.

For those who knew Ken Chand – and believe me, a lot of folks did – the remarks made by the several speakers that night confirmed that we all knew the same Ken Chand. Day in and day out he was a jovial, considerate, fun-loving guy who loved to dance (I suspect Ken thought he was related to Fred Astaire or Gregory Hines).

At the same time, he was fiercely devoted to his job, putting in long hours even on weekends, and while he was known in the insurance industry as the motor insurance expert, Ken was also, as people would attest, always fair in his dealings with clients.

His word was his bond. In the community, he was constantly involved in Kiwanis work and was frequently pitching in to help people in misfortune, like one Latin lady who told, via translator Bev Banks, of the post-hurricane help he organised for her.

Whether you knew him or not, take it from me, Ken Chand was an asset to this community.

He was one of those expatriates my gardening friend Kirkland Nixon refers to as ‘good people’. He brought his skills and his commitment and his expansiveness here and left Cayman a better place than he found it. You may want to argue with me about that, but you’re going to lose because it’s true. The people there last Saturday evening will tell you so.

And that leads me to where I’m going, which is to say that the real pity in all this is that we’re saying these things about Ken after he’s gone. There are too many people like Ken who come to Cayman and give all of themselves to this place, and there is no recognition of that, and there are many of them.

Understand me. I’m not talking about the aloof ones, and God knows we have tons of them. I’m talking about people who commit heart and soul to Cayman. They’re not selling out when times get tough and coming back when it improves. They’re hunkering down for the long haul.

And there are many of them.

I’m talking about people like John Doak, and Stephanie Williams, and Henry Muttoo, and the late Tony Rowlands, and Colin Wilson – to name a few – who, whatever their reason for coming to Cayman, have added significantly to the good life here, and little note is made of their contribution.

We should be noticing.

Some indigenous Caymanians are noticing. To give him his due, Edlin Myles stood up on Saturday night and used words that firmly acknowledged his professional debt to Ken, his respect for the man, and the friendship they shared. More of that needs to be happening when these people and their families are alive to hear it.

It would also be good to see some sort of official award or recognition on an annual basis, perhaps on Discovery Day, perhaps from the private sector, where the Caymanian community can single out some of these ‘good expatriates’ and thank them for their commitment to Cayman.

I shouldn’t be writing to spotlight Ken today; it should have happened in some way before.

Dave Martin’s Good Life column appears on Fridays in the Caymanian Compass.