Nine New York children are enjoying the sun, sea and sand, mixed in with some culture and fun learning experiences in the Cayman Islands this week.
The six girls and three boys from the inner city are here through the Fresh Air Fund, which the Cayman Islands and Cayman Airways have partnered with to give the youths unique and exciting experiences.
They are here through Sunday, flying direct with Cayman Airways from and to JFK.
And it’s clear they were enjoying themselves, even as early as Tuesday, near the start of their week, when we caught up with them at the Mission House in Bodden Town during their tour of it.
Ten-year-old Stephen Glasgow, said of the island, ‘I think it’s very great.’ He added that he sees it as a rich island, unlike Guyana where his mother hails from.
His favourite adventure had been experiencing the Jacuzzi in the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach resort on Monday, the day they arrived.
Eleven-year-old Frankie Romero said her favourite thing had been the beach, and, although she had visited a beach before it was not been nearly as fun as Seven Mile Beach, she said.
When asked if they were missing home yet, both children grinned and gave a resounding ‘No’.
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.
This year’s trip follows on from a successful visit last year of 11 teens who had a fun-filled week in the Cayman Islands.
The Fresh Air Fund kids that visit Cayman are selected by the organisation based on their achievements, their willingness to succeed and their history with the organisation. The children were also chosen based on their ability to swim so they could get the most out of the trip.
Two chaperones, Jessica Wolf and Dara Norwood, from the Fresh Air Fund accompanied the children on their trip. The chaperones had already visited a month ago to interview the five host families; three who participated last year, along with two new ones.
Ms Wolf said, ‘Although we only got here yesterday, they [the children] have already had a great time snorkelling. They are all staying with host families and this morning we heard all about how the beds were so comfy or how they have a pool at the house they are staying at.’
But there had been some apprehension amongst the children before they arrived.
‘They were full of nerves mixed with excitement as they had no idea what to expect and some found it intimidating to be staying with a host family, but all that changed when they met them and once they got to hang out on the beach and go snorkelling,’ said Ms Wolf.
Both chaperones agreed that it is extremely uncommon for an overseas destination to offer such a trip to Fresh Air Fund children and noted that it is a wonderful opportunity for them.
The children have been having an action-packed week, including a welcome dinner reception on Monday evening at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, a visit to the QEII Botanic Park and Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, a tour of the Mission House, a Stingray Sandbar excursion, a trip to Little Cayman including tours of the Booby Pond, Museum, point of Sand, Central Caribbean marine Institute and Mahogany Point, a day at Boatswain’s Beach, a trip to the movies, a cookout, Oculus trip on a glass bottom boat and a trip to Pedro Castle.
The Fresh Air Fund organisation garners extensive media coverage both in New York and on a national scale, and provides an ideal opportunity for the Cayman Islands to showcase its reputation for hospitality and warmth. The Department of Tourism worked closely with The Fresh Air Fund to prepare all who were involved for the trip to ensure another successful and memorable visit to the Cayman Islands for the children.