Summer camps have becoming increasingly popular in the Cayman Islands over the years, but with economic downturn now biting at purse strings, families are being forced to reconsider whether they can afford it.
Last year heavy equipment operator Raul Andrews took his four children Shay, Marcus, Pico and Chantal to Orlando for their summer vacation. This year that is not an option.
Even enrolling the four children into local summer camps is proving too steep for the family budget this year, he said.
‘Who can afford to make trips this year? We can’t afford that and as for summer camps, they are too expensive, so we have to find others ways of keeping the children happy over the summer,’ he said.
A quick look through the newspaper gives you some idea of why Mr. Andrews is finding summer camp prices hard to stomach.
A one week National Trust Discovery camp is priced at $260 per child; the Boatswain Beach’s camp cost $330, Cayman Learning’s academy’s camp is $200, while a one week basketball camp will set you back $100.
A Ritz Carlton traditional arts camp from Monday to Friday, 1.30pm -5.30, costs $350, while John Broad’s painting and drawing camp is advertised at $180.
Many of the camps even require children to take snacks, water and work materials in addition to the charge.
Bobbi Flowers, director of children services at the First Baptist Church, which is running a basketball camp, said there is a noticeable drop in the number of children enrolling this year.
‘The fee is basically the same but I think due to the recession money is tight right now and many parents are looking at camps that are not that expensive,’ she said.
‘It is hard times and we wish we could offer the camp free to all parents but the cost of supplies, running the facilities and volunteer staff working through the day has impacted camp activities.’
Ms Flowers said the church does offers a free vacation Bible school which takes place Monday to Friday from 6pm-8.30pm at the church.
With budgets tight, many Caymanian parents are opting to put their kids in government schools to help them catch up, although that’s not an option for the Island’s many expatriate parents.
The Education Department targets Summer School toward students that are struggling in school.
Government’s Head of Student Services Brent Holt said enrolment in government’s summer school programme is up from last year.
The fee is $25 per week and $20 for a second child.
‘The fees are not a lot, which helps some parents who cannot afford other summer programmes,’ said Mr. Holt.
‘Any spots not filled are available to other students who need the support academically.
‘The main focus of this year’s summer school is reading, writing and mathematics. Teachers were selected on that basis,’ he said.
Mr. Holt said there will be 20 teachers in the primary summer school and five at the George Hicks camps with one teacher acting as a co-coordinator at the site.
Sidebar: Cheap summer ideas:
Here are some helpful ideas to fill in those long summer days on a budget.
- Explore your hometown by becoming a ‘tourist’ and delving into your town’s history and historic monuments
- Kids love sport: Get a basketball; a football; a bat and ball – anything. Sport should keep the kids happy for hours while improving their fitness. Just make sure they don’t get sunburnt.
- Take long bike rides, stroll the beaches, visit old timers, and learn the art of thatch plaiting, knitting, basket weaving and whomper making;
- Visit the libraries, enjoy coconut water free of cost (but ask tree owners very kindly), pick mangoes and plums and go sea bathing; there is nothing nicer that kicking off your shoes and taking a long swim;
- Find a hammock and take a rest, play dominoes, chill under the shade of a coconut tree (just be careful of dried ones falling), enjoy a boat ride and sample some old time Caymanian food on your daily treks.
‘Who can afford to make trips this year? We can’t afford that and as for summer camps, they are too expensive, so we have to find others ways of keeping the children happy over the summer.’ – Parent Raul Andrews on what to do with kids this summer.