Generation Next seeks to provide the children still living in Government’s temporary housing with a range of new experiences.
A programme that was started by the Temporary Housing Unit, headed by manager Catherine Tyson, Generation Next recognises the limited resources available to families living in the trailers, and – through a combination of Ms Tyson’s own income as well as donated resources and funds – offers the children free services that include after-school homework assistance, holiday camps and annual trips abroad.
‘We recognise the vulnerability of these kids in the trailers and while we were able to transition many families from trailers back into regular housing there were some where their situations proved more difficult for that to happen,’ said Orrett Connor, Cabinet secretary.
‘We all subscribe to the fact that we need to protect our young children who are the most vulnerable in society, and that was the driving force behind [starting up Generation Next].’
Most recently, the children took a trip to Orlando, Florida, with members of the Temporary Housing Unit’s staff as chaperones.
Of the 29 trailers remaining occupied on island, 15 of these have children living in them. The majority of these children flew to Orlando as part of an organised trip, which Ms Tyson said was ‘an effort to allow the children who reside in the trailers to travel and be exposed to other cultures and enjoy little niceties that other children enjoy that they may not have been able to do outside of this programme.’
Ms Tyson added that last year the group had visited New York City, taking in Broadway productions, visiting Central Park and the Bronx Zoo and giving the kids a chance to ride trains. Next year, the department is planning another trip elsewhere.
‘I want to make this an annual thing for these kids or kids like them that need the attention and opportunity and are otherwise forgotten,’ said Ms Tyson, who has a Masters degree in social work and is trained as a counsellor. ‘I have been following these kids for the past five years and have seen them grow in a lot of areas and feel that this is a small way to give back. It is outside of my job scope but a very rewarding and valuable venture.’
Mr. Connor acknowledged Ms Tyson’s efforts with the Generation Next programme.
‘She is the driving force behind all of this,’ he said. ‘Her background in social work I’m sure has a lot to do with it as well as her feelings and her kindness to her fellow human beings. She really has to be given full credit for this.’
The number of trailers brought to Cayman after Hurricane Ivan was 84, and that number has diminished steadily over the years with the introduction of affordable government housing. Most recently, Mr. Connor said, in May the six trailers that were located in Ed Bush playing field in West Bay were removed, with the occupants now housed in government apartments build in the old John Silvers building.
Generally all of the children participate in the activities we provide. We have a few in Bodden Town who are out of the way but last year we picked them up. But this year we didn’t have much of a budget.
Ms Tyson’s enthusiasm for Generation Next remains but, without a budget, the programme needs resources and funds.
‘I use a scarce and skeleton crew for all efforts and activities; basically all the folks involved with these children are from the Temporary Homes Programme or friends and family members,’ Ms Tyosn explained.
‘We are always looking for support, donations or suggestions as to how to help and make a difference in the lives of these precious souls who are simply victims of their circumstances and deserve all the best that this life has to offer.’