Building a better community

Youth Development Consortium aims to held children develop to their full potential

At a time when crime, unemployment and drug trafficking are major issues facing the Cayman Islands, it is more important than ever that young people receive the guidance that will set them on course for a successful and fulfilling future.

This is one of the aims of the Cayman Islands Youth Development Consortium, which was established five years ago to help children develop to their full potential.

The organisation, which relies heavily on financial support from government and corporate sponsors, works on the premise that the more support, encouragement and motivation children receive from parents, teachers and the wider community, the less likely they are to go on to engage in risky behaviour.

‘We don’t have anything going on after school’

Sylvia Wilkes, director of CIYDC, became aware of the need to provide better resources for children and adolescents when she was conducting interviews in each district.

“The kids were saying, we don’t have anything going on after school, at weekends, in the summer.”

Everywhere she went, she says, she was hearing the same story.

The children of today will be the politicians, educators, parents and leaders of the next generation, organisers point out.

If they are going to grow up to be responsible, caring citizens, they need to be to be encouraged, motivated and have the right values instilled in them.

Holistic approach

The CIYDC uses the 40 assets identified by the US-based Search Institute, as a tool to measure development and ensure a holistic approach to their work.

These assets encompass a broad range of key values and teachings, including a commitment to learning, an effective support network, an awareness of boundaries and expectations and positive values, among others.

The more of these assets a child develops, the better their chances of realising their full potential, the CIYDC says, and a child who grows up to feel fulfilled and supported is less likely to turn to unlawful activities or fail to secure a job.

To this end, Ms Wilkes has set up www.supportingcaymanyouth.com, a website for the Supporting Cayman Youth Campaign.

It aims to increase awareness of these key assets and encourage children, parents, educators and corporations which actively support youth development, to foster these assets and instill positive values in children.

Summer camps

The Youth Development Consortium works in collaboration with other agencies, and with aid of corporate sponsorship, to establish and run programmes for children and adolescents in various districts.

In 2008 they ran their fist summer camps in three districts. The Leadership and Prevention Camps dealt with adolescent behaviour problems such as violence, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and delinquency.

This year Ms Wilkes has been holding after-school programmes for 10-12 and 13-17-year-olds, again working on ways of encouraging children to study hard, develop ambition and a desire to succeed.

Her hope is that eventually each district will form its own committee to identify initiatives and decide on the best way to put them into effect.

Her aim is to mobilise more people in the community and for them to ultimately take responsibility for young people in their area and provide them with the support and resources they need.

She has also launched initiatives to raise funds and awareness: Project 365 asks for a donation of $1 a day, which will help fund summer, weekend and after-school activities, and for the Love of our Youth, which encourages the public to pledge to become asset builders.

For information,email [email protected] or call 947-5742.