Frances Bodden girls are back home after a two-year absence from the building in Lower Valley, Bodden Town.
For the first time, joining the 10 adolescent girls are four younger boys between the ages of 10 and 12. Also joining the group is beloved puppy Mittens, whom they adopted from the Bonaventure Boys Home.
The girls will occupy eight rooms on the upper level, and the boys will be housed on the lower level.
The official opening and Valentine Family Fun Night was held at the home Friday night and featured songs by the Cays Foundation choir and clients of the home.
Greeting attendees, CEO Angela Sealey said the girls and boys were glad to be home and that the return journey had been uneventful.
Community Affairs Minister Mike Adam thanked those involved in the project and said the reopening had been long in coming, but it was clearly worth all the time and effort.
He also encouraged everyone concerned to become good stewards of the home. “This facility holds a very import place in our country’s effort to develop the young people, especially those who are vulnerable in the society.
Remember the building is a home for each of the boys and girls that are there now, as long as they reside there.”
He encouraged the girls to care for their surroundings as they care for each other and to gain from the programmes and guidance that could firmly place them on the path to future success.
After the building suffered fire damage in 2009, the girls were moved to the Bonaventure Boys Home while upgrades and renovations were carried out.
Making sure the house was in order for the girls’ arrival, staff and volunteers were busy the previous Saturday unpacking new furniture and making sure everything was in place.
‘We are excited’
“The children are excited and we are excited,” said Ms Sealey, expressing her gratitude to those who helped to get the home completed.
“Since the girls have been out of the home, a number of renovations have taken place. Out of bad came good,” she added.
“We had to carry out some upgrades to meet the new rebuilding requirements, and fire doors and a new fire stairway have been installed.
The home was also repainted, so we are coming home to a better home,” said Ms Sealey.
Volunteers were also excited at the prospect of the children moving back home.
Designworks Ltd interior designer Lydia Geerlings heard about the project through the Do Something Cayman campaign. She thought it would be a nice gesture to help create a colourful and pleasant environment for the children.
“It’s so great to be able to give back
to the Cayman community, and this is a particularly good cause – creating a
fun, inviting and safe home environment for these girls where they can develop
and grow. Although it’s a little clichéd, I believe that helping young
people is the way forward in terms of creating a wonderful future for Cayman.”
Ms Geerlings designed all the furniture and said she got it at cost price for the home.
Also helping out were volunteers from the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation.
The group raised $1,500 last summer to buy some needed items and they assisted with moving the girls into the new home. “Hopefully it will be the beginning of a relationship between the athletes and the girls,” said volunteer Taylor Burrowes.
Volunteer Cristin Alexander, Miss Cayman Islands 2010, said she felt great to be involved. “It’s giving back to the girls. They deserve to be treated well. I think it is awesome and I am excited to be participating.”
New ways of doing business
According to Ms Sealey, the home is looking at new ways of doing business.
“The girls will take more responsibility; bolts that once shuttered the windows have been removed and staff will be required to be a lot more vigilant,” she said.
“Hopefully, because the children are coming back to everything that is new, we hope they will have that appreciation. The girls have challenges, but they are stable,” she said.
Presently there are a number of programmes in place at the home, including a pet care programme, horticulture, life skills, and educational and behaviour modification programmes.
“We are also looking at revamping the whole programme …”, said Ms Sealey. “We will be … ensuring staff skills meet the programme we are trying to implement.
The [new] programme allows for more therapy, and we will be looking at a child psychologist to come on board. Right now if children need counselling, we have to take them to the Counselling Centre, which is far and sometimes fully booked.”
She also said the home is spending a lot of time on a reintegration programme, which involves working with the families.
“We now have quite a waiting list for new admissions. During the time the girls were at the boys home, the number had diminished to eight for lack of space, now that we are back in the home, we have 10 girls and four boys.
“… We are happy to be home,” she said.