Why the National Trust Needs Your Support

When I was a child, Cayman had a
population of about 24,000, one major hotel, zero crime, and a society made up
of around 80 per cent Caymanians to 20 per cent expatriates, mostly from
Britain and other Caribbean Islands. 
Today, with a population of just over 50,000, Cayman has tourist
capacity of 4,623 rooms, over 300 banks, 10,000 mutual funds, almost weekly
armed robberies, gang crime (including murders), and an increasing drug and gun
culture.  All of this with a population
made up of about 45 per cent Caymanians and 55 per cent expatriates from all
over the world – at last count I believe 110 countries are represented in
Cayman. Quite a change in the 40 years since my birth.

Don’t get me wrong, Cayman is still
a wonderful place.  But there is a general
sense amongst Caymanians that we have lost a big part of who we are or maybe I
should say who we were.  Back in 1987
when the National Trust for the Cayman Islands was established, it wasn’t
necessarily the aim of our founders to help regain Cayman’s sense of identity,
but increasingly our 1,000 members feel that this is our true mission.   

Officially our mission is to
“preserve natural environments and places of historic significance for present
and future generations of the Cayman Islands”. But why? We at the National
Trust feel that by keeping physical spaces intact, whether it be a historic
home, a majestic forest or a habitat for rare animals, we are also keeping our
heritage and our identity alive. 

 

Programmes, projects and properties

So now I’d like to tell you about a
few of our programmes, projects and properties to give you a flavour of what
I’m talking about:

The Mastic Reserve is our largest
property, at over 750 acres.  The reserve
was created to preserve the largest contiguous dry growth forest in Cayman,
which contains numerous specimens of the Mastic Tree itself, as well as: rare
orchids, all 13 of the endemic birds of the Cayman Islands, scores of migratory
birds, and a historic footpath which for over 100 years was the main artery
through the middle of the island. Today the National Trust leads guided tours
on the Mastic Trail. It’s our most popular tour and is gaining in popularity
with both locals and tourists. 

The Mission House historic site
includes a traditional Caymanian two-storey home situated on an area of dry and
wetland frequented by a variety of local wildlife. Archaeological remains from
as far back as the 1700s are still being discovered on the site.  In the 1800s the site became known as the Mission
House due to the early missionaries, teachers and families who lived there and
contributed to establishing the Presbyterian ministry and school in Bodden
Town. The Mission House takes you back to an earlier time in Cayman’s history
by recreating the living situations of the three families known to have owned
the home. On a tour of the home, a real sense of family is evident and there
are many opportunities to understand the challenges faced by the early
missionaries and teachers in Cayman.  

Our most famous programme is the
Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. BIRP, as we like to call it, is lead by Fred
Burton, a man who has gained worldwide acclaim for restoring the population of
blue iguanas, found naturally only in Cayman, from about 30 to now approaching
1,000.  In partnership with our sister
organizations in Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands we recently
received funding from the European Union to expand the work of this programme
and we also recently signed a 99-year lease with the Cayman Islands government
on a 190 acre parcel of dry forest. This land will house the Blue Iguana
Visitor Centre and will be the site of most releases of iguanas into the wild
as well as ongoing scientific research. The blue iguana was here long before
human habitation and through the efforts of the Trust, this treasured piece of
our heritage will continue to thrive.

 

Financial resources

Like most not-for-profits, we at
the National Trust work with limited financial resources, but can always rely
on a committed staff and team of volunteers. We also rely very heavily on
support from the general public and the corporate community. Without a
sustained fundraising effort we cannot continue our work.  Property in Cayman is expensive to purchase
and maintain.  It’s important for me to
stress that the property owned by the National Trust was purchased. The
National Trust does not have the power to confiscate property, nor do we want
that power!  

It is because of past fundraising
efforts that we have been able to purchase the properties we have. It must also
be remembered that property owned is held in Trust for the people of the Cayman
Islands in perpetuity.

Our work is crucial, and sometimes
gruelling.  But it’s entirely enjoyable
and we work with the knowledge that it is the future generations of Caymanians
who will benefit and will thank us for saving their heritage and their
identity.

This weekly column from the
National Trust for the Cayman Islands is submitted by Frank Balderamos, General
Manager. The National Trust can be contacted at 749-1121 or via email at
in[email protected]

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Mission House
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