My heart bleeds for my country and my people; God’s country and God’s people. This article will reveal some of my personal experiences, but it is not about me. It is about the much bigger picture and what is happening to our beloved Islands, and I write this with the hope that hearts will be stirred and God will help us to do what is right, dialogue constructively, forgive and heal together.
Almost five years ago my name ‘hit the headlines’ as Catherine Tyson so ably put it on her “Cayman Let’s Talk” TV show last year. For someone who prefers ‘the backbench’, it was the most difficult time of my life. After 31 years and nine months of service to my country, full-time and overtime, I was given 1.5 hours notice and rudely told to leave, by some-one who was only on the Island for four months. I was told that I was no longer ‘wanted’ and that this decision was supported by those who mattered at the time. There was no wrong-doing on my part, I was in a senior position, qualified and experienced, there were no budget cuts at the time and my position was not made redundant. So what was the reason? Purely politics. During my 20+ years in supervision and management, I have also been involved in disciplining and dismissing staff, but there was always a reason, a process to follow, and a humane way of caring out that function.
There were so many variables that made this experience worse for me, not the least of which was the three months of media coverage simply because of who I am related to. No one called me for an interview to hear my side. Fact is, I was properly ‘gagged’ anyway, as one lawyer put it.
I am an imperfect Christian and my faith in God is what saw me through, along with the overwhelming support from family and friends. Otherwise, I would probably be dead or in prison at this point. But as I said, this is not about me. I listen to talk shows and read the newspapers almost every day, and I hear the cries of my people, the young, the older and the in-between. Since I published my book “Coping with Sudden Job Loss”, many people have shared their stories with me; civil servants as well as private sector employees. They cannot find jobs, they are not valued, they are training those who are brought in to supervise them, they are mistreated and disrespected on the job, the young ones are returning from university and are not encouraged, some are not given a chance because they have a police record. Many Caymanians are being dismissed at short notice and the cries go on and on. There are many who are qualified and experienced who are just cast aside, as if they are not human, and as if they have no worth. Our people are hurting and we are like outcasts in our own country. Fortunately for me, I had a plan in place for my retirement. I wanted to undertake pastoral counselling and with the grace of God I completed my course and I am now fulfilling my dream. Many are not so fortunate.
So what has happened to our small nation that was once so united? Before my next statements, let me categorically state that during my entire civil service career, and even now, I have never been ‘political’ or favoured one party over the other. I served and respected whichever government was in power, standing up for right vs wrong. Someone recently said to me “Maybe that is why you lost your job!” So be it – I am not perfect but when it comes to whatever job I am doing, I stand for ethics, honesty and integrity. To cement what I just said, my ‘issues’ began with UDP and ended with PPM, so hopefully that will convince you.
So here are my next statements/opinions:
a) The first thing that happened to us was the loss of our Christian heritage. We do not practice what we preach or who we say we are. We do not follow the teachings of the Bible. If we did, we would know that we are all created special people by God and for His purpose. If everything that we did honoured Him, wow. Remember the famous quotation ‘What would Jesus do?’ Think about that in every situation you are facing. Our churches are failing. In a recent gathering of all United Churches of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the facts were laid on the table and they are mind-boggling. I am associated with many other churches and I know they are having the same experience. The emphasis nowadays is on administrative matters and matters such as worship styles rather than on our Creator and what He calls us to do for each other. While we are busy planning, our people are hurting and pulling further and further away from the churches. We are tearing down each other instead of encouraging one another. Please note that these comments are made in a general sense, and I applaud so many in all of our churches, who are making a positive difference in our lives.
b) The second thing that happened to us was disharmony. Many years ago when Camana Bay was first conceived (and even prior to this), I remember promoting peace and harmony among our people. So many people were resentful of the expatriates. It was important then, and it is still important, that we accept where we are now and embrace each other, no matter where we come from. Where there is injustice and mistreatment, this must be dealt with, regardless of whether the person is an expat or one of our own. Many of the injustices are against our own people and carried out BY our own people. Hence the disharmony continues. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is widening and this creates even more disharmony. Our unemployment percentages have increased, despite the promises of more jobs for Caymanians with each new development on the table. More jobs for Caymanians is really a myth, because there are simply not enough of us. So we ask the question over and over, who are we developing for?
c) The third thing that happened to us is that we do not have long term vision and as a result we get our priorities wrong. Issues like comprehensive mental health facilities and half way houses have been discussed for many years by many governments, but where are we today? If we would take the time to really nurture our people our world would be a better place. Priority is given to anything that brings in revenue and not to things that really matter. Power and greed have overcome us and the issues that speak to the heart of our families are not addressed appropriately.
Since my dismissal, I became involved in our Prison Services and I support 100 per cent the programmes that are available there for rehabilitation. However, one thing that greatly concerns me is the fact that there is no full-time prison chaplain for the past four years. I applaud persons like Pastor Bob Thompson and many others who volunteer their time in the prisons, but there is a dire need for consistent follow-up with those inmates who try to make a better effort to change their lives. In any rehabilitation effort, there is a spiritual component and I believe that without God’s help, efforts often fail. There is a great need for reconciliation with families and victims and there is so much more work to be carried out. I would like to invite those of us who are willing and able, to do what we can for a better Cayman.
d) Last but not least, there is no unity among our people. We do not stand up for each other. We sit idly by and allow our people to be torn down, one by one, in the public and private sector. We have contributed to our own ‘brain drain’. Many of our yes, ‘still young’ Caymanians, now have their brains ‘on hold’ so to speak. I recently reached out to someone who suddenly lost their job of many years and I am still waiting for that person to call me back. I know how that person feels. There is such an overwhelming sense of betrayal, you do not feel like seeing or talking to anyone. For the past five years I have struggled with even singing our national song. When you lose a job in a small place like Cayman, you also lose a family, and so much more. In order for us to progress as a country, we need to UNITE and we need God’s help; a spiritual revival. For those among us who do not believe in God and the power that He has in our lives, maybe you could start with the Rotarians’ Guiding Principles:
• Is it the truth?
• Is it fair to all concerned?
• Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
• Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I have been blessed many times over since my dismissal, and I take this opportunity to thank my mother and so many special people in my life for their unwavering support and prayers that brought me through this devastating time of my life. I will carry the hurt to my grave, but through God’s grace there is also peace and love in my heart.
Authors love to write, but I’ll stop here. I am very busy these days, but I would like to form a support group with anyone who is experiencing job loss, sudden or otherwise; no charge! Please call me on 916-6581 if you are interested. This group will be a forum where experiences may be shared, coping strategies discussed, and a way forward explored. God bless the Cayman Islands and God bless you all,