Sidebar: Grand Cayman Programmes
Family has always been important to the people of the Cayman
Islands, but the modern Cayman family often looks a lot different from the
traditional family model. Shifts in the family dynamic, whether they are as a
result of divorce, remarriage or changes in financial and child-rearing
responsibilities, often affect the children of a family more so than the
With the nuclear family evolving under societal pressures,
the saying that it takes a village to raise a child may be more relevant to the
Cayman community than ever before. Thankfully, there are many community and
government programmes and services that are able to help parents and their
children through times of hardship or change. Finding the right programme for
you or your children is only the first step; the journey is dedicating your
family to becoming active in the community and each other’s lives.
Importance of community
Even though the structure of a family may be changing, the
support of community programmes and services can help keep children stable.
“Research shows that when parents and children are involved in community
activities or their community, children are less likely to engage in
anti-social or criminal behaviour,” said Michael Myles, the Ministry of
Education programme coordinator for At Risk Youth.
Myles believes that the infrastructure needed to support
youths who may not receive as much parental guidance or interaction as they
need is present. The problem now is getting families to embrace the programmes
and services. “What we lack are parents encouraging and supporting their
children to attend community or sports programmes,” he said. “There are still
far too many parents that use programmes as baby sitting agencies.”
For their children to make the most of the services and programmes
available, Mr. Myles says that parents have to make an effort to do the same.
“The young people who are doing well in Cayman are those that their parents
insist that they actively become involved in a programme and the parents
support them,” Myles said. “Far too often, children are in a programme and
their parents have not met the coach or the programme leader. When this
changes, we will have far less concerns for many of our children.”
Parents are, therefore, encouraged to be actively involved
in the process of deciding which programmes and clubs are right for their
children. Myles also emphasises that parents should always know their
children’s whereabouts, friends, and hobbies. “I also encourage parents to meet
their children’s teachers, friends, friends’ parents, coaches, youth
workers/leaders, etc.,” he says. “This is important for community
No matter what changes may be occurring within the family
structure, parents need to make sure their children are getting the attention
they need and are exposed to positive influences. “Whether a child is from a
single parent or two parent home, they face the same challenges,” Myles says.
“What makes the difference is how involved their parents are in their lives.”
After school programmes
In single-parent families and in families where both parents
work, picking the children up from school can be a significant challenge.
After school programmes can do a lot to reduce family stress
by providing children with a safe and fun environment to wait until a parent or
family member can pick them up.
The Set for Life After School and Training Programme is one
such organisation. Set for Life was started in 2008 by Demrie Thompson. “The
reason that this programme even came to life was, at the time when we started
in 2008, that after school we had kids roaming the streets unsupervised,” she
explained, noting that most parents she meets are single and do not have time
to pick their children up right as school ends.
The programme now incorporates activities, study time and
tutoring. The extra academic attention that after-school programmes such as Set
for Life often provide is a service that Katherine Whittaker, head of the Youth
Services Unit, believes is one of the most essential to young people. “Without
mastering basic reading and comprehension, one is left vulnerable to the
ambitions of some or dependence on others – neither is advisable,” she said.
“One’s literacy level is a key element to making a livelihood compatible to
one’s expectations and desires, contributing to civil society and sustaining a
Set for Life also offers children who stay after school a
healthy meal. “The main objective is to provide a safe and nurturing place for
them, and for them to get good nourishing food.” Thompson explained that, by
feeding the children and making sure they have done their homework, Set for
Life eliminates a lot of household stress and gives parents the opportunity to
spend more quality time with their children once they are at home. “They [the
parents] don’t have to struggle to help with homework the kids can’t do at the
last minute,” she said. “They can even spend a little more quality time with
their children before they go to sleep.”
Students in Cayman Brac also have access to many after
school programmes, such as those offered by Cayman Brac High School, Spot Bay
Junior School and West End Primary School.
The summer months can also prove extremely difficult for
single parents and families in which both parents work. Finding a way to make sure
their children are kept busy in a productive way over the summer can be
stressful to parents trying to balance their work and home lives.
There are almost 30 school and organisation-run summer
programmes are available each summer.
Ranging from programmes offered by hotels, such as the
Ambassadors Camp at the Ritz-Carlton, schools, the Bodden Town Primary Summer
School, and churches, such as the Church of God Vacation Bible School, there
are plenty of opportunities for parents to keep their children occupied
productively over the summer. “Get them involved in a camp where they are
learning new material in a more relaxed environment, have them become members
of the local library and borrow books at little to no cost, have them volunteer
at a church offering Vacation Bible School for younger children or call local
charities and inquire if they need assistance,” said Whittaker, suggesting the
many ways that children can be kept busy over the summer when parents are at
The government sponsored sports camps have proved to be a
great success in past years. “Football, basketball, cricket, baseball, flag
football, rugby, etc… all these programmes have their individual leagues
from juniors to seniors,” says Myles.
Mentoring and counselling programmes
Changes in family structure can sometimes leave children
without a strong, positive role model.
Mentoring programmes, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, can
help to provide kids with adults to look up to and spend quality time with.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organisation that positively impacts children’s
lives,” explained Marilyn Conolly, executive director of the programme. “We
provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally
supported one-on-one relationships that change their lives for the better,
Mentors can choose to take part in either the school-based
mentoring programme or the community based mentoring programme. Mentors who
choose to take part in the school-based programme meet with their little
brother or sister during lunchtime once a week, while those involved in the
community based programme meet for a minimum of two hours a week to spend time
together outside of the school environment.
Another programme designed to help children and parents cope
with changes in the family structure is the Family Skills Programme offered by
the Family Resource Centre. Taking place over the course of eight weeks, the
programme involves both parents and their children in skill-building activities
that tackle issues like communication, home management and self-esteem.
Though all members of the family are involved in this
programme, children and parents learn the same skills separately before coming
together to practice. Programmes like this one can help parents connect with
their children and become involved in their lives. “I consistently encourage
parents to be consistent with monitoring their children,” says Myles.
Approximately seven families go through the programme
together at the same time. Any family can contact the Family Resource Centre to
sign up for the programme.
The Family Resource Centre also offers individual
counselling for parents, as well as a special programme for parents younger
than 25 called Adolescent Parenting Services.
The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce also provides the
opportunity for young people to receive mentoring. Since its inception in 2002,
the Chamber’s Mentoring Cayman programme has already made a positive impact on
the lives of over 300 high school students.
Mentoring Cayman gives the highest achieving Year 11
students the opportunity to shadow professionals whose ca-reers mirror the
students’ interests and aspirations, giving students a taste of working life.
Past mentors have repre-sented fields such as architecture, banking, law,
interior design, art, medicine and broadcast journalism.
The variety of programmes offered by the government and the
community attests to the opportunities available for families looking for support
during times of change and instability.
A comprehensive listing of programmes and services can be found online at www.ysu.gov.ky.