Seven Caymanian primary school children are preparing for their first journey to New York as a result of the Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways’ ongoing partnership with the Fresh Air Fund.
The group of five girls and two boys include Tiana Smith, Charlee Walton, Athena Smith, Tiona Miller, Destinie Bush, Anthony Penock and Jossani McLean. They left Cayman on Sunday, 7 August, to spend 10 days on a beautiful 2,300-acre reservation in Fishkill, New York, attending the Fresh Air Fund Summer Camp.
While the relationship with the organisation has existed for five years and enables inner-city kids from New York to vacation with host families in the Cayman Islands, the reciprocal arrangement offering kids from Cayman the opportunity to see the bright lights of the Big Apple was introduced last year and now forms part of the annual programme.
Explaining the selection criteria, Shomari Scott, acting director of tourism, said the seven children were selected by the Ministry of Education based on their consistently high academic achievements, positive attitudes and willingness to apply themselves to their schools and community through extracurricular activities.
“I cannot say enough about the positive benefits that this programme has on the kids, who are able to participate in activities that are vastly different to what they would normally be exposed to in their home environments,” Mr. Scott said.
“My own parents served as a host family when the partnership with FAF was first introduced, so not only is the programme very close to my heart, but I can speak from personal experience about the constructive influence it has on the life of a deserving child,” he said.
Following the return of the children from camp on 19 August, Department of Tourism staffers Rhonda Cornwall and Gary Dominguez will escort the children on a brief tour of New York, where they will visit the Bronx Zoo, Governor’s Island and possibly a children’s musical on Broadway before returning home on Sunday, 21 August.
Premier McKeeva Bush said, “I am again delighted that the Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways have made it possible once again for Caymanian children to travel to New York for what will surely be the trip of a lifetime and an unforgettable Summer Camp experience.”
Since its inception in 1877, the Fresh Air Fund has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million children from low-income communities. To date, 12 Caymanian children have benefited from the programme.