Licensed electrician Larry Powell has been teaching a small group of younger people in George Town the tricks of the trade for about the last five months.
Mr. Powell uses the Wesleyan Holiness Church in George Town for teaching space and has volunteered his free time to do so since 30 April.
Next Tuesday, 11 October, he’s scheduled to leave the Islands, having reached his seven-year term limit. He’s being rolled over.
“Before I was introduced to Mr. Powell, I was doing drugs, committing petty crimes, hanging with the wrong crowds and unemployed,” said Adam Mark Ebanks, 28, a student at the church programme. “Mr. Powell took me under his wing and motivated me to take classes to improve on my education and helped me get a job.
“Now, he only has a few days remaining on our Islands and myself and the other students are devastated.”
There is some hope for the 45-year-old electrician, though he fully expects to be leaving the country next Tuesday for his native Jamaica. Last week, Cayman Islands lawmakers approved changes to the Immigration Law that allow certain foreign workers to be exempted from the country’s seven-year term limit on residence.
Depending on when the law takes effect, Mr. Powell’s employers may be allowed to apply for an exemption for him to stay an additional two years. However, as of Wednesday, his future was up in the air.
“I’m not here to bend anybody’s arm; it’s their country, it’s their policy,” he said, during an interview with the Caymanian Compass. “If they don’t want me to help the young people I’ll just go home and pursue my mathematics degree and help myself more.”
Mr. Ebanks said the students in Mr. Powell’s electrician class were “stressed out” by the news of his leaving.
“It’s more than just a school thing,” he said of the programme. “If this man leaves, most of these people [in the class] go back to where they came from.”
For Mr. Ebanks, that’s Windsor Park, a tough neighbourhood in central George Town.
“Most of the students will most likely quit the programme and fall back into the tragic lives we lived before,” he said. “More crimes will be committed, more lives lost.”
Mr. Powell remembers meeting the 28-year-old George Town resident, who told the electrician he wanted to change his ways but couldn’t find any work. Mr. Powell looked around and found temporary labour at a job site on West Bay Road.
However, Mr. Ebanks didn’t have a hard hat or a pair of work boots.
“He had no money to purchase those things,” Mr. Powell recollects. “So I went with him down to J. Michael and bought him some boots and I loaned him my hard hat.”
Mr. Powell said he realises the young man looks to him as more than a teacher.
“He sees me as a way out of the life he’s living,” he said. Since then, Mr. Powell has been able to find another student in the electrician class a job in the local market.
Wesleyan church pastor Dennis Delisser agrees that the class isn’t just about learning a trade.
“You could almost call it a mentorship programme,” Pastor Delisser said.
Pastor Delisser said the idea for the training course started with a conversation between church officials, government social workers and a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service constable on ways to reduce crime problems on Grand Cayman.
“One of the root causes of crime was lack of employment, lack of education, lack of skills,” Mr. Delisser said. “We decided ‘let’s start a trade school’.
Mr. Powell said he usually averages about four dedicated attendees, but he said every person whose life can be changed is a help.
“I wanted to do this a long time ago,” Mr. Powell said. “If all of us as [expatriates] do something like this, these young youths wouldn’t be at Northward.”
Pastor Delisser said he’s looking, but hasn’t found a replacement teacher for Mr. Powell. “I hope that this is not the end of [the training programme],” he said.