Fish stories: Mentors seeking ‘purpose’ for at-risk boys

Christopher Murray has found a new way to get local youngsters to listen to lessons from their elders.

Mr. Murray finds that having elementary and high school boys on board a boat makes them something of a captive audience.

“We have a group of young men who we’re seeking to mentor and we’re doing it in a fun-filled way where we can create some sense of relevance,” he said on Saturday, 9 June.

This was just before a local watercraft was set to head out with about 15 boys from John Gray High School, the Bonaventure Boys Home and some primary school children. Mr. Murray has been organising the trip since October 2011 under a programme he calls “fishing for a purpose”.

The boat trips to Grand Cayman’s North Sound are usually provided free of charge by Duey Kelly of Kelly’s Watersports, Mr. Murray said. They go out on Saturdays between 8am and 2pm, usually, catch fish, have some lunch and tell some fish stories.

“We go out on the trips and at different times stop all fishing and everybody sit down and have some of the men on the trip share with the boys their challenges and how they overcame them when they were growing up,” said Mr. Murray, who is a guidance counsellor at John Gray High School. “Then we’ll have different competitions to see who can catch the most fish … some clean, real good fun.”

The 9 June trip was the last one for the 2011/12 school year. Mr. Murray said he hopes to get the programme started back up in September or October after classes resume.

Not everyone can go on the trips. Mr. Murray said he’s focused particularly on boys from “at risk” home environments or who have acted out at school.

He said he wants to get the programme to the point where it’s used as a reward for good behaviour at school.

“My ultimate desire is to tie the fishing trip into behavioural tendencies at school; in other words, depending on how they’re behaving, they can come on the trip.”

At most, he’s taken 30 boys with a group as many as six adult mentors. Those mentors tend to be teachers, ministers or others Mr. Murray said are willing to go and with whom the youngsters can relate.

“Sometime you find boys who might have challenges … in terms of being at risk,” he said. “We pull on them first to try and see if we can help modify some of the behaviours by providing positive, real mentors in their lives. I’ve been watching those who have been maintaining a ‘no suspension’ [record, at school] … it can’t be just all fun, there has to be some behavioural expectation.”

The trip also teaches something about giving back to the community as well.

“We donate to the Golden Age [retirement] home that which they’ve caught,” Mr. Murray said.

The biggest fish from Saturday’s trip? About a 6 pounder, caught by the youngest member of the group.