ARK delivers Christmas cheer to the needy

Christmas will be a time of plenty for more than 400 struggling families, thanks to the generosity of Cayman Islands residents who stepped up to support a charity campaign.

Acts of Random Kindness delivered more than 2,600 of its signature blue bags stuffed with groceries, toys and food vouchers to some of the island’s most needy families.

The gifts and produce were supplied by people and businesses who responded to ARK’s campaign, challenging them to fill blue canvas bags with essential items, from diapers to laundry soap.

For an out-of work single mom like Georgia, who has three children aged between 4 and 15, the help received will make all the difference.

“This is going to be the happiest Christmas we have had in years. This help from ARK was such a blessing. We were on the brink and I did not know what we were going to do.

“Now we have presents to put under the tree and enough groceries to get us through to February. I am still in awe,” said Georgia, who asked that the Caymanian Compass use only her first name.

A total of 472 families – almost three times the number that received last year – got a similar Christmas bonus.

Tara Nielsen of ARK said she was overwhelmed by the response of the public, as well as the volunteers who helped make this year’s “giving is receiving” campaign the most successful yet.

Last year, the campaign raised around $6,000 in food vouchers and provided enough groceries to help 175 families. This year, the campaign raised $15,000 in food vouchers, as well as providing groceries and other items to 472 families.

“The response from the public has been mind blowing. It is not just the food and the money, it is the fact that people have been contributing their time and their energy. We have had people coming in before work, putting in time to sort the goods or to collect bags from businesses.”

The Camana Bay Discovery Centre was the headquarters of the campaign, with residents picking up and dropping off bags full of goods.

Last weekend, it transformed into a warehouse, with volunteers including many from ARK’s youth group, ARK Angels, sorting and repacking the bags into specific orders for the various families.

Grace Edgington, 15, who is the leader of ARK’s youth group, said she had coordinated with schools, including Cayman Prep and the Cayman International School, to get more young people involved.

She said around 15 youngsters gave up their Saturday before Christmas to pack bags and wrap gifts.

“It was really great to see more teens involved this year,” she added.

Ms Nielsen praised the efforts of all involved.

“For these families, this will be the difference between being provided for and having food for Christmas or not,” she said. “This will provide a really good start to the year for them.”

“For these families this will be the difference between being provided for and having food for Christmas or not.” Tara Nielsen, ARK