Governor stages networking event for Cayman's UK students

When the governor’s reception kicks off on Friday evening, students and sponsors will mark the second and most ambitious effort yet for the Cayman Connection UK organization.

The lead “student ambassadors” – Moya Williams and Amber Caum – are hoping for throngs of guests, at least as many as 2014’s 70 attendees.

The two can count on at least 18 from law firm Mourant Ozannes, the main sponsor both last year and this year. Longtime partner Hector Robinson will address the gathering, joined by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson; Minister of Education Tara Rivers; and former Governor and Chairman of Friends of Cayman John Owen.

Cayman students in the U.K. and Europe, home on summer holiday; private-sector business owners; former students; officials, past and present, from Cayman’s London office and the Department of Tourism; and others from Mr. Owen’s slightly less formal U.K.-based Friends of Cayman are all expected to crowd the governor’s back patio for the gala networking event.

“We want to get everyone to the reception, to interact, to network, to find out what everyone is doing, when they are coming back [to Cayman], what their plans are,” Ms. Williams said.

The 200-member CCUK is an offshoot of the larger, older organizations for Caymanians in London, run by students, for the benefit of students, and others that reach out to business owners, employees, Cayman residents, both current and former, previous government figures and anyone with an interest in the islands and a hand to lend.

Kate Kandiah, former official at the Cayman Islands Government Office in London, Cayman’s Department of Tourism in the U.K., and moving force behind the CCUK, described the evolution of the group: “Cayman Connection UK in its current form was launched in August 2014, but this was after morphing through various stages of development,” starting with the founding of Friends of Cayman, comprising past governors and senior business leaders associated with the islands, and offering private-sector insight to the Cayman Islands Government Office, led by Jennifer Dilbert.

That office, Ms. Kandiah said, maintained a small database of Cayman students in the U.K., but did not have resources to do much with it.

“In conjunction with DOT [Department of Tourism],” she said, the office created the “Cayman Ambassadors” in 2012, streamlining the various groups, ultimately spawning CCUK.

“[We] launch[ed] CCUK with CIGO/DOT/FOC as founders and supporters, and with a group of students at the helm, bringing together different entities that were doing similar things. It seemed a wasted opportunity not to have an umbrella platform. We wanted to join the existing student database with our top-level professional database.”

Those leading students, “are now our ‘Cayman Student Ambassadors,’” Ms. Kandiah said.

Ms. Williams, a 20-year-old advertising and marketing student at the University of Greenwich, shares her school with “about four or five other Caymanian students.” Ms. Caum, 19, a sociology student at the University of Westminster, says most Caymanian students attend the two schools. The pair comprise CCUK’s longest-serving ambassadors, present since the beginning.

Both will graduate next year and plan to pursue master’s degrees in the U.K. Ms. Williams remains undecided about her course of study while Ms. Caum is thinking about law.

Friday’s reception at Government House is CCUK’s latest networking activity, following, for example, a March 24 meeting at the House of Lords with Premier Alden McLaughlin and a June 5 end-of-term “get together” at a Piccadilly restaurant. “In London,” Ms. Caum said, “we help people settle in, help with accommodations, teach them tricks and tips, help with blog posts and finding where other people are and people to talk to.”

“We also help non-Caymanians gain information about Cayman, and we sometimes liaise with other Caribbean communities, a lot of whom have their own associations,” she added.

“We do so many things, but we are still taking baby steps, coming up, because we are so new,” Ms. Williams said. At last year’s Government House reception, “a lot of attendees were new students, and we answered a lot of questions – about specific pursuits, about particular companies.”

And, she said, after a London-based education, “employers look at you very differently; students have great growth and experience and knowledge. You know you’re not just competing in Cayman, but competing internationally and you are something a little more.

“I can be a valuable asset to a company in the future and CCUK can help network most people, help get a foot in the door. This is what we want to create, where we want to be.”