Once again, we are approaching another wonderful Christmas season in the Cayman Islands. I am very much looking forward to sharing Christmas here with my daughter again this year, and I hope that you will also be surrounded by family and friends at this precious time.
I never cease to be humbled by the kindness and benevolence of the Cayman Islands community. The huge scale of charitable efforts, and the enormous variety of community events, demonstrates the unique spirit of the people of the Cayman Islands that makes our society so special.
One event which really bought this home to me was the recent passing of Aunt Julia Hydes, whom we all knew as the oldest person in Cayman. Miss Julia has left a wonderful cultural legacy for these Islands through her unique musical works. I was particularly impressed to see how the community came together to provide support and care to those who were grieving her loss. It is at times such as this that I feel particularly proud to be the Governor of these islands.
Taking care of our elderly friends and relatives is always important, but Christmas is a special opportunity to provide them with the love and support that they deserve. In these modern and busy times we must not forget those who helped to establish the strong foundations which we can now build on for the future.
At this time of year we must also look wider than our own Islands, to our Caribbean neighbours and beyond. 2015 saw some extreme weather with storms, hurricanes and typhoons occurring around the world. Our neighbours in the Bahamas were severely affected by hurricane Joaquin in October, suffering extreme flooding and the tragic loss of the cargo ship, El Faro, and the 35 crew members on board.
In August we saw the terrible devastation caused by tropical storm Erika to the island of Dominica, where 31 people lost their lives and almost 600 people lost their homes. Our government made a generous financial contribution towards the disaster relief effort there, and the U.K. government was able to divert Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship, Lyme Bay, to provide immediate assistance as well.
2015 also saw suffering in communities further from our shores. Nepal experienced terrible devastation as a result of the earthquake and aftershocks in April, which tragically claimed the lives of 8,000 people. Again, I was proud to see how generous the people of the Cayman Islands were in giving much needed financial support, and showing solidarity with our small but vibrant Nepalese community.
It is because of our vulnerability to extreme weather here in the Caribbean that I am very pleased to see the continuing support of the British Navy in the region. Two ships, HMS Severn and RFA Lyme Bay, came to the Caribbean this year. These ships patrol the Caribbean and the North Atlantic to provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance if needed. They also engage in counter-narcotics patrols, and both ships have visited Cayman to work to improve coordination with our local disaster management bodies. I am indebted to the crew of both ships for providing us with this additional security this year.
At Christmastime we can pause and be grateful that the Cayman Islands and its people have stayed safe and secure for another year.
Christmas is, of course, a time to celebrate with family and friends, but it is also a time to think about those who are not as fortunate as ourselves. We must continue to assist our neighbours, especially those who are in financial difficulty or who are sick or elderly, and to look out for children who may need our help.
On behalf of the community, I would like to thank all those who worked throughout 2015 to keep us safe, healthy and prosperous. This includes the emergency services, who always work tirelessly on our behalf, civil servants, churches, clubs and charities. These people are not concerned with recognition or reward and they deserve to be given great credit and thanks from all of us.
Many of these people will continue to work throughout Christmas, so that we can enjoy the holidays in peace and good will. We are very grateful for their selfless service.
I wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas and a happy and harmonious New Year.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick