Young parents in East End are speaking out about their difficulties providing for themselves and their young children, particularly when it comes to landing jobs that pay the bills.
“As a young Caymanian, I think that we are feeling neglected. There are some young Caymanians out there who don’t want to work but there is a lot who are stepping up to the plate, we have children and we need jobs,” said 25-year-old Diana McKenzie.
Ms. McKenzie is raising three children on her own: Jaylen, 7 months, Jamari, 3 and Jakeem, 5, with the help of her sick mother Bevly Lee Wallace.
“Not every one of us can apply for a scholarship, or have the grades to get a scholarship, therefore it is hard for all Caymanians in this category who want to further their education and get a job,” she said.
Ms. McKenzie has been looking a job since September last year.
“I sent out lots of resumes, signed up with the work agency, and so far no luck,” she said.
Ms. McKenzie attended George Town Primary, East End Primary and George Hicks before graduating from John Gray High School. She then started attending the University College of the Cayman Islands studying accounting. She hopes to further her studies in business administration.
When she left school, she took up employment with Edmar’s drugstore in the Thompson building in downtown George Town, but the business closed down. After a spell at the East End Subway, she moved to Dunkin’ Donuts in Bodden Town, which also closed down. After being out of work for a while, she got a job at Hurley’s supermarket.
“My mother was minding the children, but she got sick and could not longer mind the kids. I was unable to find a person to take care of them so I had to stay home with the children,” she said.
Right now, she said she is depending on the Department of Children and Family Services, but help with food or somewhere for her and the children to stay is only available for a limited amount of time.
“It is hard. Young Caymanians need to step up and open their mouths,” she said.
She said young Caymanians need to learn how to hold on to jobs. Given how hard it is to get a job, young people must learn how to handle it once they are hired.
She thinks the low pay scale has a lot to do with why young Caymanians are not getting hired.
“If we do not want to work for $4 and $5 an hour, employers hire other nationalities from poor countries so they can walk over them and do whatsoever,” she said.
Ms. McKenzie prays the year 2016 will turn out better for her and a lot of other single parents – especially single parents who have three or more children.
Ms. McKenzie’s mother Ms. Wallace hit out at local MLAs.
“They want my vote but when we ask for help, they send us to social services,” said Ms. Wallace. “Social services is not supposed to be our solution. They should be looking at seeing to it that young people get the opportunity to work.
Another young parent, Dalvy Solomon, pushing a baby pram from John McLean Drive along East End’s main road to his mother’s house on Fiddlers Way had just dropped off his daughter Jacmine at the East End Primary School.
He agreed it is tough finding a job to provide for his family.
“If I have work, I leave the children with my grandmother or mother, if not, I just stay home and look after the children,” he said.
“My baby mother just got a little job at Comfort Suites, that is kind of helping them out,” he added.
Working in construction and electrical most of his life, Mr. Solomon said he is willing to work. He has worked in various places such as Health City Cayman Islands, at McAlpine, and with an East End contractor, but he said as soon as each construction job finishes, he is left searching.
“Sometimes, they tell me I am either not qualified or over-qualified, or they are looking for trade people.”
Over the Christmas holidays, Mr. Solomon secured work with a government cleanup crew.
“I have to go back to the landfill site on Jan. 11 until the 18th. After that, I won’t have a job. I am finding it very difficult, especially raising my children.”
Mr. Solomon said he does not know what else government can do. He signed up with the National Workforce Development Agency, but says he is being told to just keep checking his email, and that he will be informed of any work or interviews that come up.
However, the last call he received was long before Christmas.
“If I have work, I will work,” he said.