When Faith Gealey won the 2017 Young Caymanian Leadership Award on Saturday night, she issued her own challenge to the hundreds of audience members at the Kimpton Seafire resort.
“If every person in this room dedicated 52 hours for the next 12 months – that’s just one hour a week – towards mentorship, can you imagine the difference you’d make in the children you’re mentoring?” said Ms. Gealey, a speech language pathologist with the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority.
Ms. Gealey – whose philanthropic activities include serving on the Special Needs Foundation, the National Disabilities Council, and the Caribbean Speech and Hearing Association – was one of five YCLA finalists who were honored at the event for their positive contributions to society.
They were nominated by other community members, interviewed by a YCLA committee, and graded based on the attributes they displayed during the interview.
The other finalists were Alice Ramos, who works at Saxon Pensions and has helped educate young people about financial services; entertainer Matt Brown, who has created a variety of animated videos and comedy sketches that highlight the territory’s culture; Stacie Sybersma, who works at the Caribbean Utilities Company and is involved in a number of initiatives to promote environmentalism; and Yentel McGaw, a human resources consultant who founded a scholarship program for students.
Event host Chris Duggan – the vice president of community development at Dart Enterprises, who himself was a YCLA finalist in 2009 – said promoting such outstanding individuals is crucial in a time where current leaders are making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
“From business leaders to world leaders to sports leaders to Hollywood leaders, the word ‘leadership’ is coming under assault on almost a daily basis,” he said. “That is why we are here tonight … We must recognize young Caymanians who are prepared to be leaders – role models that are going to choose the right path, role models that are going to set the right examples, and role models who are going to be the next generation of leaders.”
The event’s keynote speaker was WE Charity founder Craig Kielburger, whose organization has helped build schools, wells, and other essential infrastructure in impoverished communities around the world.
Mr. Kielburger encouraged the finalists and young people in the audience to aim big, using his own story of starting his charity at 12 years old as an example.
“People laughed at us and said we were too young,” he said. “Not only did we manage to build our first school, we set a goal to built 10 schools. And from 10 schools, our goal grew to build 100. And as time passed … we built over 1,000 schools.”
Along with the usual event festivities, Mr. Duggan also announced the formation of the Young Leaders Roundtable Initiative, which “will bring our young leaders together with the premier and others in government to meet on a quarterly basis about the issues of the day.”
Mr. Duggan said this will allow government leaders to have the perspective of the territory’s younger population.
“Too often, our world leaders don’t engage with the young people in their country,” he said.
That initiative is set to launch in January, he said.