As a mother of seven, Daniella Ebanks has a lot of shopping to do for the holidays.
“They love bikes, they like anything new – electronics, games, clothes, shoes – you know,” the 33-year old East End resident said of her youngsters.
All those gifts require some extra cash, which is why Ms. Ebanks is participating in government’s annual Christmas cleanup program.
Ms. Ebanks was one of 500-600 Caymanians and residents with employment rights who signed up at the Lions Community Centre on Tuesday for the temporary work.
Projects will include beach cleanups, road cleanups, and work at the George Town landfill, said Project Coordinator Peter Gough. Work will begin Monday, Dec. 4, and last for two weeks, with another week of work taking place after the New Year, he said.
After everyone is registered, participants will be called and told when and where to show up for work, he said.
“Once we know the numbers, then we’ll determine whether someone gets one week, two weeks, or three weeks,” the project coordinator explained. “We can physically only manage 250 per week for security and safety reasons.”
About $475,000 is budgeted for the initiative, he said. Workers will be paid $10 per hour, with foremen receiving $12 per hour. Mr. Gough said project organizers will select foremen based on the participants’ experience and job skills.
Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Joseph Hew said the program does not just beautify the island and put extra money in people’s pockets, it also helps the unemployed re-enter the workforce.
“It’s a way to retool people – get them back into a routine of waking at 7:30 a.m. and doing a full day’s work,” he said. “People have gotten full-time jobs after the program, some within government, some outside.”
With Messrs. Gough and Hew both estimating that 500-600 people signed up on Tuesday, the turnout is roughly the same as last year, but less than the more than 700 people who participated in 2015.
Mr. Hew said the lower turnout is a good economic indicator because it suggests that many Caymanians have jobs.
However, the minister noted that many of the people registering were middle-aged or older – not the 18- to 35-year-old demographic, where unemployment is the highest.
Mr. Hew attributed the larger number of seniors to the fact that government increased the retirement age to 65, which makes more people eligible to work.
For Ms. Ebanks’s part, she said she had a night job when she participated in the Christmas cleanup two years ago, but that she is unemployed this year.
“Really and truly, this is not really what I do. I’m usually an administrative assistant, but everything here is slow now,” she said. “I like front-desk work, I usually work at hotels and stuff like that but it’s so hard to find jobs now. So anything you can get now, you get.