Cayman participates in international congress on child abuse prevention

Protection Starts Here working group members Cindy Blekaitis, Camila Ferreira and Carolina Ferreira at the ISPCAN 2018 conference in Prague.

Three Cayman voices rose as one last month to bring attention to the epidemic of child abuse and neglect in the Caribbean and in the wider world.

Cindy Blekaitis, Camila Ferreira and Carolina Ferreira spoke on behalf of Cayman’s Protection Starts Here multi-agency working group at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect’s XXII International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect, held in the Czech Republic last month.

The group showed a screening of local documentary “Unspeakable: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse in the Cayman Islands” and led a panel discussion about the grassroots prevention efforts made in Cayman since 2012. The trio of speakers was the only group from the Caribbean and Central America, and was one of only four media theater presentations that were accepted for this year’s congress.

“It was a real privilege to be able to share what we have been doing with such a broad international audience,” said Carolina Ferreira, program manager for child protection and sexuality education. “Oftentimes, we focus on how far we have to go without taking into account that we have made real strides, and these conferences allow us the opportunity to gain and contribute.”

Ms. Blekaitis works for the Employee Assistance Programme, while Camila Ferreira works for the Ministry of Education and Carolina Ferreira for the Cayman Islands Red Cross.

More than 30 people from seven different countries attended the presentation.

“I found that the audience was very engaged and interested because it was relevant, not only to their communities, but also to where their efforts were at,” said Camila Ferreira, program manager for at-risk youth within the Ministry of Education. “There was one participant from Singapore who not only engaged us during the session but who sought us out afterwards as a way to get more information on our initiatives, which is always really encouraging and humbling.”

The International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect was formed in 1977 and is attempting to prevent cruelty to children in every form and in every nation. The society’s congress is held every two years.

“We are very pleased that the PSH group was able to not only be present, but to represent the partnership that really makes this group unique,” said Jondo Obi, director of the Cayman Islands Red Cross. “This group has done and continues to do great work, and there’s no doubt in our minds that this ‘Cayman model’ can be adapted and adopted throughout the region and the world as more and more people take ownership of keeping children safe in their communities.”