EDITORIAL – Seeking a new beginning for Sunrise Centre

A fundamental reason why humans organize into societies – and accordingly adhere to restrictive forces such as taxation, laws and governments – is to ensure, through the collective, protections and advantages that cannot be achieved by the individual.

Among the noblest of these objectives is to care for those who cannot care for themselves: the very old, the very young, the infirm, the disabled and the otherwise vulnerable.

Here in the Cayman Islands, enshrined in our Constitution is the ambition to forge “a country committed to the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.”

When considering today’s front page story on the Sunrise Adult Training Centre, certainly there is dignity to be found in the mission of the center for disabled adults, in the efforts of staff and in the aspirations of the clients. There is, however, little that is dignified about the physical conditions of the overaged and undersized facility tucked in an out-of-the-way corner of Grand Cayman in West Bay.

But “out of sight” should not mean “out of mind,” whether we are talking about the center itself, or more importantly the clients who, possessing sometimes serious physical or cognitive disabilities, are with the support of Sunrise staff (and the greater community) striving to reach their full potential as individuals and our fellow members of Cayman society.

Since it has moved to what was intended to be a “temporary home” some 15 years ago, Sunrise has significantly outgrown the aging duplex that serves as its headquarters. In 2014, the government commissioned a study of the center’s needs. That report recommended a new center be built between George Town and Prospect, and Premier Alden McLaughlin announced that $8.5 million would be earmarked for a purpose-built facility. But plans have been delayed, derailed and – effectively, perhaps – discarded.

Still, Sunrise director Kim Voaden retains her optimism. “What do I have if I don’t have hope?” she said.

The center’s 20 employees are doing their best to make do with what resources they have, with the center’s cramped rooms serving many purposes. Even with significant modifications, there are serious security and fire safety concerns, inadequate kitchen facilities and a single handicapped-accessible bathroom.

There is no room for parking, and the center’s “fleet” of five buses is in need of maintenance or replacement. Its West Bay location creates long journeys for clients from North Side or East End, and potentially health- or life- threatening delays in response times by emergency services vehicles.

Occupational therapies and other program offerings for Sunrise’s 35 current clients are limited by structural realities. On a waiting list are 60 more potential clients. Within the next decade, without significant new resources, that number is expected to exceed 150. Ms. Voaden said that graduates of the Lighthouse School – Cayman’s school that trains youth with disabilities – must often wait years before Sunrise has a spot for them. After that much time away, much occupational therapy and learning must begin again from scratch.

The Compass is a strong advocate for the virtues of free enterprise, limited government and self-reliance, and against “mission creep” in the public sector, as well as social services programs that entrap able adults, and their families, into a generational lifestyle of dependency.

But for the vulnerable members of our community who truly need protection, assistance or support from the collective, we just as strongly advocate for reasonable and robust public services to enable them to become the best people they can be, and in doing so, make Cayman the best society it can be.

A good start to this noble but difficult endeavor could begin, appropriately enough, with a new Sunrise.