EDITORIAL – Lighting the path for Cayman’s young people

Readers may be familiar with the parable of the two wolves: A grandfather tells his young grandson there is an internal struggle going on inside him. He likens it to a terrible fight between two wolves: One is good, kind, generous, humble and hopeful. The other is jealous, greedy, arrogant, selfish, angry and false. The grandfather says the same struggle is going on inside the boy, too, and everyone else in the world as well.

The grandson listens in wonder, then finally asks, “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

Every day, the young people of the Cayman Islands make decisions and cultivate relationships that form the foundation for their future successes or failures. Broadly speaking, the choices can be between such things as self-discipline or instant gratification, integrity or selfish impulses, and healthy relationships or antisocial behavior.

This week, the Cayman Islands Youth Development Consortium and Royal Cayman Islands Police Service are holding a series of community meetings about “asset building,” which organizers describe as “investing wisely in our youth, increasing their exposure to positive, constructive activities, and instilling values and skills that will guide them from the inside. Building the assets of young people help them to succeed and decreases their susceptibility to risks such as drugs, violence, delinquency, etc.”

The meetings will be held in schools and civic centers throughout Grand Cayman over the next week, including from 7-9 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 8) at John A. Cumber Primary School. (For a complete schedule, see today’s Community Calendar on Page 6, or our online calendar at www.caymancompass.com/events.) We encourage community members who have an interest in promoting the well-being of future generations – that is, everybody – to attend if they can or otherwise consider how they might contribute to this worthy initiative.

It is well-accepted that early intervention and positive behavioral supports can have life-changing effects on at-risk and troubled youths, helping to forge brighter individual futures and to reduce societal problems such as crime.

Contributing factors to juvenile delinquency are also well known, and include social issues such as poor parenting, lack of education, unemployment and early pregnancy. Over the years, governments (including Cayman’s) have produced mountains of reports and studies offering similar recommendations for treating these and other root causes of poverty and crime.

Years ago, youth worker Michael Myles sifted through locally commissioned reports and devised a clear, concise and actionable list of key initiatives, including youth diversion and early intervention programs, school-based mental health services and transitional housing, a community parenting program and closer networks for sharing information between police, social services and schools. Despite the existence of this roadmap, Cayman has struggled to follow through on the recommendations.

As we have written, such a comprehensive network of opportunities and supports cannot be the remit of a single agency or advocate. It will require a diverse and dedicated network of government departments, nonprofit organizations, private and public supporters, and committed professionals and volunteers to ensure that each child on our islands is given the full opportunity to realize his or her true potential.