More than 500 children have attended YMCA summer camps over the past six weeks, inspiring some confidence over the pending school restart.
The camps provided a lifeline for working parents as Cayman’s economy reopened after lockdown.
And organisers believe they demonstrated, on a small scale, that it is possible to bring children together safely, even amid the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.
Gillian Smith, executive director of the YMCA, said the campers, aged 5-12, had proved to be adaptable to the new rules, including social distancing and wearing masks for indoor activities.
“Children are very resilient and they actually got used to wearing masks, even indoors, quite quickly,” she said. “They are more adaptable than we sometimes give them credit for.”
YMCA senior camp coordinator Katherine Jackson said it was initally a learning process.
“We had to have some conversations about it at first, but they really got used to it,” she said. “Now it is just like putting on a backpack. It is part of the routine.”
She said the camps, at Field of Dreams, the Cayman Islands Baptist Church Youth Centre in Grand Cayman, and at Layman E Scott High School in Cayman Brac, had been skewed towards outdoor activities. Indoor sessions were restricted to lower-energy pursuits, like arts and crafts.
Smith said the camps had been vital for families, and had given children a chance to begin interacting with their friends again after months of lockdown.
“It was critical for parents with work responsibilities and no other options for childcare,” she said. “It is also great for children’s mental health that they could start socialising again.”
Smith understands parents’ concerns about the reopening of schools, but believes children can adapt and prosper, despite the challenges.
The success of the summer programme, she said, is proof of that.
The R3 Foundation provided a $30,000 grant for the Summer Relief programme which subsidized every space at YMCA’s summer camps.
“This allowed us to maintain our camp fees despite the increased operating costs due to smaller ratios and additional protocols, providing financial relief to families during these challenging times,” Smith said.
“The R3 grant was absolutely critical to our meeting the needs of families this summer.