Jorel Bellafonte and Zoe Conolly-Basdeo have been appointed as Cayman’s new CARICOM Youth Ambassadors.
Each year, two new youth ambassadors are chosen to represent the concerns of Cayman’s youth on a national and regional level.
Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said that although the Cayman Islands is an associate member of CARICOM, “it is important that our youth have a place around the table at CARICOM youth forums so that we can hear the challenges and be a part of the solutions to issues around the Caribbean”.
O’Connor-Connolly placed the official CARICOM Youth Ambassador pins on Bellafonte, 24, and Conolly-Basdeo, 19, on Tuesday, 8 Sept.
They are taking over from Tayvis Walters and Shantelle Young, after serving in the roles as first alternates since May 2019.
“I am truly excited for the opportunity to serve my community on a national level, to embody the values of CARICOM and the Cayman Islands and to converse with other youth ambassadors from different regions on important issues,” said Conolly-Basdeo.
“Youth ambassadors form the bridge between youth and young adults within the Cayman Islands,” said Bellafonte. “As national representatives, we have the opportunity to interact with other national representatives within CARICOM to voice our opinions, as well as those of other youth in the Cayman Islands. “
Outgoing ambassadors Walters and Young say, despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, they were grateful to have had an opportunity to represent Cayman.
“During my tenure as CARICOM Youth Ambassador, I was able to aid with a few youth-led initiatives,” said Walters. “In these unprecedented times, as we’ve had to grapple with the COVID-19 virus, we didn’t have the opportunity to participate in regional travel to the various CARICOM nations for seminars and forums.”
Young said, “Being selected to represent the only place that I have ever called home has been bittersweet. With all that has happened during my tenure, I will leave with that feeling of wanting more.
“COVID has been a challenging time for all of us… although this has been a learning experience to us all, I’m grateful to have still been able to work with others within the region to come up with ideas on how we help youth in situations that are beyond our control.”
Acting Youth Services Director James Myles said that over the past decade Cayman’s CARICOM Youth Ambassador programme has shifted focus to recruiting alternates who are then groomed for the role before taking over.
“What we have found is that our CYAs are often pulled away from their role, whether it be going off to college, or work or family commitments,” said Myles. “So, we’ve expanded the programme to allow for first, second and, at times, third alternates to be selected; they are then able to sit in when our CYAs are unable to.”
Myles said Walters and Young were due to serve until 2021; however, their tenures were shortened after CARICOM requested appointments of new youth ambassadors throughout the region.