Local charitable organisation, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), held their first annual Youth Mentoring Forum this past Saturday, 31 July, hosted at the Cayman International School.
The public event featured a panel discussion comprised of community experts. Panel moderator, Tammi Sulliman was joined by Shannon Seymour, The Wellness Centre; Jon Clark, John Gray High School; Tara Nielsen, ARK; Jason Jones, representing the Alex Panton Foundation and; Paul Byles representing Academy Sports Club, to explore the forum’s theme: “How important are mentors in helping Caymanian children and adolescents overcome the difficulties experienced during the pandemic and build resilience in a post-COVID world.”
The discussion provided the opportunity to highlight the need for mentors and mental health support for children and adolescents in the Cayman Islands. Panellists pointed out that the negative impact of the pandemic on children and adolescents is wide-ranging, including increasingly apparent economic, social and mental health issues. These are likely to persist for many years, long after the global health crisis of the virus itself.
Speaking on behalf of event sponsor, R3 Cayman Foundation, Joannah Bodden Small, in her introductory remarks said: “We are proud to help support this Youth Symposium – as we consider together the importance of mentors in helping Caymanian children overcome COVID related difficulties and build resilience in a post COVID world.
The world is facing unprecedented crises on many levels – health, environmental, economic– to name a few. The mental strain of the uncertainty of the future is very real. So much has changed, in such a short space of time.”
Mentoring is at the very heart of what Big Brothers Big Sisters provides for children facing adversity in the Cayman Islands and the Youth Mentoring Forum is the first in a series of ‘Community Conversations’ that the organisation plans to host.
BBBS Chair, Pilar Bush, said: “For more than a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters worldwide has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. Here in Cayman, it has been our mission since 1995, to provide children with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-on-one relationships that change lives for better, forever.”
“This Forum aims to bring forward the issues children in Cayman are facing as a result of the pandemic and how we can help them deal with the very real impact of those in a post-COVID world. Through recognising and discussing these issues today, we take one meaningful step towards a better, more sustainable future for our children and adolescents.”
The event closed with a Vote of Thanks from Justin Wright, a ‘Little Brother’ who spoke of how the work of BBBS and others had positively impacted his life in many ways.
Joining those in attendance at the event in person and online via a livestream broadcast, were the Hon. Bernie Bush, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Youth, Sports, Culture & Heritage and; the Hon. Katherine Ebanks-Wilks, JP, MP, Deputy Speaker and Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services and Education.
The event was sponsored by R3 Cayman Foundation, Maples Group and Tower Marketing. Special thanks were also given to Cayman International School for providing the venue for the event.
(L to R)
Tammi Sulliman, Moderator
Ashlyn Goubault-Ebanks, Speaker, Director, BBBS
Joannah Bodden Small, Speaker, Director, R3 Cayman Foundation
Justin Wright, Speaker, Little Brother, BBBS and JGHS Year 11 student
Shannon Seymour, Panelist, Founder and Managing Director, The Wellness Center
Hon. Katherine Ebanks-Wilks, JP, MP, Deputy Speaker and Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services and Education
Paul Byles, Panelist, Head of Youth Development, Academy Sports Club
Jon Clark, Panelist, Principal, JGHS
Tara Nielsen, Panelist, Director, ARK Foundation
Pilar Bush, Chair, BBBS
Jason Jones, Panelist, Counsellor at OnCourse Cayman, representing the Alex Panton Foundation