It seems nothing can dampen the spirit of the holidays in the Cayman Islands, but as we enter a second festive season navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, many holiday traditions will look a little different again this year.
One tradition that will continue this season is Dart’s annual Holiday Give. Since 2018 Dart has replaced holiday season corporate gifts with a digital greeting card and charitable giving in the areas of education, youth development and the natural and built physical environment.
Following donations in the areas of the environment and education in previous years, this year’s Christmas Give will support youth development.
Dart’s goal for youth development in the Cayman Islands is to help high-performing non-profits achieve an even greater impact, thus supporting an infrastructure that helps economically disadvantaged youth gain an education, find employment and avoid setbacks on the path to successful adulthood.
This year Dart has donated CI$15,000 to two local youth charities, Jubilate! and Boyz2Men.
Almost two years on, the pandemic has left many young people feeling isolated, with their lives disrupted by regulations and quarantine. COVID-19 has left some young people feeling trapped at home over the past two years, with many limitations and restrictions, said Pilar Bush, Dart executive vice president with responsibility for community development.
“We are now living far more restricted lives,” she said, adding that she believes the donations will go a long way to helping the young people supported by these charities feel connected in the coming year. “A sense of hope is a gift we can give at the end of another difficult year."
Boyz2Men’s mission is to turn boys into gentlemen. Started in 2009 by John Gray High School counsellor Christopher Murray, who eventually teamed up with Simon Miller and Seaford Russell, the charity seeks to guide at-risk boys in grade 11 through mentoring, community projects, seminars and experience, empowering them to make better decisions about their future.
“I got the programme started because so many boys in this age group were struggling as they morphed into young men," Murray said. "These boys, many of them without fathers, were seeking role models in the wrong places and beginning to make poor life choices."
Over a decade later, the programme receives more than 100 applications each year and has recently expanded to include Clifton Hunter’s student body.
“Our mentors share stories of their own personal struggles on the path to adulthood, allowing the boys to learn from real experience and forge relationships built on trust and respect,” Murray said.
The programme offers guidance to the boys in all areas of life including employment, education, relationships, social etiquette and community service. This is delivered through twice-weekly meetings including seminars and time spent with mentors. The boys also do weekend charity work and take an annual cultural trip to Cayman Brac, with each opportunity offering them the chance to learn, develop and build their confidence.
“Regardless of the boys’ varied challenges, be they emotional or behavioural, once they start to develop bonds and trust, we see them roll the model forward and the cycle of underachieving that has inhibited the same families for generations is broken,” Murray said. "This wonderful Christmas gift will make a real difference to the boys in the coming year and allow us to expand our programme to transform the lives of more young men than has previously been possible."
Jubilate! started in 2016 with the mission to cultivate confident and disciplined youth who positively contribute to society through life skills learned in music and academic. Inspired by the Venezuelan musical youth programme, El Sistema, Jubilate! seeks to effect social change through music.
“Music education incorporates all of life’s skills," said Gillian Smith, the charity’s programme development coordinator. "As they experience ownership of the music-making process, youth develop a strong work ethic and perseverance, and they learn how to take responsibility for both individual and group improvement."
Jubilate focuses its efforts on the children with the fewest resources and the greatest need, she said.
“We aspire to help them become principled, valuable assets to their community while having fun building friendships and an orchestra."
The programme serves more than 70 children across the public school system through a junior programme run daily at the Cayman Islands Baptist Church in Savannah and a senior programme run twice weekly at Clifton Hunter High School.
“Over the years, the dedicated staff and volunteers of Jubilate! have seen positive behaviours develop, grades improve and have witnessed children who were once very timid be awarded leadership roles at their school," Smith said. "Jubilate!’s aim is not to create musicians, but to instill in youth a true belief that they can achieve great things in their life.”
Smith said 2021 has been another hard year for the programme's young people.
"We feel very lucky to continue to inspire, create joy and empower them," she said. "We’re truly grateful for this support from Dart to continue to change children’s lives through the power of music."
COMMITMENT TO YOUTH
Dart has a long-standing commitment to education and youth development through a number of initiatives. These include the annual series of Minds Inspired initiatives, two Dart Scholar programmes and two decades of support for various other youth programmes.
Bush said Dart’s corporate social responsibility efforts in the Cayman Islands — the location of its global headquarters — are focused on three key areas: education, youth development and the natural and built physical environment. These areas were prioritised because of the company’s commitment to making a positive difference to Cayman’s future growth, she said.
“Our inaugural 'Holiday Give' in 2018 addressed all three categories, in 2019 our 'Tree Give' focused on the environment and last year our 'Wish List' gave every primary school in the Cayman Islands the opportunity to choose a gift spanning literacy, STEM, sports or school supplies," Bush said. "This year’s focus on youth development helps well-run organisations invest in our young people, developing their confidence and important life skills."
This article appears in print in the December 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.
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