Since 2006, Cayman’s Acts of Random Kindness — better known as ARK — has endeavoured to change lives for the better in the Cayman Islands. Whether it’s restoring a home for a single mother and her children, making sure underprivileged students don’t go hungry or reconnecting electricity and water for families that cannot afford to maintain their utilities, ARK’s programmes strive to improve quality of life for the most vulnerable in our society.
Founder Tara Nielsen says the non-profit organisation’s newest programme, MER — which stands for "Mentor–Educate–Reinforce" — connects disadvantaged students with advanced learning support.
“Approximately one in every five students in Cayman’s public schools are struggling with learning challenges or disabilities that affect their learning, and the majority of these children come from impoverished homes,” Nielsen says. “We established MER as an intensive academic intervention for struggling students. Ultimately, we believe education is essential to reducing the cycle of poverty that so many children find themselves trapped in as they mature into adulthood.”
In 2019, ARK received a CI$25,000 Dart Grant in support of its MER programme, which currently serves 12 students at George Town Primary School. Nielsen hopes to increase the number of students with further support from the private sector.
“We are delighted with the programme itself, the children’s attitudes during lessons and their progress so far," she says. "The feedback from parents, our staff and George Town Primary is excellent and encouraging."
In addition to the learning component, ARK is providing food for students at school and at home, and also undertaking household improvement projects to ensure each child has a functioning bathroom at home. Dart recently provided in-kind support for the renovation of one such bathroom, which currently serves a family of nine.
Dart Community Development Manager Dominic Ross says the bathroom renovation included retiling the floor, patching holes in the walls and replacing crumbling fixtures.
“It’s been heartwarming to hear what a difference the new bathroom has made to this family and its quality of life,” he says. “We are proud to support ARK in their efforts to help those in our community who need it most, and to stand beside the many other local companies that have stepped up to provide in-kind donations, expertise and volunteers to make ARK’s projects possible.”
For updates on ARK’s ongoing home restoration projects and education initiatives, visit its website at caymansark.com, or its Facebook page.
This article appears in print in the March 2020 edition of Camana Bay Times.