True to the spirit of Christmas, three local organisations received a surprise gift this month from Dart, as an expression of thanks for the work they do in the community.
Literacy Is For Everyone, better known as LIFE; the YMCA of the Cayman Islands; and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park were selected as the recipients of Dart’s seasonal giving this year in recognition of their contributions in the fields of education, youth development and the physical environment, three areas of focus for Dart’s support in the community.
“These three organisations make a difference in the lives of our young people on a daily basis,” said Pilar Bush, executive vice president of marketing at Dart. “Providing children with a love of reading, strength of character and a safe environment in which to play and learn are gifts for life. This Christmas, instead of sending traditional gifts, we have chosen to donate to local charities who share our perspective and are well-placed to deliver real value in the areas we support.”
A long-time supporter of education, Dart continues to invest in future generations through the Cayman International School, Minds Inspired and Dart Scholar programmes. With reading and writing at the foundation of education, LIFE’s mission to increase literacy levels in the Cayman Islands will have a long-term impact not only on individual livelihoods, but also in developing the country’s workforce as a whole.
LIFE runs a number of literacy programmes, the biggest of which is a paired reading programme in Cayman Islands’ primary schools. Having one-on-one time to listen to stories and practise their own reading is a proven way for children to improve reading skills and, by extension, overall engagement with lessons in the classroom. LIFE’s group of volunteers is led by Chairman Woody Foster, who has been reading with children for more than 10 years. “Our organisation helps build a better community by providing much-needed mentorship to kids that might not necessarily get it,” he said. “It’s time spent with adults outside of the teaching environment, so we’re an active part of the kids’ growth.”
Dart believes that ensuring children have the tools they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom is equally important. Developing a sense of responsibility towards the community as well as developing a set of leadership skills for professional and personal growth are core to the purpose of the YMCA.
Since it was established six years ago, the YMCA has had a positive impact on thousands of young people through its after-school programmes and camps. Operating in seven primary schools and three high schools, the YMCA engages with children through a mix of recreation and learning.
“The primary focus of the YMCA is to help children reach their fullest potential, and we do that through character development,” said Katherine Jackson, site coordinator at the West Bay Primary after-school programme. “We’re inspiring respectfulness, responsibility, faithfulness, honesty and caring among all of the youth in our programmes and that makes for an awesome and productive community member.”
YMCA programmes are designed to interact with children in different ways as they grow older. A child might start with the YMCA in the after-school programme or day camps, and then graduate to become a counsellor-in-training as a teenager, helping to run programmes they once attended.
Children learn through play, and there is no greater teacher than Mother Nature. Having outdoor spaces to run, jump, climb and explore is vital to children’s understanding of the world around them, and creating safe environments in which they can do this has long been a part of Dart’s philosophy in building a park in each of Grand Cayman’s five districts.
One of the best places to experience and learn about the Cayman Islands’ natural heritage is at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, home to a large variety of native and indigenousplants and to the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.
“The Botanic Park’s mission is one of conservation, leisure and education,” said General Manager John Lawrus. “Sixty per cent of all our native flora can be found within the boundaries of the Botanic Park. It’s not just a sanctuary for the plants, but it’s also a sanctuary for the people that visit the Botanic Park. It allows them to unwind, reconnect and take a break from their daily routines.”
The newest addition to the park will be a children’s garden, which is slated to open in 2019. The purpose-built attraction will feature an education area, an open play space with a tree house, and a growing zone.
As Christmas shopping in Grand Cayman gets under way and the presents pile up under the Christmas tree, there is another type of generosity that takes place 365 days of the year.
“In this season of giving, let us also give thanks to the people and organisations who donate time and energy into taking care of those in need and invest in the future prosperity of our community,” said Bush.