An asset builder for youths

In Cayman of years gone by, everyone looked out for each other. That community momentum seems to have been lost, but young people still need a strong group of individuals and companies behind them to support, guide, encourage and lead them, even in this “have-it-all” society. One formidable lady has tasked herself with the job of rallying the troops to get young people fully engaged and prepared for their place in society. The Journal reports.

As Director of the Cayman Islands Youth Development Consortium, Sylvia Wilks has tasked herself with creating an environment in Cayman whereby young people feel that they have a place in society and where their needs and wishes are addressed. For the past five years she has created and organised opportunities for young people’s development, encouraging companies and individuals to come on board and assist her with her mission.

Sylvia explains the CIYDC’s mission: “We believe that we should focus on youth development as a way of helping all young people achieve their full potential. It’s the most effective way of preventing their involvement in risky behaviour. As a result, the Cayman Islands Youth Development Consortium was founded to promote positive youth development and help them maximise their full potential.” 

The objectives of the Consortium are to provide developmental programmes, events and functions for youth and technical and administrative support to other youth organisations to get young people off the street an into a positive environment. 

The hope is that the young people will become God-fearing and have a recognition of their purpose in life; have value for themselves and others and have the drive for success in all aspects of their development, and in particular their education.

Although the Consortium relies on private sector donations to make its programmes effective, Sylvia says she has the support of the government, succeeding last year in having January declared as Support Our Youth Month. For this, Premier McKeeva Bush signed a declaration that he enthusiastically endorses the Supporting Cayman’s Youth Campaign while encouraging everyone in Cayman to engage in or support innovative youth programmes.

Sylvia says that it is the aim of the CIYDC to bring all members of the community on board with their mission – families, schools, churches, business leaders and volunteers to create a stronger community. Sponsors for the various programmes include Davenport, Caledonian, Cayman National and Conyers, Dill & Pearman.

A year for action

This year, Support our Youth Month has initiated a theme for the entire year: “Believe, achieve. I can, I will, I must” and thus 2011 is something of a crunch year for the CIYDC, with Sylvia setting a high goal for the organisation – to get 7,000 people on board and pledged as asset-builders for young people. She wants to recruit volunteers to form district committees and groups that will act at the grass roots level creating after school, weekend and holiday programmes for young people, to keep them fully occupied and guided so they make the right life choices.

“Imagine a community whose focus and attention is on developing our youth – there would be no need for to focus on crime reduction,” she says.

She is asking business leaders and other individuals to take the community asset-building pledge, advocating and promoting service to others, spending time volunteering in programmes that provide constructive use of time for young people, showing that they care and mentoring young people. 

She also hopes individuals will come from all the districts of Grand Cayman, as well as the Sister Islands, so that all young people will benefit. She also hopes to raise a sizeable amount of money.

“We want to raise CI$70,000, CI$10,000 for a youth development fund and CI$10,000 for each district in Grand Cayman and CI$10,000 for the Sister Islands,” she confirms.

Sylvia is already piloting an after-school programme in West Bay as a sample asset-building project. 

“My aim is to have similar programmes in other districts and to mobilise individuals to set up programmes during the weekend and summers as well when our young people are least engaged in wholesome activities,” she confirms.

To help Sylvia in her bid to develop Cayman’s youth, call 917 3885, email info@supportingcaymanyouth.com or visit www.supportingcaymanyouth.com

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Ms Sylvia Wilks with some of her young charges in the after school programme that she currently runs

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