November 13, 2019

Cayman Islands Child Month Empowerment Conference asks teens to shape their own destinies


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More than 80 teenagers, including a contingent from Cayman Brac, attended the first-ever Youth Empowerment Conference #IAM2K17 on Friday, 26 May 2017.

The six-hour event, staged by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) at the Family Life Centre, was held in partnership with the . other agencie included the Youth Services Unit (YSU), the and the National Drug Council (NDC).  A special thanks to the Department’s civil partners which included Lions Club Grand Cayman, , Tips n Toes, Cayman National Bank and UCCI.

Designed to get teens thinking about their cultural heritage and identity, who they were as a person  and more importantly who they wanted to be as individuals; the conference got attendees to challenge themselves to self-evaluate and take responsibility for their actions.

The Child Month initiative was also attended by the Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports’ Chief Officer Dorine Whittaker and Assistant Chief Officer Joel Francis.

Following registration and breakfast, the was sung by teenager Jaryed Myles, with an opening prayer by Reverend. Donovan Myers, Chairperson of the National Youth Commission.

In her remarks DCFS Director Felicia Robinson said, “Our Child Month activities this year, place an intense emphasis upon building youth participation. This is because we recognise participation as a critical pillar in developing our children today, for leadership tomorrow.”

“The underlying purpose of this conference is consistent with our deliberate outreach, preventive and education strategy of empowering our children and youth and helping them discover their voice.”

She went on to thank her staff for organising the conference.

In acknowledging the support of the aforementioned agencies, the director said, “Your combined advocacy, voluntary service and financial contributions support us every year in introducing youth-led innovations, programmes focused upon youth resilience-building and in strengthening our protective and child safeguarding interventions.”

Local rapper and songwriter Justin Johnson performed several original songs which got attendees on their feet.

Deputy Director of Clinical Services in the DCFS Paulinda Mendoza-Williams introduced the keynote speaker .

The U.S.-based motivational speaker used personal testimony, rap and comedy to advise the teenagers about their ability to shape their own stories and become the best individuals that they could be. He encouraged them and others not to ask what they wanted to be when they were older but rather what they wanted to be now.

A former gang banger and drug dealer, the CEO of R.E.A.C.H Communications Inc., a youth empowerment firm, spoke with conviction. He held his audience rapt with a positive message of self-determination and of never being too old or too bad to change.

The one-time youth development worker in Grand Cayman told teenagers that their potential was limitless, warning that if they did not determine who they would become others would make that decision for them. Mr. Sanchez also advised them that chasing wealth for wealth’s sake was no substitute for finding happiness and self-worth through helping others.

During the break the teenagers took selfies at the #IAM2K17 photo booth and talked among themselves.

Interactive breakout sessions followed on social and cultural identity mediated by the YSU and the NDC, and on leadership led by Mr. Sanchez.

A visioning session gave attendees tips on how to visualise their goals and successfully pursue them.

Mrs. Robinson later said, “The event went really well and we have had excellent feedback from the participants, the principals and organizing staff.  As a new major initiative, we think it was well worth the effort.”

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