November 29, 2021

HM Queen honours two Caymanians

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PH Governor QBD Honouree Karin Thompson 130614 BM PH Governor QBD Honouree Lenny Hew 130614 BMHer Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has recognized Karin Thompson and Leonard Hew in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Ms Thompson is named a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in recognition of services to the protection of children and to the community in the Cayman Islands. She is a veteran family lawyer with a long history of public sector involvement

For decades Mr Hew has been a fixture behind the scenes of efforts to build local sporting capacity. The businessman will receive the British Empire Medal (BEM), for services to the development of sport and to the community in the Cayman Islands.

Family Lawyer Honoured with MBE

Who better than a veteran practising family lawyer to routinely suggest changes to keep the community’s statutes dynamic and relevant?

For decades, attorney Karin Thompson has been an articulate, passionate and indefatigable advocate for legislation that tackles both children’s and domestic violence issues.

Now, for her services to the protection of children and to the Cayman Islands community, she is the sole Member of the British Empire (MBE) recipient in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

“I am very touched and slightly embarrassed; this is really humbling,” admits Mrs. Thompson, originally from the fishing village of South Sound. “I am filled with a sense of pride for my children, for all the children and the voiceless victims I have endeavoured to champion.”

She adds, “I am also proud for my mother (Mrs. Janice Martinez, a retired nurse who earned her Master’s degree in her 70s). When she was one of the three last recipients of the Imperial Award in 1992, she dedicated the award to me. And I thought I have to live up to her expectations; I am happy now I have.”

She does not consider her work a chore or a burden, but deems it a “privilege”, despite the long hours in her private practice. She has been going strong since 1987 when she was awarded a Bachelor of Laws Degree (with distinction) from the University of Liverpool.

While already working in the field of law, which is her lifelong passion, she jumped at the chance of getting a legal education when it became available locally. Five years later, she was among the first batch of graduates from the then CI Law School, now renamed after prominent Caymanian attorney and former Government Minister, Mr. Truman Bodden, OBE.

Mr Bodden was also Ms Thompson’s first boss and mentor, she acknowledges gratefully. She also praises her husband of 34 years, Bing, for his support for all her accomplishments.

Originally, when the law degree was envisaged as a purely local one, the first batch of students lobbied for and got recognition from the University of Liverpool. “I’m very proud that we blazed a trail for those coming behind us,” she says.

A founding member of the Caymanian Bar Association, she is locally acclaimed for her struggle and subsequent lead role in developing the Islands’ landmark Domestic Violence Law.

Her objective was a law that established a crisis centre and empowered all victims of abuse including children. From speaking about the need for reform and for legislation at organisations such as the Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPW), she went on to working on the actual draft law, and dedicated countless hours to the process.

Another invaluable contribution on her part was the Children Law, which was passed in the House in 1992 but took 20 more years to come into force in 2012.

Other projects included the laws governing Matrimonial Causes, the Guardianship of Children in Custody, Succession, Adoption, Maintenance, Youth Justice and Affiliation.

Many family laws needed be amended to reflect recent developments such as the Cayman Islands new Constitution and more importantly, the Bill of Rights. Existing laws relating to children continue to require amendments to bring them in tune with the Bill of Rights and so her work continues.

An example of a problem she says is the varying ages that end the specific rights conferred on children under different laws. These might be 16 years in one instance and 17 years in another. These need to be unified. It is a question of melding legal and moral obligations, she notes.

Additionally, she also finds time to provide criminal advocacy services for children before juvenile courts free of charge, the only criminal law she currently practises. Another special interest is her work with ARK Charity Foundation (Acts of Random Kindness).

Her latest contributions to the community were as Chairman of the Commission for Standards in Public Life, which was established under the new Constitution. She was among those who were gratified to see the law pass recently.

She is also an active board member of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Children and Youth Services Foundations (CAYS) and the Young Caymanian Leadership Award Foundation (YCLA) of which she is a founding member.

In addition she has chaired the Labour Appeals and Planning Appeals Tribunals and served on the executive of Cayman Against Substance Abuse (CASA), Cayman Islands Health Authority Board and the BPW, which named her Woman of the Year in 2002.

Mrs. Thompson feels amply rewarded for all her advocacy work. “I strongly believe the more I give, the more I receive,” she comments.

A Life Hewn With Sporting Zeal

“It came as a complete surprise,” says Mr. Leonard “Lennie” Hew who received the British Empire Medal (BEM) as part of this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Recognised for “services to the development of sport” and to the Cayman Islands community, this modest, local icon demurs, “Although what I’ve done over the years wasn’t in expectation of awards, I’m very appreciative of the honour and am truly humbled to have been recognised.”

Espousing family values, this loving husband to wife of 54 years Lorna Valma, devoted parent (to their four children and his three step-children) and proud grandfather has inspired thousands of young people in the Cayman Islands for five decades.

Indeed from his beginnings in the Islands, as a government relief wireless operator, his life has been threaded with community service and continues to be an inspiration to countless people. Now his Hew’s Hotel and Restaurant Supplies operates alongside Hews Janitorial and Macdonald’s Restaurant.

Yet it is his active involvement in bettering the community and his invaluable contributions to the development of football, athletics and swimming that has garnered him stature and recognition. From his second day on island, he found it easy to build on his experience, as a student playing competitive football, to help pioneer the development of local football and athletics with the likes of stalwarts such as Teacher T. E. McField.

Mr. Hew’s volunteerism spanned coaching football, setting up the first football league, organising football camps, promoting netball and establishing the CI Athletic Association to govern the development of sport. In addition, he promoted international football events including taking local teams to Belize and getting a well-known Brazilian team to visit.

In those days, successful fund-raising efforts were concluded upon one’s word or handshake, he recalls. All through, Mr. Hew never flagged in his endeavours to inject healthy and fun activities into the lives of community members, particularly the young. In between, he found time to be a newspaper sports editor and a volunteer football commentator for Radio Cayman.

Also, as a founding member of the Lions Club of Grand Cayman, he was instrumental in staging the first inter-primary swim meet in 1975 in the sea, since there was no swimming pool of suitable size on Grand Cayman for such use.

Determined to improve the situation, he was gratified when the Lions Swimming Pool was built in 1986. Still the primary training facility for young swimmers, including local Olympians, the pool has enabled the Islands’ growth as a competitive swimming force in the Caribbean and well beyond. Now he is proud that a grand-daughter is a rising swimming star.

As Lions Sight Conservation Programme Chair, he also helped establish school sight screening. The still ongoing programme aims to catch early eye ailments and impairments.

His executive expertise has further benefited the community on a number of boards including the Cayman Islands Marine Institute, which used to assist troubled youth.

Looking back, he says he is elated with the success achieved by so many persons that he helped “to educate” over the years. Even more satisfying, he says, is the invaluable education that he received just by living in the Cayman Islands, which despite the “need for a rethink of some of its values”, is still one of the best places in the world.

In particular, it is interaction with the people here which allowed him to grow so much, he gratefully acknowledg

Photo caption: Photo by Bina Mani GIS

  1. Attorney Mrs. Karin Thompson is honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2014 for her services to the protection of children and to the Cayman Islands community.
  2. Mr. Leonard “Lennie” Hew has been recognised for his services to the development of sport and to the community with a British Empire Medal (BEM), an award that is making a comeback after a number of years in abeyance. Photo as supplied.


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