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Inaugural Student Volunteer Fair attracts big crowds in Cayman Islands

GRAND CAYMAN (GIS) – More than 700 students from six high schools attended the Cayman Islands’ first-ever Student Volunteer Fair at the John Gray High School Gymnasium on Friday, 22 June 2018.

Organised by the Youth Services Unit (YSU) of the Ministry of Education, Sports, Youth, Agriculture & Lands (ESYAL), the all-day event was opened with remarks from the Assistant Chief Officer of ESYSAL, Joel Francis. The afternoon session heard remarks by the Minister for ESYAL, Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, in the presence of Councillor for Education Barbara Conolly.

The fair, designed to fulfil a need by bringing together students and many of the islands’ non-profit organisations and charities, attracted 20 exhibitors. The latter offered a diverse range of community service options for students who will have to complete no less than 10 voluntary work hours to graduate. The event, co-sponsored by Island Heritage, featured a morning and an afternoon session to comfortably accommodate all the participants. Students milled around the fair talking to representatives about their organisations and the many volunteer opportunities available to students year-round.

Minister O’Connor-Connolly urged attendees to take full advantage of the opportunities the fair represented for both giving back to the community and deepening their sense of civic responsibility. She thanked the YSU, particularly the unit’s Youth Services Coordinator, James Myles, and Programmes Officer, Camille Angel, for bringing the innovative event to fruition, and the insurance provider for its generous sponsorship, which demonstrated its keen sense of corporate social responsibility. The Minister said she hoped that the fair would become an annual event given the success of the event and how well it aligned to her ministry’s education and youth objectives.

“As Minister for Education, I am pleased to see such a large turnout of students, voluntary groups and teachers,” she said. “I’m especially pleased to see attendees from Cayman Brac here, too.”

“As a caring community and a responsible Government, we must provide opportunities for our youth to develop into hardworking and compassionate adults. My Ministry believes that education twinned with structured voluntary work is an excellent way to achieve these goals. Only by giving to your community can you truly become invested in it.”

She urged all attendees to follow their interests by talking to those exhibitors which reflected their passions.

Head of the Youth Services Unit, Katherine Whittaker, also addressed the participants, which included a number of teachers and principals.

“The Youth Services Unit is committed to ensuring that young people are meaningfully involved in our communities,” she said. “We want all young people to become engaged in community projects and causes as one of the means of finding their place in our society. We want them to understand the importance of giving without expecting anything in return, to experience the joy of volunteering and to be a part of a group of like-minded people, making valuable contributions to the cause of their choice.”

“There is a cause and organisation for everyone. And for those organisations that don’t yet exist or where there are gaps we want young people to learn how to meet such needs,” she added.

All the participating organisations’ representatives that were canvassed expressed their appreciation to YSU for having organised the large event and were impressed by the number of students who had turned out and had expressed an interest in their work.

“It’s important for our young people to be exposed to the realities of life and to be encouraged to know that they can help no matter their age,” said the National Council of Voluntary Organisations’ Coordinator, Mona Lisa Meade. “This is a great event and we are so happy to be able to share what the NCVO does and offer up ideas of simple ways the students can assist us and our clients by volunteering. I hope this event continues to grow and through it we can encourage our youth to live a life of service.”

Among the giveaways for students were an iPhone 8+, cash, and gift certificates from Fosters Food Fair, CICSA Cooperative Credit Union, Funky Tangs, Winners Circle and Red Sail Sports.

One of the 20 exhibitors, the YMCA won the morning’s $1,000 cash prize raffled courtesy of sponsor, Island Heritage.  Cayman National Cultural Foundation won a coveted spot in Island Heritage’s CharityDrive 2019 in the afternoon session, which will provide an opportunity to earn up to $15,000 for the organisation. Both prizes were donated and awarded by the insurance firm’s Head of Marketing, Monique Bush.

“Giving back to our community is at the core of who we are at Island Heritage and we are truly inspired to see kids embracing its importance from a young age,” Ms Bush remarked. “We are proud to have been involved in the inaugural Volunteer Fair and congratulate organisers on its success. Each year we select three local charities to participate in the Island Heritage CharityDrive and we were pleased to have been able to offer one lucky participating charity from today’s fair – the Cayman National Cultural Foundation – the opportunity to earn their share of our CI$35,000 donation as participants in our 2019 event.”

Exhibitor organisations were Cayman HospiceCare, Cayman Islands Red Cross, National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Cayman Islands Humane Society, Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts (CARE), One Dog At A Time (ODAAT), Feed Our Future (FOF), YMCA of the Cayman Islands, National Drug Council (NDC), Cayman Islands Cancer Society, Acts Of Random Kindness (ARK), Cayman National Cultural Foundation (CNCF), Plastic-Free Cayman, Special Olympics Cayman Islands (SOCI), Cayman Drama Society (CDS), National Trust of the Cayman Islands, Impact 345, Lions Club (accompanied by Leos Club), Kiwanis Club (accompanied by Key Club), and the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.



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