‘Tis The Season To Give

Christmas is a time of giving and sharing with friends, family and the community we call home. We have all happily stood in mile-long lines and battled holiday traffic to buy the perfect gift that will put a smile on a loved one’s face. But for Cayman’s less fortunate families, Christmas can often be a disheartening experience due to limited finances.

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Public Relations Coordinator of Camana Bay, Harriet Moon, could not agree more. “There are many families in the Cayman Islands that are struggling to make ends meet, let alone give their children a memorable Christmas. And at a time of year when it is easy to be swept away by shopping, socialising and overall indulgence, Camana Bay recognised the importance of being able to take a step back and remember the true meaning of Christmas.” That meaning, of course, is the wonderful and soul-satisfying gift of sharing with those less fortunate.
Last Christmas, Camana Bay launched the Camana Bay Christmas Give initiative with the purpose of raising public support for local charities and organisations whose seasonal programmes help to ensure that families across the Islands have a happy holiday. “We hope to build on last year’s Christmas Give efforts and once again embrace the spirit of giving by lending a helping hand to worthy charities and organisations – while inspiring others to give, too,” Harriet went on to say. The organisation has also donated Books & Books gift certificates to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and groceries to many struggling families, and it has shown support for other charitable associations, including the CAYS Foundation, Meals on Wheels and the Lions Club of Grand Cayman, in their individual plights to assist those in need.

KPMG

Camana Bay is but one of the local businesses giving back at Christmastime. The globally recognised audit, tax and advisory specialist firm KPMG made significant donations to the Feed Our Future organisation and the Cayman Islands Department of Children and Family Services last year as well. “The gift of giving is important to KPMG,” said the firm’s Assistant Manager, Markets and Marketing, Astra Watler.

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“Children and families in the Cayman Islands should have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays.” Each year the firm sets aside a sum of money toward community services, such as Feed Our Future and the Children and Family Services department, both of which cater to disadvantaged families and children. Ogier, Aon, PwC, Cayman Free Press, Sunrise Community Church, Montessori by the Sea, Hope Academy, Cayman Prep & High School, dms Organization, Deutsche Bank and many other establishments have also contributed to the Cayman community during the holiday season through financial donations, volunteering, and toy and gift drives.

Victoria Bise

In addition to all this, one very special teenager felt the need to do even more to make a difference in the lives of the families and children most in need of community support and love. Seventeen-year-old Victoria Bise knew that organisations were arranging charitable donations and gift giving during the holiday season, but saw an opportunity to do more. “The gift of giving at Christmas is special for me because even at a very young age I was always thankful and appreciative of what I received. I realised at a young age that many people do not have the luxuries [I do] and many of [them] are children who cannot help the situation they are in. It is [an] experience to let those kids know they are special and that they are loved as equally as other kids.”

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At 17 years old, Victoria Bise is making a mark in charitable giving with her annual toy drive [photo credit: Cayman Compass]
Ms. Bise began her own toy drive five years ago and has since witnessed the tremendous impact her project has made on the lives of hundreds of children. Businesses have begun reaching out to her to collect toys that they would like to contribute and she has become quite the local personality with media interviews and appearances at local schools. Her toys have been received by the ill and injured children of the Paediatric Ward at the George Town Hospital, the needy families supported by the Children and Family Services department, and various foster homes and orphanages. In a perfect world, Ms. Bise would like the gifts to “magically go to every less fortunate child on the Island,” but she is still working out a strategy for that ambitious goal.

Cayman’s Acts of Random Kindness

Without the love and support of the community and individuals like Ms. Bise, charities such as Cayman’s Acts of Random Kindness would not be able to meet the needs of as many families as they do. “There is no need for hunger to be an issue in Cayman,” said Tara Nielsen of Cayman’s Acts of Random Kindness. The organisation kicks off its massive food drive, Giving is Receiving, each Christmas, supplying families across the Cayman Islands with wrapped gifts and essential food vouchers. “Cayman’s Acts of Random Kindness’ gift of giving at Christmas is special because it meets a need during a time that can be even more trying, lonely and desperate than other times [as] children are hoping for Santa Claus to come and parents are trying to put food on the table.”

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Cayman Islands Crisis Centre

For the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, a charitable organisation that provides safe, temporary shelter and a supportive environment for abused women and their children, the funds procured through donations and community assistance covers at least 50 percent of their operating costs. They particularly rely on the funds raised through their annual Jingle Bell Walk/Run, which will be held on December 9 this year. “The money we raise each year goes to support the Centre’s 24-hour emergency shelter for the victims, and the success of this event is largely credited to our sponsors who lend their names and financial support to the event,” shared Allison Clark, Fundraising Committee Chairperson for the Crisis Centre.

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Cayman HospiceCare

Similarly, Jennifer Grant-McCarthy, Operations and Fundraising Manager of the Cayman HospiceCare, expressed, “We cannot do what we do without funding, and the majority of our funding comes from donations, fundraisers and projects.” These fundraisers include the Cayman Watercolours Calendar, which was created in order to support the Cayman HospiceCare and National Council of Voluntary Organisations by donating all proceeds from its sales to both charities. Jennifer went on to say: “At Christmas especially, donating to Cayman HospiceCare can both help us keep our services available and make the season more special.”

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Time to Give

Other charitable organisations in need of community support during the holidays are the Cayman Islands Humane Society, Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts and the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. Donations can be made in the form of money, gifts and, most importantly, your time.

“A gift does not always have to be of monetary value, and Camana Bay is always keen to lend our support in any way possible,” Ms. Moon said. Ms. Nielsen of Cayman’s Random Acts of Kindness feels the gift of time can be one of the greatest gifts of all. Ms. Bise added to the notion by stating, “A nice thing would be a family to take a child from a foster home out for dinner, or the kids of a family [could] make cards for the children at the paediatric ward. People [can also] volunteer to go play with kids at foster homes [or] bring them to see a movie or go to the beach. Little things like that all add up to make a huge difference!”

GET INVOLVED

Show your support for Cayman HospiceCare by purchasing a Cayman Watercolours Calendar. Filled with beautiful watercolour paintings, local recipes and events, the Cayman Watercolours Calendar makes a perfect gift or stocking filler for friends, family and clients. Calendars are only $20 and can be ordered online at caymanwatercolourscalendar.com.

Register for the 10th Annual Jingle Bell Walk/Run and do your part to help the abused women and children of the Cayman Islands. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast on the beach, a visit from Santa Claus and lots of giveaway prizes after the event.

. . .
Published: Skies Magazine, November 2012

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