Celebrating literacy month

Each September for the past four years, Camana Bay has celebrated Literacy Month with a series of family-friendly events, activities and community initiatives intended to encourage literacy and build community in partnership with local non-profit organisations. While the majority of Dart’s education initiatives focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), literacy underpins these subjects and is essential to lifelong learning.

Pilar Bush, Dart Executive Vice President with responsibility for community development says education is fundamental to the continued sustainable economic development of the Cayman Islands.

Literacy is critical to individual and community wellbeing, it opens the doors to a world of possibilities at school, at work and beyond. “Dart has a track record of investing in our local community in ways that enhance the quality of life and which create meaningful opportunities for people to live productive and fulfilling lives,” she says. “Through inclusive, accessible education opportunities and strong partnerships with well-run, local non-profit organisations, we can work together to raise literacy levels across our community.”

One such community development partner is Literacy is For Everyone (LIFE), which also received a CI$25,000 Dart Grant this year and a CI$10,000 Dart Donation last Christmas. Together with the YMCA, which also received a CI$10,000 Dart Donation last Christmas, LIFE has been a long-standing supporter of Literacy Month.

LIFE Executive Director Marilyn Conolly says the organisation’s mission is to significantly increase literacy levels in the country.

“This is important to Cayman because it will improve the quality of life for all residents by providing supplementary literacy programmes and initiatives for children and adults, and by helping to raise the quality of education in the public school system,” she says, noting that research demonstrates literate children have greater employment opportunities and are less likely to be involved in crime and fall into poverty.

“Beyond this, literacy is a basic life skill that everyone should have,” she says.

This year’s Literacy Month, themed “Wild About Reading” will include: a Camana Bay scavenger hunt, Story Time with local authors, and a book drive in support of LIFE. In addition, the 400 members of staff employed directly by Dart are encouraged to use their employee benefit of paid volunteer time to support the LIFE and YMCA reading programmes.

Bush says that Dart staff are given four hours of paid volunteer leave per month to use at their discretion.

“This is a benefit, both to our civic minded employees and to our community” she says.

Conolly says support from the business community is essential to the success of LIFE’s programmes.

“The awareness raised from having local organisations working with different groups of students in our schools sends the message that literacy is important enough to be on the agenda of others in the community and important enough to commit the support of their own staff and funds,” she says.

Another company which has consistently lent its support to Literacy Month is Books & Books. One of Camana Bay’s first tenants, the store marked Books & Books’ fourth retail outlet and its first international location. This year, Books & Books is hosting an advent calendar competition that encourages children to share their favourite books for a chance to open an advent calendar door during the holiday season.

Dart Grants: Education

Launched earlier this year, Dart Grants is a new programme of fixed annual grants intended to optimise Dart’s positive impact on the local community. The Dart Grants programme provides targeted support to well-run, registered non-profits with high-value work in three focus areas: youth development, education and the environment.

Bush says the three areas of focus were chosen for their impact on the sustainable development of the Cayman Islands.

“For the past 25 years of Dart’s presence in Cayman, our aim has been to enhance the quality of life for present and future generations. Access to quality education and developmental experiences are essential to preparing our young people to become productive members of society. Similarly, the quality of our shared environment – both natural and built – is fundamental to the social and economic vitality of our country,” she says.

Conolly says the 2019 Dart Grant will enable LIFE to hire an additional staff member to assist with its programme delivery and expand the reach of its current programming.

“This is essentially doubling our capacity which makes this an exciting time for the growth of our charity and a significant opportunity to serve more children,” Conolly says. “Literacy is more than just reading. It is an essential life skill for members of our community to best navigate the world around them.”

In total, nine local non-profit organisations received Dart Grants in the inaugural year of the programme: the Alex Panton Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cayman’s Acts of Random Kindness, the Cayman Islands Sailing Club, LIFE, Special Needs Foundation Cayman and the Stingray Swim Club.

For more information on how to get involved with Literacy Month, visit camanabay.com. To learn more about volunteer and partnership opportunities with LIFE, visit www.life.org.ky or email [email protected] to share your time and talents with the children in our community.