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Giving Back at CAYS Open Day

From left, businesswoman and former Frances Bodden Girls Home resident Cassandra Hibbert-Morris; CAYS Foundation CEO Angela Sealey; and Ministry of Community Affairs Chief Officer Dorine Whittaker.

While sharing fond memories, as well as some of the challenges, of growing up in government-run homes for youth, two former residents recently gave words of encouragement to the young girls and boys who now reside there.

Speaking at the recent CAYS Foundation Open Day, businesswoman Cassandra Hibbert-Morris encouraged the youth to soar like eagles.

"The eagle has great vision to see its future; to identify its enemy; and to renew itself, and like the eagle you can soar above your circumstances and claim the destiny that God has set out for you," she told them.

Mrs. Hibbert-Morris, who now runs her own events management company, spent her early years at Frances Bodden and in foster care.

Addressing both the Frances Bodden girls and the Bonaventure Home boys, she noted: "If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, start acting the part. Start acting like the ladies and gentlemen that you are.

"Do not conform to this world, but strive to renew your minds and become the kind of persons who will make a difference in the community," Mrs. Hibbert-Morris said.

She urged the young people not to allow their history, or the negative lives and examples of their parents, to determine the path they chose in life.

"Do not let other people dictate your life," she said. "Not because your mother and father may have been taking drugs and living bad lives, means that you have to do the same."

Lauding her foster parent and the Frances Bodden staff, she told the girls that Frances Bodden is a haven for them. She added that they should make good use of every lesson they learn from the caregivers, and respect their elders.

"It is at Frances Bodden and in foster care that I learned how to cook and clean; learning to cook and clean will serve you well," Mrs. Hibbert-Morris explained. "When you go away to university, you will at least be able to make yourself a hot meal."

In concluding, she urged them to be careful of the friends they keep; not to be led astray; to use their creativity for good, and to keep connected to God.

In her words of encouragement Shakira Diaz, also a former Frances Bodden resident, shared with the youngsters how CAYS Foundation and Frances Bodden staff helped to transform her life, and rescued her from neglect and difficulty.

"As a result of being at Frances Bodden, I am the first person in my family to go to college. CAYS and Frances Bodden helped me to defy my family history of antisocial behaviour.

"I had no other family except the fellow residents, the staff at Frances Bodden and CAYS Foundation," Ms Diaz said, recalling how the home staff had to stay with her during lonely times, when other residents had gone home for the holidays, because she had nowhere to go.

Ms Diaz, who is completing a bachelor's degree, urged the current residents: "Cherish the moments you have at Frances Bodden; follow the rules, which are there to guide you, and work hard so you can better yourselves."

In his remarks, Minister of Community Affairs and Housing, the Hon. Mike Adam, reaffirmed government's commitment to youth development.

He noted that government is particularly concerned with creating an environment that assists youth to reach their full potential.

The Open Day included arts and crafts displays, and a fashion show, by the residents. Other presentations were given by CAYS Foundation Chairperson Ormond Williams; Frances Bodden's Care Manager Maureen Jervis-Brooks; Deputy Care Manager Grace Bryant; and Former Bonaventure Resident Joshua Pars, among others. CAYS CEO Angela Sealey and resident Shamika Levy.gave the vote of thanks.

For further information contact: Prudence Barnes