Speaker Receives MBE
"To whom much is given, much is expected," is the maxim observed by Mrs. Mary Jannet Lawrence, JP, and her family. Named a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in recognition of many years' service to community and country, Mrs. Lawrence has long been active in defending and upholding the rights of the young and vulnerable.
"Miss Mary" as she is known to many, has witnessed first-hand the maturing of Cayman. Born in Nicaragua of Caymanian parents, she returned to the Islands - and to Bodden Town - at the age of seven. Her first career choice was teaching and between 1956 and 1968, she taught in public and private schools at both primary and secondary levels.
She returned to the classroom again in 2006 for two more years, working as a support assistant for children with special needs in a classroom setting.
Ever active in the community and church, she focused most of her efforts on the vulnerable in our society - children, young people and the elderly. Between 1985 and 1987 she was housemother in the Frances Bodden Home for Girls.
In 1989 she was commissioned a Justice of the Peace (JP) and began her service in the Summary Courts system, concentrating in the Youth and Juvenile Courts until mid-2009.
Mrs. Lawrence also supported founding the Justice of the Peace Association, served as its president for two years, and assisted in organising training of JPs for several years.
She remains a member of the Adoption Board and has participated, regionally and beyond, on issues such as sentencing reform, drug court, human rights, juvenile justice reform and early childhood education.
Her multi-faceted contributions also saw her serving on numerous other boards and organizations over the years, making notable contributions in areas as diverse as immigration, education, prisons and substance abuse.
But more than a moral responsibility, Mrs. Lawrence's love for youth was innate, and no matter her involvements, the needs of the family, the child and the young person in the Cayman community, always took precedence. However busy even today, she maintains an open door at her home to anyone needing help or advice.
Blessed with an entrepreneurial streak, the Lawrence family helped establish modern commerce in Bodden Town. Ventures included farming, tourism, real estate and education but these did not detract from Mrs. Lawrence's commitment to country and community.
For years she worked tirelessly to promote good government and better social and education systems locally, both as a political activist and through the field of journalism. She was a publisher, editor and writer for several early newspapers and magazines.
In 2002, government engaged her as a consultant to assess and reform the residential care system for children and young people. Her achievements included the re-establishment of the Bonaventure Home for Boys, the design and implementation of management and support systems for both the boys' and girls' homes, and the establishment of the CAYS Foundation to oversee their operation.
In Bodden Town, she was also instrumental in establishing the Islands' first centre for senior citizens and still assists the Senior Citizens' Heritage Committee in promoting and leading special activities. She was president of the District Committee for the Quincentennial Celebrations which showcased her district's special heritage and place in Cayman's history.
In 2003 she was named from Bodden Town to the National Wall of Honour and during 2009's National Hero's Day celebrations, Mrs. Lawrence, a well-known role model for many, received the Spirit of Excellence Award. She was cited for contributions to Cayman's development, for her community spirit and her work to preserve and showcase local history.
On 27 May 2009, Mrs. Lawrence was sworn in as the sixth Speaker of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly, and the first to be elected from the community, an act met with national approval and one which she regards as a sacred trust.
Commenting on her MBE, Mrs. Lawrence said, "I am both humbled and honoured to receive this level of recognition, but I must also recognise the many helping hands along the road which shaped my life and made me who I am today. I was blessed to be always surrounded by people who cared about me.
"In particular, I pay tribute to my late husband whose unfailing support over the years of our marriage made it possible for me to pursue my special interests outside of our home."
She added, "All I ask now, is to be able in some measure to offer the same level of caring and support to others, to always be cognizant of, and uphold the important things in life - family, community and our great heritage as a people - a heritage that is our duty to hold in trust and pass on to future generations."
Mrs. Lawrence and her husband James Lawrence raised a family of six children, five daughters and a son. She is grandmother to 19 grand children and great-grandmother to one great-grandson.
For further information contact: Lennon Christian