Cayman’s global university community gathered at Government House Wednesday evening to look back on a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and to celebrate the power of connection during hard times.
Around 100 students, alumni and officials joined the reception by Cayman Connection, the islands’ international networking and support organisation for Caymanians abroad.
The newly registered nonprofit will be looking this year to expand its network beyond the United Kingdom, to better include residents in the United States, Canada and eventually Asia, said founding director Jennifer Dilbert.
The organisation will also seek to expand online shopping options for Caymanian goods through a partnership with Resilience Cayman. The idea is to improve overseas access to the comforts of home.
For Caymanians abroad, Financial Services Minister Andre Ebanks said the Cayman Connection network proved especially important over the past year.
“I can’t tell you how incredibly important and supportive it was to have Cayman Connection side by side with the government London office,” said Ebanks, looking back on his time as the Cayman Islands representative to the UK and Europe. “For individuals [in lockdown] who were just looking at four walls by themselves, not knowing what the next day was going to look like with COVID, it was incredible to have that support unit.”
Ebanks lauded Cayman Connection for providing a broad range of support services throughout the pandemic, including assistance with international student travel, arranging a Zoom Christmas party with a DJ and steel pan, and delivering Cayman-style meals to residents.
Government Martyn Roper acknowledged that the past year has been particularly tough for Cayman’s students, many of whom will be attempting travel back to the United Kingdom and elsewhere in coming weeks.
“I know a lot of you have had to travel backwards and forwards and do courses virtually,” Roper said. “I just want to say we do really understand how difficult it’s been and just know things are now getting better and I’m sure it is going to get a lot better in the future.”
Premier Wayne Panton also appeared for the latter part of the evening to greet students and alumni.
To learn more about Cayman Connection and upcoming events, like a ‘Culture Shock’ workshop for students travelling abroad, visit https://caymanconnection.org/.