Bonaventure Boys Home - Cayman Islands
This week we interview Sydney Williams who is the General Manager of the Bonaventure Boys’ Home in the Cayman Islands. Sydney operates a twenty four (24) hour ten-bed Therapeutic Community Program that addresses the behavior and beliefs of the residents in a safe and nurturing environment. This program also provides a school based curriculum for all residents in the program.
Children and Youth Services (CAYS) Foundation was established as a Government Owned Company in December 2002 to provide rehabilitative program, educational support and positive social skills to court involved children of the Cayman Islands.
The Foundation assumed management of the Bonaventure Boys’ Home and the Frances Bodden Girls’ Home in January and June 2003, respectively.
CAYS provides a continuum of care through Bonaventure Boys’ Home (BBH) and Frances Bodden Girls’ Home (FBGH) in a caring and nurturing environment. The Foundation offers 24 hour residential care to children that are placed by the Court on various Court Orders.
Wherever possible, parents attend counseling to ensure that the youths’ relationship with their parents or guardian are maintained and fostered, thereby facilitating reintegration back to the family home, care giver or the wider community.
The interview was conducted by Fereshteh Forough, who is a founding partner of the Afghan Citadel Software Company (ACSC) and the director of the company's Herat branch. Currently she is working as the Central and South Asia Liaison for Citadel of New York and Film Annex based in New York City. Citadel of New York was founded to develop and promote Examer, which is an Interactive and Educational Social Networking platform with a Micro Scholarship Payment System. Examer is "universal" as it is easily tailored to the needs of regional languages and cultures. Examer was developed for the education of Afghan children by three exceptional Afghan women, Roya Mahboob, Fereshteh Forough, and Elaha Mahboob.
Citadel of New York is currently exploring ways to install the Examer software in CAYS facilities in the Cayman Islands. The Caribbean Project was started in 2012 by Beach Bay Land, LTD, Citadel of New York, LLC and Film Annex to support the youth of the Caribbean through education and sports programs.
Fereshteh Forough - Please tell us about yourself and provide some insights into your background: illustrative anecdotes, educational experience, work history or any other means that reveal your personality and philosophy.
Sydney E. Williams, General Manager BBH - I have been working with Juveniles in one capacity or another for 30 years. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree, Master’s Degree, and I am a licensed Drug Counselor. I have worked with adolescents in Mental Health, Group Homes, Juvenile Corrections, Juvenile Drug Court and Adolescent Drug Treatment. I believe that everyone needs a voice and an advocate should be one who cares and understands. I know I am that person from both personal and professional experience, and I have acquired the knowledge and expertise to help young people overcome much of the hurt and devastation they have experienced. Our goal is teach them to be productive members of society. I cannot take their pain away but I can teach them how to live with it. The term “When life gives you lemons you make lemonade” is very true. I believe there is no such thing as a bad child!
FF - Please tell us about your relationship to Bonaventure Home for Boys.
Sydney - I am now the General Manager of Bonaventure Boys home. I was brought here to help to initiate changes in the Juvenile treatment available here in Cayman. The new approach in not behavior modification, it does not focus on consequences rather it deals with Positive Youth Development and making healthy choices. We assist the youth in identifying their Core issues (those issues that are driving the negative and destructive behaviors that have plagued their lives.)
FF - How does the philosophy behind Bonaventure’s educational system differ from other similar programs? Why is it better?
Sydney - The Bonaventure education philosophy focuses on smaller individualized attention and low stimulating environments. This is in addition to teaching appropriate social skills and decision making. This is better because for many of our youth their issues have not been addressed early on and many of them are labeled as trouble makers. By the time they have reached High School and Middle School, often they have given up on school or the school has given up on them. The teachers at Bonaventure are trained Special Education teachers equipped to deal with difficult behaviors. The Schools would do well to incorporate teachers with this particular skill set on every level and in every school. With us, the behaviors are identified and processed by Counselors in both group and individual sessions.
FF - How does this address the needs of community at large, the school system and the Cayman Islands Government?
Sydney - This approach, once embraced, should decrease the number of suspensions and expulsions from school. It would also present an inclusive philosophy that says we are able to serve all both the good student and the learning disabled. The end result is this should decrease the number of youths involved with the justice system.
FF - What do you look for in the projects and partners you choose for your Bonaventure clients to work with?
Sydney - We look for partners to provide an increased presence of mental health professionals (Child Psychologist and Psychiatrist) as well as mental health facilities to treat and meet the needs of those in need of evaluation and medications. The services available to the parents and family of these youth need help from Social Services both financially and through counseling services. For this to work, the Government has to adopt this philosophy and approach.
FF - How do you see the role of social media and it’s impact on the Bonaventure Home for Boys?
Sydney - Social media would help to raise the awareness that if not addressed this could be a National Crisis. If not adequately addressed, there is the potential for building more jails and spending more in corrections.
FF - How much do you use social media now and how, personally and with respect to Bonaventure?
Sydney - I use very little social media at Bonaventure because I am not sure the extent it is already being used on the Island. There are some television programs who discuss issues however they rarely push sensitive issues that challenge the status quo.
FF - Can education and digital media (video, blogs and social media) influence a digital, cultural revolution? If yes, how so?
Sydney - I really cannot at this time answer the question as to what influence it would have on the culture.
FF - Do you think social media can help improve their economy and education system?
Sydney - Yes I think it can improve the economy and education system having said that it would require some prominent stakeholders or citizens to but in.
FF - What is the future for the youth of the Caribbean?
Sydney - I believe Cayman is on the right track in trying to change the future of their youth we must remember this change is a process and not an event so it will take some time.