A recent survey published by the Ministry of Health, for which the sample group was 15 to 19 year-olds in Grand Cayman, reported that around one third of the females and a quarter of the males surveyed had witnessed one or more of the following taking place in their home: excessive drinking, mental health problems, drug use or violence.
The importance of a safe and stable environment during a child’s formative years cannot be overstated; children come to understand the world through their foundational relationships with caregivers or parents, and unfortunately lots of Cayman’s youth face adversities within their homelife.The TAYA Lounge, which was launched in 2017 as an affiliate programme of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC), attempts to overcome the developmental obstacles affecting Cayman’s at-risk youth by providing a refuge where they can gather, connect with their peers and speak to trusted adults.
TAYA’s After-School Programme
The Lounge shares a location with Estella’s Place on Eastern Avenue and functions mainly as an after-school drop-in centre. Teens and young adults are welcomed into a safe, judgement-free zone where they can utilise the amenities between the hours of 3pm-8pm from Tuesday to Friday. The Lounge was designed to allow for group and individual activities to be able to occur simultaneously and they currently accommodate over 60 participants. Time is split between ‘free-time’ where members can engage in an activity of their choosing, and organised group activities, which focus on developing different key life skills.
Studies have shown that there are many positive outcomes associated with giving at-risk youth access to the arts outside of school and during ‘free-time’ participants can experiment and create meals in the communal kitchen, make use of the art supplies, play games with each other, and just generally get creative and unwind. Volunteers and staff members are always on hand to answer questions and offer support. The organised group activities aim to address certain social and emotional issues members may be experiencing as well as provide opportunities to learn, develop and build confidence. The subject matter ranges from general homework assistance, to self-esteem workshops, goal visualisation, conflict resolution, anger management, job preparedness, how to establish boundaries within healthy relationships etc.
TAYA also offers case management for individuals who may need additional assistance in areas. Livia Siqueira, the Children and Youth Coordinator, monitors the participant’s personal progress and provides feedback and advice in a one-to-one setting. TAYA’s structure is guided by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Both ‘free-time’ and the organised group activities play an important therapeutic role in meeting the participants’ psychological and safety needs. In doing so, TAYA hopes to foster a growth-mindset amongst the teens and young adults who attend the programme.
Estella’s Place and the TAYA Lounge is supported by many generous community donations and at least once a year TAYA hosts a fashion or talent show in collaboration with a local organisation. In 2019, TAYA partnered with Business and Professional Women (BPW) Grand Cayman, a non-partisan charter group of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, to organise a three-part creative arts initiative which included a creative arts course, a fundraiser to benefit TAYA’s programmes and a musical showcase. Understanding that creating art can strengthen a youth’s problem-solving skills, autonomy, sense of purpose, and social competence, the intention was to help with the development of healthy expression and to bolster confidence amongst the TAYA Lounge participants.
BPW flew-in international rapper Theo Jones, better known by his stage name Theolodge, for a week-long Creative Arts Programme at the TAYA Lounge which saw Theo helping TAYA teens write, produce, and record their own inspirational rap music. Hailing from central Florida, Theo is a former basketball player who himself grew up in trying circumstances. He turned his life around by channelling a faith-based, anti-violence approach to music and the arts that focusses on growth, gratitude, and goal setting. Theo’s message is one of hope and hard work to achieve one’s goals and ultimately had a positive influence on the budding musicians who learnt that you do not have to engage in profane behaviour to achieve artistic success. The week culminated in a musical showcase at the Harquail Theatre, where programme participants were able to perform their pieces in front of an audience of friends and family.
The TAYA Lounge is now entering its fourth year of operation.The programme’s ability to create genuine family-like bonds in a safe and supportive environment has hugely impacted the lives of programme participants. TAYA digs into the primary problems affecting Cayman’s at-risk youth and fixes them from the root up. The teens and young adults who move on from the programme are equipped with the tools they need to establish healthy relationships and build brighter futures.
How to Get Involved
The TAYA Lounge is supported by Hedge Funds Care Cayman and many other generous community donations. The Lounge relies heavily on dedicated and passionate volunteers who can offer their time and effort to:
Assist with supervising TAYA youths (1-year commitment ,minimum 4 hours per week, between 3pm-8pm)
Assist with organising events for TAYA
Offer expertise for TAYA workshops (cooking, nutrition, leadership, gardening, painting etc.)
If you would like to make a donation to the TAYA Lounge, please see their online banking details below:
Bank: Bank of Butterfield Cayman
Account Name: Cayman Islands Crisis Centre
CI Account Number: 1361629840014
US Account Number: 8401629840037