By Christopher Tobutt
Armed with rakes and black plastic bags, Boyz 2 Men, a mentorship programme for boys between the ages of 14 and 16 recently teamed up with the Optimists Club in cleaning up Success Circle Park, Palm Dale in George Town.
Christopher Murray, a counsellor at John Gray High School, started Boyz 2 Men in 2009 after seeing some of the struggles that the boys between years 8 and 11 were going through. The programme offers boys mentorship and positive male role models, successful entrepreneurs and professionals who come to talk to the boys. The programme’s emblem has become the smart black tie that the boys wear, which raises self-esteem, as the boys learn all about the value of respecting oneself and others, and the change it can make in their life. Increasingly more boys join every year as they see how the group has made a positive change in the life of their friends.
Jahmai Bennett, aged 15, was hard at work, raking up a pile of leaves.
“Boyz 2 Men is good because it helps us help out the community and brings us together, to stop the hostility and fighting between boys,” he said. “It gives you more self-esteem, because the people in Boyz 2 Men are like your brothers and they lift you up, even when you’re down. If we work together to help the community, everything will be good, you know?””
Aldjandro Barratt, 16, also thinks its great being in Boyz 2 Men:
“Even though it’s kind of hot working here today, it’s still good, because we are giving back to the community,” he said, “Being a man means you are always actively involved in the community, actively giving back. We have had a couple of webinars of people talking to us. Yesterday was International Men’s Day, and they were talking about stuff we have to do as a man. Men need to be responsible, dependable and keep their word – don’t make any false promises.”
Mark Phillips 15, said: “Boyz 2 Men helps you become a better person because I’ve been a very delinquent child, and joining Boyz 2 Men kind of set me on the right path. Wearing a tie makes me feel proud….and makes me cautious of what I am doing and how I treat people,” he said. “I feel doing this is good today, because I have done some bad things in the past, and now I feel like I can give back to the community for free.”
With everyone working together, it didn’t really take too long before the park, which was badly overgrown, was looking respectable again. The Boyz and the Optimists are planning to paint the cabana and the playground in the park another day.
Kayon Whyte, one of the Optimist Club Directors, explained the Optimists’ role in the clean-up.
“We saw it fit to partner with Boyz 2 Men, as part of our mandate in the Optimists Club is ‘Service to our Children,’ and Optimists International is geared towards the wellbeing and welfare of children worldwide. Here in the Cayman Islands we continue with that mandate where we mentor children and provide any form of assistance to goes towards their wellbeing and their welfare. Today we wanted to impart to these boys the importance of giving back to their community.”
Christopher Murray, School Counsellor at John Gray High School and Director of the Boyz 2 Men programme, said: “We are happy to be partnering with the Optimists Club to do a community project today. One of the tasks assigned is to clean the park, and then to paint the facilities as well, but it was decided to divide the work, so today we are just cleaning the park and then next week hopefully we are going to be doing the painting.”
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