Olive Miller OBE has known the Cayman Islands for 72 of her 96 years. From the very first moment she set foot here, in 1946, she set about doing what she felt God had called her to do and what is in her nature: helping people. She helped to set up the Girls Brigade here, and when I went to visit her at the Pines Retirement Home she was reclining on a beautiful Girls Brigade quilt. She has done many things, and helped to shape Cayman society, making it what it is today. But it is particularly for all her selfless dedication in organizing the NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations) that she is particularly well-known. Exactly how it got going, and why, is a story worth telling.
It was 1974 when, as an officer for Government Information Services, Ms Miller she was first asked to show a visiting professor and his wife around. The professor was here to find out information before writing a report on the social welfare of the Cayman Islands. There were quite a lot of people, back then, Ms Miller said, were being left out of the government’s social services provision. There was no preschool for young children, for example, and a lot of the elderly people were not being properly looked after. There were no proper parks or playgrounds, either.
Finally, the report was finished and the Government began putting its recommendations into action. The National Council of Social Service began in 1975 for the purpose of meeting community needs that the service clubs did not meet The new organization took over the social service functions of government by harnessing support from service clubs such as Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis. They would all pay a certain amount into a Community Chest which would be used to finance the new organizations’ activities. Soon, there were plans for a retirement home and preschools which would be set up in each district. But there were problems on the horizon.
In 1976 a new government administration decided that they wanted to operate a social services sector after all. Then, the service organizations disagreed about paying into a community chest fund without having enough say so as to how it was spent. To survive and continue its valuable work, the new organization would have to take steps to raise its own funds.
Eventually it was decided: The new council would have a special Family Fair day which would raise funds for its activities. The Centre of George Town would be blocked off. The NCSS the had bought a cheerful children’s roundabout, which proved to be a big draw along with the cotton candy and Snocones, and of course, all the fun and games. “There was a mother and baby race,” Ms Miller recalled, “two men gotdressed up, one as the ‘mother,’ and the other as the ‘baby.’ They got up to all kinds of antics,” she said. Everyone did their part including members of the Rotary Club who manned the gate, helping raise funds by charging admission. The Family Fair Day was a big success, Ms Miller said.
In 1980 Radio Cayman began the first ‘radio- thon,’ for the organization. “I think we got about 2000 dollars for the first year. We thought that was really great,” Ms Miller said. “Boy Scouts were the runners, collecting the pledge money, but because there were no house numbers or street names, they would have to collect the pledge from a ‘Mr. and Mrs Bodden at the pink house on the waterfront,”,” Ms Miller recalled. “Then TV came to Cayman. It was started by Colin Wilson and Joanne, and that was when we held our very first Telethon,” she added.
In 1990, the NCSS changed its name to the NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations). It continues to do valuable work in the community, now with a focus on children and young people. Money raised during the NCVO’s 39th annual fundraising telethon at the Prospect Playhouse on Saturday 20 October will go to support the Jack and Jill Nursery, Miss Nadine’s Preschool, and the Miss Nadine Andreas Residential Foster Home. The NCVO is also involved in many other projects all aimed at helping children and young people. Ms Miller believes that the work of the NCVO is very valuable and she encouraged everyone to support the Telethon on Saturday.