By Christopher Tobutt
More than a thousand unemployed Caymanians and spouses of Caymanians crowded into the Lions Centre in George Town to register for the WORC (Work Opportunities Residency Cayman) NICE (National Community Enhancement) project, which is three weeks’ work cleaning roadsides, beaches and carrying out maintenance work in Cayman’s parks. It is very important and valuable work, because it means that the Cayman Islands’ beaches and roadways and other public spaces will be looking really nice for the peak-time winter tourist season, and beautiful beaches are one of Cayman’s most valuable assets. It is the second time this year the project has been run, because for the last two years there has been a two-week summertime session as well.
If they are accepted onto the program, the workers are required to work from 7am to 3pm five days a week, and are paid ten dollars an hour for regular workers, and twelve dollars an hour for team-supervisors as well as being provided with lunch and a drink.
Lois Kellyman Project Manager for NICE said: “This project will run for three weeks from the 25th of November to the 20th of December. Examples of the kind of work they will be doing are at the Department of Environmental Health in the landfill; or they may be working with dispatch, with garbage collection, with the MRCU; or they may be working with the Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Society. They may also be working with the NRA and Public Works. They will also be cleaning beach access-ways, making sure they are clear, and doing additional work that the Parks Unit may not get to do to attend to their usual everyday work,” she said.
Although Transport isn’t provided from people’s homes, Ms. Kellyman said that as much as possible was done to try to find people work within their districts, so that they didn’t have to travel too far. Ms Kellyman added that when the NICE project was over, all the participants would be encouraged to sign up with WORC, so that they might have an opportunity to find permanent employment.
“I’m here today because I’m unemployed. Looking for work for three weeks of work,” said Steve, who has signed up with the project several times before. Like many others, while he appreciates the opportunity to earn some extra money in the run-up to Christmas time, he expressed disappointment that there was nothing, really, being offered to follow it up. “I applied at the NRA and the Public Works Department I still can’t get any work. No calls, not anything,” he said.
Mitchell Ebanks has signed up with the NICE project several times before. “It helps, especially at this time of year around Christmas,” he said, but added that he felt things could be made a lot easier if those who had participated before could just fill in a form and drop it off, rather than attend these sessions all over again: “They would have had less people to deal with because the returning people already know what they are going to be teaching,” he said.