Cayman team presents at international forum

| 09/10/2018
CNS Local Life

Cayman group (L-R) Cindy Blekaitis, Camila Ferreira and Carolina Ferreira at the conference

(CNS Local Life): Three members of Cayman’s Protection Starts Here (PSH) multi-agency working group last month delivered a multi-media presentation on child sexual abuse at an international conference on child abuse and neglect.

The presentation featured the screening of the local documentary Unspeakable: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse in the Cayman Islands and an interactive panel discussion about the grassroots prevention efforts that the group has been undertaking since 2012.

The Cayman group, comprising Cindy Blekaitis, Camila Ferreira and Carolina Ferreira, addressed the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect’s (ISPCAN) XXII International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect, held in Prague, Czech Republic, from 2-5 September.

The Cayman documentary was one of only four media theatre presentations that were accepted for this year’s congress, and the group’s contribution was the only one from the Caribbean and Central America, stated a Cayman Islands Red Cross press release.

“It was a real privilege to be able to share what we have been doing with such a broad international audience,” said Carolina Ferreira, Red Cross Deputy Director and Child Protection & Sexuality Education Programme Manager. “Often times we focus on how far we have to go without taking into account that we have made real strides, and these conferences allow us the opportunity to gain and contribute.”

The Cayman presenters are all founding members of the PSH working group and represent key areas of partnerships: non-profit, government, education, mental health, and advocacy. In addition to Carolina Ferreira, Blekaitis works at the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and Camila Ferreira is Programme Manager for At Risk Youth at the Ministry of Education.

More than 30 people from at least seven different countries attended the presentation, among them Dave Corwin, president of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, a US based national non-profit organisation focused on meeting the needs of professionals engaged in all aspects of services for maltreated children and their families. “The work that you have done is quite impressive,” he said during the panel discussion.

“I found that the audience was very engaged and interested because it was relevant not only to their communities but also to where their efforts were at,” added Camila Ferreira in the press release. “There was one participant from Singapore who not only engaged us during the session but who sought us out afterwards as a way to get more information on our initiatives, which is always really encouraging and humbling.”

Unspeakable was the second major output of the PSH project, which is spearheaded by the Red Cross in partnership with the EAP, the Health Services Authority, the Ministry of Education, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and Sands Creative Film Studio, with funding support from Hedge Funds Care Cayman Islands.

The project was launched in 2012 with a series of public service announcements, and since then the work has expanded to include multiple prevention and education outputs which include the production of the local educational documentary.

ISPCAN was formed in 1977 and its mission is to prevent cruelty to children in every nation, in every form: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, street children, child fatalities, child prostitution, children of war, emotional abuse and child labour. The organisation’s international congress is held every two years, and 2018 marks its 22nd such undertaking.

“The conference was very scientific, and the majority of presentations were focused on research, which is great for us because it’s always important to stay on top of what is current as research is necessary to guide programme decisions,” said Blekaitis. “However, sometimes those presentations aren’t as widely accessible to all participants who then have to figure out how to apply what they have learned to their programmes. Our presentation gave participants a model that they could consider and adapt, and because we have been doing this for six years we were able to answer their concerns based on our experience, which they seem to really appreciate.”

For more information on the Protection Starts Here project or how to get involved in child abuse prevention in Cayman, email the Red Cross or call 916-1742.

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