Students ready to take green action in Cayman

| 01/08/2019
CNS Local Life
(L-R) Ben Somerville, Mikayla Corin (co-founder of Protect Our Future), Bill LaMonte, Steff Mcdermot and Dejea Lyons at the Ocean Heroes Boot Camp

(CNS Local Life): Two students from the Cayman Islands recently took part in an Ocean Heroes Boot Camp in Vancouver, Canada, where they met with international green leaders and received advice on how to develop and deliver their campaign to preserve and protect Cayman’s environment. Representatives from groups including the Captain Planet Foundation, Lonely Whale and UN Environmental heard Ben Somerville and Dejea Lyons, both 16, present their ideas to strengthen Cayman’s National Conservation Law, eliminate single-use plastics and “Mend Our Mangroves”.

The students are also members of local environmental advocacy group Protect Our Future Cayman and volunteers for Plastic Free Cayman.

The guiding philosophy of the boot camp, which is by invitation only, is to empower young people to reduce ocean plastic pollution. Tellingly, the camp restricts the age of attendants to between 11 and 18, recognising the need to spread an environmental message to the group whose future will be affected by decisions made today.

Somerville has a message for anyone who thinks his age is an impediment to his efforts. “I would first tell them that there is no relevance to my age. No matter how old I am, the only factors are my intelligence and knowledge behind what I am fighting for, as well as my determination and drive to accomplish what I want,” he told CNS, adding that no one should doubt him because he is just 16.

“I love my island and know that change needs to occur now. I would also say that if I wait until I am older and an age that is suitable in their own eyes, the effects of our pollution and actions will be too far gone and there will be no going back. Action needs to occur now, not later.”

Lyons also demonstrated a passion and determination to be actively involved in promoting green causes. “Living on this island my whole life has allowed me to see the drastic changes it has gone through, from the extreme decrease in mangroves for developments, to plastic-polluted oceans and beaches. I finally decided that I needed to take some action,” she said.

“I was taught growing up that anything is possible once you put your mind to it. Once I have the support of the community and a very organised plan, I know that my goals will be accomplished.” 

CNS Local Life
Dejea Lyons and Ben Somerville ready to go to Vancouver

Bill LaMonte, who is the students’ science teacher at Cayman International School and educational coordinator at Plastic Free Cayman, pointed to the great benefits the boot camp offered participants. “Having Dejea and Ben pitch their campaign on an international stage shows just how important these issues are globally and how dedicated these students are to making Cayman a more sustainable island,” he said.

“They were able to network with students from all over the world and receive actionable feedback from executives from Captain Planet, Lonely Whale, and even Lego. Very few Caymanian students have received this opportunity,” he added, stressing that the two are paving the way for other students from Cayman being given similar openings.

Steff Mcdermot joined LaMonte to chaperone the two students at the boot camp, which she was uniquely positioned to do as she had attended the camp the previous summer. She capped off 2018 by receiving a Captain Planet Foundation award for her environmental work.

“Returning to the boot camp was an incredible feeling,” Mcdermot said, noting the “energy of 299 Ocean Heroes”, which she said was full of positivity and optimism. “Everyone shared their stories of winning and losing with so much passion and we all listened carefully with open minds. It was simply an enlightening experience and to have shared it with Dejea, Ben and Bill made it a lot better.”

Based on her experience at the camp, she advised the two students not to be “fearful of presenting because everyone supported them and to be specific as to what they were asking for”. 

While the two teens admitted to nerves ahead of their presentation they both viewed the experience as overwhelmingly positive. “It was one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life; I was trembling,” recalled Lyons. “I was standing in front of over 300 people that could be interested in the presentation or find it boring, uninteresting or even dislike it but I just had to put all of my negative thoughts aside and just do my best.”

She added that when they presented, “I could feel the positive energy radiating from the crowd and it felt amazing. A lot of people seemed very supportive and ready to get involved in our cause.”

Calling being able to present at the camp “a life changing experience”, Somerville said preparing for the event “taught me time management, keeping my mind open to different perspectives and ideas that may be presented against me, as well as different public speaking strategies to keep my audience engaged. Presenting in front of 300 kids and about 60 adults is extremely intimidating, but also an amazing experience.”

One month on from the camp, and despite being right in the middle of summer vacation, neither student is taking a break from their green efforts. “The next steps are to plan and research,” Somerville said, and even though he does not return to Cayman until near the end of the month, “I will spend the time researching effects on mangroves, the National Conservation Law, organisations already trying to help with mangrove protection, as well as anything else that is relevant to the success of my campaign.”

After that the two will reach out to the government and the National Conservation Council “to schedule meetings based around strengthening the National Conservation Law”, plus organise mangrove and beach clean-ups and schedule educational events for schools and the public.

“From this experience, I learned that even though the youth takes up a small percentage of the world, we take up 100% of the future,” Lyons said. “That means that we, as the youth, need to take charge of our future and make sure our voices are heard.”

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Category: Environment, Local News, Marine Environment

Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Government has given these students no other option, to have a future they accept the fact they will have to fight against government to stop the destruction of our Island home.

  2. Anonymous says:

    These are the fearless children whom government and Dart fear.

    Game over, you woke up the children!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    …and the children shall lead them.ñ