Getting to Know

Kids First!

Edward C. Gartland Youth Centre celebrates a decade of caring about kids.

By Katherine Withers Green ~ Photos Courtesy Edward C. Gartland Youth Centre

In November 2008, the Edward C. Gartland Youth Centre opened its doors to the young people of the Turks & Caicos, becoming the first teen-orientated facility in the Islands. The brainchild of the AIDS Awareness Foundation, this intrepid project started as a safe haven, a spot to engage our youth with after-school activities and community outreach projects, and a way to get kids moving, thinking and caring.

The Edward Gartland Youth Centre offers a variety of activities for TCI kids.

I remember as a child growing up in the TCI how important education and information became in the fight against HIV. On paper the Edward C. Gartland Youth Centre (ECGYC) ticked all the right boxes—stamping out stigma and misinformation, creating a secure place for young people to participate in, learn about and create safe relationships with their peers—but the reality became so much more than this. Now celebrating its tenth successful year, the ECGYC has become one of the most essential parts of the TCI community, and an indispensable resource for the young people of our Islands.
What began with after-school tutoring, arts and crafts and beach clean-up days has grown to encompass 15 different term-time programs, as well as more than 20 summer camps ranging from music to maths clubs, cultural dance, water-based eco-camps, self-defense and their extremely successful basketball camp—to name but a few! The Centre is a roaring community success story. The amazing team behind its creation and the hard-working people who continue to bring incredible opportunities to our children are truly the heroes of today, supporting the fact that TCI’s most important resource is our youth.
In celebration of a decade’s worth of love and effort, I asked the Edward C. Gartland Youth Centre staff, led by Director Roxann Wake-Forbes, what stories they’d most like to highlight so that readers could learn more about their work. Unsurprisingly, they gave us the names of a couple of kids—now all grown-up —who attended ECGYC and have flourished into awesome community members.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when you attend a fundraiser, watch a school dance recital or donate to a silent auction, on the other side of that gesture is a child who will perhaps get that much closer to their dream. From passing an important exam at school, to being sponsored to be part of a national sports team, to being given the courage, skills and ability to start their own business, at the end of the day the true value of the Edward C. Gartland Youth Centre lies in the successes of its kids. Our kids. The next generation of TC Islanders forging their way in the world.

Wellington Williams
Most everyone knows Wellington, his cheery smile and creative talents are legendary, as almost everywhere you go you’ll catch a glimpse of his handmade jewelry. It’s delicate, pretty and absolutely authentically local!
Wellington started attending the Youth Centre from age 12, and he says, “My experience there was everything to me. I think my favourite thing about the Centre was that they always focused on being the best you that you can be! They encouraged me to just try as many of the programs they offered as I could, to expand my knowledge, open up different paths and career opportunities. This ‘just try’ attitude still helps me today in my business. I have the confidence to take chances, try out new ideas and get that positive outcome.”
Wellington now runs his own company, The Wellington Collection, and recently opened his first store at The Saltmills selling his beautifully designed jewelry using local sand, conch and even recycled beer bottle glass. He’s an inspiration to the younger generation, showing what can be achieved with hard work and the care of the community. And he’s always giving back—his latest project is friendship bracelets that support local charities, from the Turks and Caicos AIDS Foundation to the Provo Children’s Home and of course there’s one just for the Youth Centre too!

William Elliot
First off when I contacted Will-O (as he likes to be called) about this article he responded with a very enthusiastic, “You know I’d do anything for the Centre!” which speaks volumes for how much this place means to the kids who attend. He explained to me that what he loved most was the chance to truly be himself. That it gave him a place to express his creativity and meet new friends—many of whom are still a big part of his life today. Will was just 13 years old when he started attending ECGYC, using his time there to study hard and participate in the Basketball Camps—and now he’s studying in Manchester, England for his Business Management Bachelor’s Degree and playing for his university’s basketball team.
These stories highlight how essential the Edward C. Gartland Youth Centre is to our Islands. When youth become engaged in community activities they become empowered, they realise their voices and opinions are being considered, they feel a part of the bigger picture, and all of a sudden our community becomes a place where both youth and adults share the common interest of making their shared space a better place.
It’s clear the ECGYC has helped dozens of kids develop the skills to be effective leaders, given them a sense of belonging and purpose, and created meaningful positive relationships with adults outside of their families. This shows youth that they are cared for not just individually but as a whole, as a part of what makes the TCI what it is.
With only three full-time and one part-time member of staff, the centre relies on volunteers to help deliver programs and, as a nonprofit organization, hosts several fundraisers through the year to keep its doors open. The annual Art Show in January at The Shore Club, the Wine Cellar Golf & Fishing Tournament and the Beach Bonfire and BBQ at Bay Bistro are just some of the ways they can achieve this, along with donations from private donors like you.
You cannot put a price on the benefits of a centre like the one we are lucky enough to have here. There are a few community leaders who have shown unwavering support from the ECGYC’s creation to today, including founder Galmo “Gilley” Williams and chairman Terry Drummey from Hemingway’s. Both have been there every step of the way, committing their time, money and hearts to this wonderful cause. But everyone who attends an event, volunteers time or makes a donation is part of what makes it all work.
What the future holds for the ECGYC depends on our community giving back. Their goals? Similar youth centres on the TCI’s other islands. All it takes is a quick glance at the smiling faces of all the kids whose lives the EGYC has touched and changed to imagine the possibilities if they could expand their reach all over Turks & Caicos. We can’t wait to see what the next ten years brings!

For more information, visit www.ecgyouthcentre.com.



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