Miss Blanche is an extraordinary woman. She has not only lived in a stark, unforgiving dwelling for most of her life; she also raised her children there. When Cayman’s ARK, Acts of Random Kindness, was first introduced to Miss Blanche in 2009, members of the assistance organisation were shocked to see her living circumstances. They were also amazed at her spirit and cheery disposition considering everything she had been dealing with.
She was residing in a shanty off Eastern Avenue with her daughter and four grandchildren, trying to keep the family together but struggling to keep food on the table. The walls and floors were rotting, constantly damp due to a compromised roof. It was as though time had stood still after Hurricane Ivan.
The structure was buckling, the bathroom was unfit for use with a warped, unsanitary bathtub slumped by the wall. In the kitchen the stove was inoperable, the fridge was rusted through and leaking, and the floor was a patchwork quilt of old plywood. The children’s school uniforms hung from the rafters.
Miss Blanche’s daughter had recently been made redundant. Unable to keep her home, she had no choice but to move back into the shanty with her mother, bringing her children with her.
For a while it had looked as though things might be getting better. Miss Blanche’s oldest son had built her a concrete structure near the shanty; a bungalow with three potential bedrooms. She moved in, but only had a few short months there before an electrical fire devastated the house. What was left behind was a partial roof and burnt rooms and ceilings. At the age of 80 Miss Blanche had to move back to the shanty that she had only just managed to leave.
Once she left, her son began the slow process of rebuilding the cement home, but he needed supplies that they simply could not afford. It was going to take years. At this time a local sponsor who was aware of the situation contacted ARK, and that’s when they stepped in to see how they could help.
From the very beginning they were able to assist with food and utilities, and help Sharlene with her own challenges, but the final goal was to get Miss Blanche back into her cement house. The task seemed overwhelming. With the damage that had been caused by the fire and the significant financial resources that were needed, ARK tried to decide how in the world they were going to manage a project of this size.
Then suddenly, like a miracle, KRyS Global got in touch with ARK to say that they were looking for a community project to celebrate their five year anniversary. It was like a dream come true.
The moment that KRyS Global agreed to support the Miss Blanche project, everything changed. They brought money, manpower, passion and heart to that house. With ARK and KRyS Global staff members on the job, the cement house that had been a sorry burnt out shell began to transform into a brightly coloured home, one paintbrush at a time. Contractors came in to properly install electrics, and bit by bit, brick by brick, the magic began to happen.
Everyone worked for three weeks solid, and on the lead up to the final day ARK contacted Tim Adam at the Cayman Turtle Farm, who in turn got in touch with Carlos Moreno at Dolphin Discovery. The plan was to give the family a fun full day out whilst the team finished the last little touches on the house.
On 8 June, 2012 as Miss Blanche and the children finished their excursions she was heard to say “This was the happiest day that I can remember.” They left West Bay to come back to their new house, barely recognisable after everyone’s hard work. A proper place for a family to live.
Miss Blanche was finally home to stay.
In the kitchen the stove was inoperable, the fridge was rusted through and leaking, and the floor was a patchwork quilt of old plywood.