Martha Dismont and John Layfield take bermudas toughest problems head on.
Martha Dismont founded the Family Centre (then named the Learning Centre of Bermuda) in 1990 to support students who were struggling academically and socially. As a teacher, school counsellor and Reading Clinic tutor, she saw the need clearly. She recruited teacher friends to help her and they formed a charity to offer free and low-cost tutoring services. Within a few years, they were inundated with children whose school challenges were rooted in larger family and social problems.
By 1995, they updated the programme to meet the counselling and case-management needs of families who had come to trust Dismont with complicated family problems. Over the years they have helped thousands, with more than 300 family-counselling interventions last year and a range of prevention services aimed at keeping children on track for healthy development.
Enter John Layfield, or JBL as he was known when he was the world champion professional wrestler of World Wrestling Entertainment. Layfield relocated to Bermuda in 2011 with his wife, Meredith Whitney, who is a banking analyst, a frequent contributor to news programmes and who has been on Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in the World list for the last three years. Layfield is also a Fox Business News contributor when he isn’t sharing sport as a vehicle for improving kid’s lives.
Layfield had heard about gang problems in Bermuda and he had also heard about the results that the Family Centre achieves with kids and families. “I called Martha straight away to introduce myself and roll my sleeves up,” says Layfield.
He asked the Family Centre to join him and the Bermuda Rugby Football Union to form a new programme based on an international model known as Beyond Sport. Beyond Rugby Bermuda was formed, and it is now a regular presence in the Dellwood and Cedarbridge schools. They help students to get fit, build good character and make positive lifestyle choices. Layfield is a volunteer coach and joins staff daily as they work with kids.
Through the partnership, Layfield began to see the odds that some young people face and the scale of Family Centre’s efforts to meet that need. He became totally committed to Bermuda’s kids and to supporting the Family Centre’s efforts.
“We don’t go half way,” says Dismont. “We want to get to the root of a problem and make a lasting difference and that’s how Layfield operates as well.”
In fact, Layfield is so committed that he pledged to climb the seven tallest peaks in the world through his Seven Summits for Bermuda Kids campaign. He has begun a three-year plan to climb the tallest mountain on each continent while planting a Bermuda flag at each summit and raising funds to keep the Family Centre front and centre, as it is needed now more than ever.
“We are very proud of John and grateful for his inspiring presence,” says Dismont. “We have a lot of responsibilities and people who count on us—we hope others will join John in helping the Family Centre to meet the demands.”
For Layfield’s part, he has found a home in Bermuda and at the Family Centre. “I have fought some pretty hard battles but Martha is a tough cookie and I am glad to be on her side in this one.”
The mutual appreciation is obvious and Bermuda appreciates what they are doing together in the service of healthy, happy lives for all of Bermuda’s children.