At the end of November Elaine approached Dr. Jacqueline Bird, her contact from the World Pediatric Project (WPP) in St. Lucia and incidentally Ishy's primary physician, about funding for travel. She in turn suggested she contact Pawasol pour ti Mamai (Children's Umbrella Group*). At almost the same time a member of an informal Monday night get-together group introduced Elaine to Jane DuBoulay, the president of Pawasol. After a flurry of emails, on December 3 Elaine received notice that Pawasol would in fact fund the travel expenses for Annelta and Ishmael.
There are several things that are mind-blowingly amazing about this: Pawasol as an organization that usually funds direct assistance only - be it medical care or assistance after a disaster like a hurricane. Only rarely do they fund support for care like travel. This was one of those rare occasions. Not only did they provide money for travel to the U.S., they also paid for Annelta's travel to Barbados to re-apply for visas. And when the cost of airfare went up, they actually gave more.
And maybe the most amazing thing: All of this came together in 12 days! Elaine was first introduced to Dr. Kirschner by email by Dr. Helen Sharp on Friday, November 22nd. Elaine's sister Amy talked to her son-in-law's sister Kendra on Thanksgiving Day, November 28. Kendra in turn talked to Cindi Gremling, who instantly said "yes" that same day. On Tuesday, December 3, Elaine got the good news from Pawasol. Twelve days.
There were still many incidental expenses that needed to be covered. Unless Ishy's surgery were scheduled for summer, both of them were going to need warm clothes and there needed to be some money for incidentals such as cell phone calls while Annelta and Ishmael were in the U.S. So the Western Michigan University chapter of the National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) did a Scoops for Smiles fundraiser at a local, e.g., Kalamazoo, Michigan, ice cream shop. They raised $350 selling ice cream sundaes. Annelta, Elaine and a friend (physiotherapist who worked with Elaine at the CDGC) we call "Other Elaine" went to flea market and sold breakfast wraps and baked goods. The woman who runs the flea market donated her income for the day. Members of Annelta's church raised money. The families at Ishy's pre-school, one of the poorest in St. Lucia, raised money. The Child Development and Guidance Center (CDGC) acted as a fiduciary and held the donated funds until needed. Friends of ours, guests at Ola Lola's who heard Ishy's story when Elaine was home in December gave money to help. Helen Sharp, when she learned Annelta and Ishy were going to have an 18-hour layover in Miami airport, paid for a hotel room for them so they wouldn't have to just hang out in the airport. When something was needed, somehow it was there.
The two remaining cliff-hangers were the hospital's final approval and the visa. The hospital committee approved Ishy's case on January 31 and soon after scheduled the date: Ishy's surgery would be on April 30.
With all the ducks - the surgeon, the hospital, Hazel's House, the money - in a row, on March 14 Annelta went to Barbados to face U.S. Immigration.
For days beforehand Elaine prepped her for that meeting. They went over every document, made sure every "i" was dotted and "t" crossed. Then came the big question. "What are you going to say when they ask why you lied the last time?"
All the color drained from Annelta's face. "You're going to tell them the truth," Elaine said. "You're going to tell them you wanted to so badly to get your son to the U.S. for surgery that yes, you lied to try to get him there."
When Annelta got to Barbados the Immigration people grilled her. They kept her longer than anyone else. They sent different people in to ask her the same question a different way to see if she would trip up. She didn't. She came home to St. Lucia with visas for her and Ishy. They were limited - three months where six is usual and only one entry and exit. But they had visas and it was enough.
They were going to Columbus, Ohio, and Ishy was finally going to have the surgery.
* Pawasol por ti Mamai, or Children's Umbrella Group, originally started as a new Millenium idea by Jane DuBoulay to bring all the childrens' organizations in St. Lucia together in raising funds instead of each group trying on their own. Several meetings were held with these groups and with an initial donation of $5,000 from Courts as seed money, plans to hold a major telethon were discussed. For various reasons, these efforts never came to fruition and the groups dispersed. Undeterred, Mrs. DuBoulay persisted and in September 2007, Pawasol pour ti Mamai was registered as a Charity to provide assistance to needy children, be they sick, handicapped, in need of medication, basic necessities, or just unable to attend school because of lack of funds.
They raise money by selling at Flea Markets, organizing Tombolas, lunch functions, Quiz nights, sponsored walks and printing and selling a Cookbook, Calendar and Greeting Cards and have, up to the end of 2013, raised and disbursed over EC$450,000 to children requiring heart, kidney and eye surgery, eyecare, special needs programmes, medications, school fees, school books, school uniforms, school transportation, food, diapers and Child Development care. Help in the form of household goods, food and water was given to the Fond St. Jacques and Bexon communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Thomas and extra help was given to two homeless families to provide them with shelter and the necessities of life.
The childrens' needs are made known to Pawasol, not only directly by the people involved, but also by various organizations, such as the St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association, Dunnottar School (special education school), the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, the Child Development and Guidance Centre, the Headmasters and Mistresses of schools, CARE, and many more.
Any help that is given is always gratefully received and appreciated and spent 100% on the children.