BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
It is believed that guardian angels are assigned to protect us here on this Earth, to guide us and aide us through difficult times. Now and again we notice signs or subtle hints of their presence, and sometimes they take on the form of individuals looking to lend a helping hand to those in need.
On Saturday, October 28th, the Caribbean Children’s Foundation (TCCF) hosted their 17th annual Angel Gala in fundraising efforts to assist critically ill children living in the Caribbean. Founded in 2000 TCCF was established to help children from the Caribbean who were suffering from life-threatening ailments.
For parents with children suffering from childhood illnesses life becomes challenging, precautions need to be taken, and sick children need constant care and attention the more severe the situation. It is a difficult and emotional time for many involved, as well as expensive to receive the treatment or surgeries they might need. Many families in this situation cannot afford to pay for the treatment a child might need that could potentially save their life.
Imagine being a parent in this situation praying and hoping for a miracle to save your child’s life. Sixteen years ago, when a little girl from Trinidad by the name of Nirvana Garb was diagnosed with a brain tumour at The Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, her family saddened and desperate for hope did exactly that, prayed for a miracle, anything that could potentially save her life. Nirvana was in need of a very complicated brain surgery that cost $90,000, and her parents did not have the funds to cover the cost of something that could potentially save their daughter’s life. Fortunately for Nirvana, her Guardian Angels were watching over her. The Caribbean Community rallied together to raise the money for Nirvana’s surgery in one month. Nirvana was able to have a successful surgery and survived to celebrate her 16th Birthday.
At the 17th Annual Angels Gala, people came out to show their support and offer their own pledges to the foundation working to help children like Nirvana suffering from life-threatening childhood illnesses. Attendees were encouraged to donate and were able to hear stories of other children who had been helped through the efforts of TCCF.
“Nine years ago I got involved in TCCF and during that time I took a simple sheet and I went around the office where I worked and started soliciting funds,” Robert Rupnarain, a longtime supporter of TCCF shares. After retiring he wasn’t able to give back to the fund in the same way he had hoped, but in memory of his mother and father Dorothy and James Rupnarain, Robert Rupnarain donated $10,000 to TCCF the night of the Gala, a charity close to his heart and one of three that he hopes to give back to on his bucket list.
Other generous donations pledged at the evening’s gala included $10,340 from The Brij Team, led by President of TCCF Jay Brijpaul, $2,600 presented by Marian Bhim from Magna International, who had raised a total of $8,000 and a portion was donated to Sick Kids Hospital, and the Caribbean Chorale of Toronto with a donation of $1,000. 100% of all these proceeds donated goes straight to facilitating Caribbean Children in receiving the medical treatment they need as quickly as possible.
Since 2000 the TCCF has paid over $1.5 Million for surgeries, and the children assisted come from islands throughout the Caribbean like Antigua, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Dominican Republic. They pride themselves on being transparent as they are managed and run by reputable, established and trusted individuals. Individuals who donate to TCCF know exactly where their money is going, each donation is tax deductible, and there is no payroll; everyone from the CEO to the field workers is a volunteer and dedicates their time to the charity.
It was an evening of elegance, high spirits, and hope of a better future for Caribbean Children. Supporters were invited to attend the Annual Angels Gala, in hopes of raising awareness, giving back, and sharing in the TCCF’s mission to enable poor and critically ill Caribbean children to receive the specialized medical care they need, as quickly as possible. Guests were able to network and socialize while enjoying the vocal talents of songstress Jennifer Sohan enticing guests with timeless oldies to take a spin around the dance floor in celebration of the evening’s events.
Throughout the night there were many stories shared of the children helped by TCCF including a slideshow of photos of some of the little angel’s lives who have been touched by the continued efforts of TCCF suffering from congenital heart disease, brain tumours, scoliosis and many other ailments. Another inspiring story of an angel touched through TCCF, was 16-year-old Roushan Able who noticed his ribcage expanding, and experienced excruciating pain in the middle of his back. Roushan was suffering from severe scoliosis, and his spine was curving inward into his ribcage, stunting his growth and causing him terrible back pain. Through the help and efforts of TCCF and SpineHope in Austin, Texas he was able to get the two surgeries he needed to correct and straighten his spine, allowing him to reach new heights and stand straight and proud.
“In the beginning it would cost us a lot more to provide these children with the help that they needed, having to bring them from the Caribbean to the hospitals where they could receive the surgeries or treatment they need.” shared Jay Brijpaul, President of TCCF. “It now costs us cheaper to have the ability to have these surgeries performed in the countries or the homes where these children live enabling the parents to get support from the family and take better care during recovery.”
TCCF has three international partners that include Herbie Foundation, International Children’s Heart Foundation (ICHF), BabyHeart, and SpineHope. They are currently in negotiations with another partner Gift of Life International (GOLI) for a treatment center in Jamaica.
“We’ve come very far in seventeen years, but we still have a long way to go,” Brijpaul said. “Every child has a story to tell and our vision is to remove all barriers, especially financial, between a critically ill Caribbean child and access to proper medical treatment and care.”
TCCF would like to thank all of those individuals who attended the annual Angels Gala for coming out showing their support and donating to the foundation. They are proud to have a community that stands behind them with many businesses and organizations that donate to the charity on a regular basis, as well as their numerous media partners spreading word of their cause.
The foundation would like to recognize their many volunteers who have so willingly dedicated their time to the organization as well as Inspire2Act the youth division of The Caribbean Children Foundation whose aim is to Educate, Engage, and Empower the next generation to connect with their communities and bring the vision and mission of TCCF to attention.
The continued efforts of the TCCF driven by the faith and hope shared by the critically ill children and their families. In seventeen years TCCF has paid for 180 surgeries and they are recognized internationally and through their major partners that include Sick Kids Hospital/Herbie Fund which is the largest pediatric and academic health science center in Canada; The International Children’s Heart Foundation, whose mission is to bring the skills, technology and knowledge to cure and care for children with congenital heart disease in developing nations and Spine Hope, whose goals are to help correct spinal deformities and to provide state of the art treatment for children.
A little goes a long way, pledge to be a critically ill child’s Guardian Angel today, and change their lives for the better.