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• WHO SAID THERE ISN’T A SANTA?

• WHO SAID THERE ISN’T A SANTA?

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By Jude Knight

There were mixed emotions of joy and tears as a joint team from SEARCHLIGHT and the Barbados NATION newspapers, bearing gifts, arrived at Overland, a village just over the Dry River on the windward side of mainland St. Vincent. {{more}}

Making the long trek on Tuesday, December 21, Tim Slinger, senior news editor at the NATION along with Antoine Millar, a photographer also of the NATION and I, chief sub-editor of SEARCHLIGHT. Among the several gifts were a computer, a bicycle, dollhouses and dolls, a remote controlled car along with other presents for other children in the neighbourhood.

Natasha, 13, Natesha, 10, Courtney, 6, and Chevonna, 5, all had their wishes granted, with more to spare. The only thing not ready was their new concrete house, which is still under construction and will not be ready by Christmas Day. But the family is totally satisfied that it will be completed by January next year.

“I feel real good!”

That was the cry of Courtney, as he ripped open his gifts only to see that what he was praying for this whole season had arrived. And Natasha’s emotions were evident as she tried hard to fight back tears on realising she got the computer she wished for, with printer to boot.

“This is what I wanted,” said Natasha as she explained that she used to do computer classes in Barbados. “I didn’t know it was going to come.”

Natasha also said she wants to attend computer classes again sometime soon. Although Chevanna didn’t say much, you could tell in her eyes that her prayers were answered. And Natesha, always sporting a broad, beautiful smile, hugged her guests and expressed her thanks.

Last year Christmas these young children must have been wondering why their little lives were disrupted in such tragic fashion, as they were forced to struggle without their mother. Their mother, Pamela DaSouza, was brutally slashed to death in front of them on August 17, 2003, in Barbados, by a man known to them.

Since then, they were uprooted and dispatched to St. Vincent to reside with their grandparents Albon, 71, and Vectorine, 70, in a tiny wooden house they called home. But all was not lost, as two caring nations joined together to give them new hope.

On July 30, this year, both SEARCHLIGHT and the NATION newspapers started a series of articles to highlight the plight of this family. And this appeal didn’t fall on deaf ears.

Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne and his wife Lady Ballantyne, Sylvia DeFreitas, owner of the Nightingale Book Shop, among others, started the ball rolling by personally visiting the village bearing gifts and financial relief for the family. The appeal also touched caring couples David and Christine Clarke, and Philip and Michelle Edwards from Living Room Ministries, a cell-based Christian organisation in Barbados, and another couple who prefer not to have their names mentioned. These groups banded together and along with Vincentian businessman Oswald Veira of General & Maritime Agencies Limited set about to build the DaSouzas a new home.

When we visited the area, workmen were busy completing the roof. Though the house is not yet finished, all the funds for its necessary completion have been secured. But the most emotional and touching moment was Vectorine hugging Slinger on departure and saying: “I had no money, nothing. I must say thanks to everybody who help me,” she exclaimed.

This started tears flowing again, and clearly, Slinger was totally overcome by the moment. One would have had to be there from the beginning to fully understand why.

This time last Christmas season, the DaSouzas were shattered, their lives filled with hopelessness and despair. Now that has been replaced this year with joy and cheer. We could never bring back their loved one, but what we brought were love, joy, peace and most of all, hope.

Who said there isn’t a Santa?

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