Source: Kaieteur News, March 3, 2013

The Three Rivers Kids Foundation (TRKF) is a charitable organization which was set up in 2005 by Canadian-based Guyanese Nurse, Ms. Jeannette Singh. It has been dedicated to helping particularly those families who are too poor to afford much needed overseas care for their children. There are hundreds of sick and poor children in Guyana who are in desperate need of life-saving medical interventions which cannot be done here. TRKF provides a ray of hope for those families, some of whom have been shunned in their time of need by the very people that they call their relatives and friends.

I managed to make contact with the just a few of the parents of these children who underwent life-saving surgeries in India via this foundation. They all attributed their children’s health to the Three Rivers Kids Foundation which they described as light in a dark tunnel.

There is little Mohamed Farad Ali of Goed Intent, West Bank Demerara who visited India in one of the most recent (January last) batches. Farad’s mother, Ramrattia Nagssar during our chat, said that he was delivered at home by his father, and that he was born wrapped in the umbilical cord. His skin had a “bluish” colour. “Farad had to be delivered at home because of the doctors. I coulda feel like I was ready to deliver, so I went to Public Hospital (Georgetown Public Hospital). The doctors there told me that I wasn’t ready to deliver, so I went back home. That same night I take in and me husband had to deliver my baby,” Nagssar explained. She added that “after he come out blue, my husband ask me if is so he supposed to be, so we get scared.” Ever since he was born, Farad was being treated at the West Demerara Regional Hospital for asthma.

It was weeks before Farad turned three years old, he was visiting relatives on the East Bank of Demerara with his mother who was forced to take him to the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, and while little Farad was receiving oxygen, a Cuban doctor passed by and opined that the child might have a serious heart condition. He attributed his suspicions to the fact that Farad’s fingernails were identical to those of persons with heart conditions.

Unfortunately, it was soon after that a second opinion from the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI) which is located in the compound of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), confirmed that Farad did indeed have a serious heart ailment. His family was devastated. Not only because he was very sick, but because they did not have the resources needed to facilitate his treatments overseas.

After being diagnosed, Farad started receiving temporary treatment at the GPHC, but this could only keep him alive for a short while. Nagssar recalls one afternoon when she was at a breaking point, a technician at CHI told her about a charitable foundation called the Three Rivers Kids Foundation. He gave her the address and Nagssar did not hesitate. She immediately went down to the foundation’s Woolford Avenue Office located in the compound of Gandhi’s Youth Organization. But they were closed. “When I walked in the yard, the office door was closed. But I didn’t lose hope. From the time I walked into this compound, I knew God was with me, and I knew this was going to work…I collect the phone number, the poster, and I called first thing next morning,” Nagssar said.
She added that she poured her heart out to the Secretary to the Foundation, Mrs. Lita Gayadin, who then made contact with Founder Jeannette Singh and explained Farad’s case.

Nagssar was made to fill out a form based upon Farad’s condition and this was forwarded to doctors in India who posted a list of medications that the child should be given. Farad’s medication was immediately changed and soon after he was accepted on the ‘next’ batch (January last). Nagssar was down to her last penny with medications when she was told that she had to arrange monies to facilitate her travels to India. Three Rivers would take up full financial responsibility for the child. However, coming from a not so wealthy family background, Nagssar was not able to arrange much money. A few relatives chipped in and Nagssar only had money to cover her travel expenses from Guyana to Canada.

“I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t arrange anymore money. I tried my best, but that was it. So I went back to the TRKF office and I finally get to meet Aunty Jeanette. I couldn’t help it, I start crying, and with no hesitation she comfort me li’l bit and promised to look after the rest. I can’t even explain to you how I did feel,” Nagssar added.

The parents of nine finally had something to smile about. Farad was slated to leave Guyana on Friday, February 15 with a batch of 11. However, Farad’s case was too severe and could not wait, thus he, along with another emergency patient, Pholmaitie Singh traveled to India with their parents on January 7. They both underwent open heart surgeries at the Max Hospital.

While Farad made a marvelous recovery, little Pholmaitie Singh was not so lucky. The child died on February 4 at age seven, weighing 25 pounds.
It was Pholmaitie’s third open heart surgery. She was suffering from a very complex form of congenital heart disease- Tetralogy of Fallot and pulmonary Atresia. Her last surgery was a very high risk, total correction surgery. This was done on January 22.

Nonetheless, shortly after returning home following a successful surgery, Farad’s family saw him in a new light. He was no longer the kid who sat in the corner alone; he became a jolly little boy who is now singing and dancing, and talking like never before. “Before time, if we get eight words out of him for one day, that was more than enough. But now, Farad is such a happy child. I can’t thank God and TRKF enough. If wasn’t for them, Farad couldn’t do that surgery, and most likely he wouldn’t have been here today.” Nagssar reflected.

A thankful Nagssar noted that the three-year-old is currently following doctor’s order of resting indoors for about three months. He is expected to start nursery school in September.

Then there is Gabrielle Heywood who is now a healthy and very much active five-year-old. Gabrielle was just one year old when she underwent her surgery at the Max Hospital in New Delhi, India, in 2009. She was diagnosed with a ‘hole in the heart’ while she was just one month old.

According to her grandmother, June Halley, soon after birth, Gabrielle was experiencing breathing problems. She explained that without consideration, while her daughter and granddaughter were at the GPHC, a doctor blurted out –”this child look like she got a hole in her heart”. “Me daughter coulda drop dead. That doctor like he didn’t even have a heart,” Halley added.

After months of intense praying, Gabrielle’s family members were able to wipe their tears away after learning about the Three Rivers Kids Foundation. Gabrielle’s family, along with some relatives and family friends were able to raise most of the money. They also received assistance of $1M from the Government of Guyana.

Gabrielle who is now enrolled at the National School of Dance and wants to become a doctor when she grows up. “I want to be a doctor, because when I was sick, it was the doctor that saved me,” the smiling five-year-old noted.

Apart from the regular children patients, there was Mark Anthony Singh. The Goed Fortuin, West Bank Demerara resident was 20 years old when he underwent an eye surgery in February of last year. His problem began when he was a young boy. Singh’s mother, Jean-Ann Singh, explained that Mark, at age seven, “did playing with me neighbour daughter and like he did stoop down by the fence hiding, so the girl jam he and he fall forward, and a nail run into he eye.”

The woman added that upon hearing her son scream, she ran out of the house and attempted to turn him around to see what the matter was. However, fighting to hold back tears, the woman said that her moving her son only resulted in tragedy; Singh’s eye was ripped from its socket. It had been dangling off the side of his face. The frantic woman was then able to rush her son to the West Demerara Regional Hospital just in time. Doctors there were able to replace the child’s eye back into its socket. Singh was prescribed some medication and was sent away.

It was only at age 19 when Mark began experiencing excruciating eye pains. Singh recalled her son constantly crying in pain, saying that his eye felt like it was going to fall back out. It was swollen. Just before the boy turned 21, his mother learnt about the Three Rivers Kids Foundation. Although it is for children, Singh felt that she had to try. She too was lucky enough to have met Ms. Jeanette Singh who agreed to help, despite the fact that TRKF would facilitate mainly heart surgeries. The Government assisted with $1M and the Singh family was also able to raise some money. Mark Anthony Singh who has been spared from a life of darkness, just recently got married to the woman that he loves.

Another 20-year-old to receive help from the TRKF was Keshia Tucker. Doctors in India were surprised that she even made it through the traveling. She was diagnosed with a hole in her heart at age one. She used to perspire profusely, and it was evident that Keshia had not been growing. Her mother tried to get her the help she needed, but it all took a whole lot of time, and lots of money. Keshia was about 11 years old when she underwent her first surgery in Brazil. Her family is still uncertain as to what doctors did exactly.

Keshia Tucker

Nonetheless, Keshia’s mother learnt of the TRKF from a friend, who took her to see an Indian doctor associated with the TRKF, who had been operating a clinic. This paved the road for Keshia to be on a plane with the batch of patients that followed. Soon after her operation there, doctors said that they were stunned at her strength, as they were not sure if she was going to make it through the travel. But she did; that too with much ease. Keshia is now employed in the Portuguese Department of Qualfon. She no longer experiences pains. She hopes to one day get married, and start a family.

If there is one thing that these families share, it is the fact that they have learnt to value life, money, family, and God. Some have witnessed miracles, while just a few have experienced disappointment. Many believe that with the work that it does, the Three Rivers Kids Foundation as well as its Founder, a fully qualified overseas-based Guyanese Nurse, deserve as much praises as they can get.

They all agree that had it not been for the Three Rivers Kids Foundation, their families would not have been as whole as happy as they are today. Ever since its existence, TRKF has given poor families hope. Money is important, and while many may invest theirs in things that will benefit themselves, there are the people who contribute wholesomely to the Three Rivers Kids Foundation. Most of them are overseas-based Guyanese, who, via fundraising dinners, help to raise millions of dollars to facilitate each batch of young children.

To date, TRKF has helped dozens of poor and sick children, and by extension, their families. The foundation initially started off with facilitating mainly heart surgeries, however, it has since extended to other areas like eye and skin treatments.

Those interested in making contact with the Three Rivers Kids Foundation can do so via its Guyana office located at Gandhi Youth Organisation Building, Woolford Avenue, Georgetown on telephone number 225 7758, or its Website at www.threeriverskidsfoundation.org.