A wonderful moment of collective healing Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 21, 2002

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LAST Thursday afternoon, the ‘Voice of the People’ programme on CNS Channel Six began in much the usual way. The substantive host Mr C.N. Sharma, who is also the owner of the television station, was sharing the programme with his good friend, Mr Sherwood Kendall, and they had recited the usual litany of woes of poverty and crime being on the increase. But on this Thursday afternoon, something was a little different. First, an unlikely duo of a Rastaman and a female Hindu singer improvised and performed a song. Then Mr Sharma presented a physically-challenged man with a wheelchair. Then there came a young woman with an ailing daughter. The child, the woman told the programme, was afflicted with a serious blood disease and needed urgent medical treatment overseas. The woman explained that the sum of US$8,000 has been approved by the Government for the child’s treatment, but that she needed something in the region of another US$16,000 to cover all the costs. All this while, the ailing child, a beautiful girl with large soulful eyes, lay against her mother’s breast probably too shy or too ill to sit up on her own.

Suddenly, things began to happen. Someone passed by the CNS Studio on King Street and sent in $1,000 for the child. Then another person came in and presented his offering. Within half an hour, what began as the sad tale of a child needing medical assistance, assumed the groundswell of a well-organised and promoted national telethon.

A steady stream of humanity bearing myriad sums of money flowed into the crowded CNS Studio. Many of the donors were humble, working-class people, who opened their hearts to the child’s plight and donated whatever they could. Employees of many offices and agencies pooled little sums of money and sent them to Channel Six; overseas-based Guyanese donated sterling pounds and United States currency; businessmen brought or sent special donations; a butcher from the Bourda Municipal Market came to bring a small collection; minibus operators presented donations; a female pensioner brought to mind the New Testament story of the widow, who gave all that she had (a few farthings). That elderly woman donated $1,000, a sum that translates into 75 per cent of her monthly Old Age Pension. Men came with donations saying their wives had called them on their mobile telephones and asked them to give some money to a woman and child “at Sharma”. Scores of people did not want to be seen on camera so they just sent in their contributions. Several others presented their gifts, touched the child or the mother and expressed the hope that the treatment would be successful. Little schoolboys, pleased as ‘Punch’ to be on television, chatted happily with Mr Sharma before turning away.

By this time, probably the entire Greater Georgetown was tuned in to Channel Six and all the viewers were held enthralled by the human drama unfolding before their very eyes. Mr Sharma announced that he was extending the time-slot of the programme and the stream of donors continued. People of all races and all walks of life were for those two or more hours at one in their effort to help bring relief to a suffering innocent child. In those few hours, Guyanese forgot their internecine verbal war and the pall of criminal violence that has vexed the nation in recent months, and responded unrestrainedly to a very human situation - a child in mortal distress. It was what Archbishop Desmond Tutu would call “a holy moment”. And it convicted those sceptics, who are so sure that their nation is headed for civil strife and social disintegration. It also re-invigorated the aspirations of those who are of the view that this nation could be saved and that Guyanese could, by commitment and sheer effort of will, pull themselves back from the brink of utter destabilisation.

It was a wonderful moment of collective healing.