looking for sponsors: Children's Life Fund CEO Michael Daniell, left, chats with chairman Varun Maharaj during a reception hosted by the Fund last Friday at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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Life Fund seeks to help more kids for less

Board working on foreign team of doctors for local operations

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

The Children's Life Fund is looking at new mechanisms to accomplish its mandate of giving the nation's sick children a second chance at life.

K Michael Daniell, the new chief executive officer of the Children's Life Fund, in an interview with the Sunday Express on Friday, said he was excited about being at the helm of the fund and the work before him.

"Today, I looked at a list in excess of 100 children with heart diseases, and the cost to send them to the (United) States for treatment is significant. We will never have enough money in the fund to do it, so we have to find other mechanisms."

Some of these mechanisms would be to explore fundraising, have a transfer of technology from foreign doctors, get teams of doctors to come to Trinidad to assist in treatment and collaborate with larger funds and hospitals abroad on an ongoing basis.

"But it is a process...it is going to take some time, but in the meantime, we can't wait; we really have to assist these children, and most of them are born with these things and have to have treatment within the first year of their lives because they degenerate very fast," he said.

Daniell said the fund has been getting to see medical cases first hand since it was located at the Paediatric Ward of the Wendy Fitzwilliam Children's Hospital at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.

Chairman of the Children's Life Fund Varun Maharaj told the Sunday Express it had received possibly 150 to 200 applications since the establishment of the fund in 2011, but not all of those fit the criteria necessary for funding.

"People came to the authority having sick children but not understanding the legislation under which we are governed.

So people came having sick children, but it was not life-threatening or it was life-threatening but could be treated in Trinidad," Maharaj said.

He said in order to assist a greater number of people at a lower cost, they were looking at getting a team of doctors to come here to do a number of operations.

"But in order to do that, and the Ministry of Health is on board with this, we need to address both the pre-care and the post-care before, and that is what the minister (of Health Dr Fuad Khan) is working on before we can get a team of doctors to Trinidad to carry out these operations.

In addition, he said the board has had its challenges with regard to investing the funds, which is one of the mandates of the board, but they have been looking at different options to invest the funds in such a way that its capital is preserved.

"We have been able to overcome some of those things, and within the last couple weeks, we have been finding local avenues to invest the fund, but the majority of it may be invested abroad," he said.

Asked about the contributions from Government ministers and whether they were being paid, he said:

"They have started to come in as of November/December, but there is a reconciliation process taking place at the Ministry of Finance and we are seeing the flows.

I can't tell you the number of ministers from whom we have seen the lumpsums that relate to the years previous to June 2012, but they are coming in."

Maharaj said the fund had a number of individual sponsors and some corporate sponsors but would like to see a larger number of corporate sponsors get on board.

"I think this is a worthy cause. Anyone who works anywhere has children, and there are tax benefits for members of the public who want to contribute to the Children's Life Fund of up to 15 per cent of their chargeable income for individuals.

It can amount to reducing your taxes by as much as four per cent. But large corporate sponsors can benefit even more so, and it is a worthy cause."

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