September 2001

Hi Everyone, I finally found time to write a few short stories about my three week trip to Calcutta, India. This past trip was happy, sad, and frustrating – all in one. To be honest, I don’t know where to start. I feel it is very important that I tell you about the frustrating part first.
As many of you know, many donated items (toys, dolls, clothes, etc.) were collected for the poor children in Calcutta. All items would be distributed during my visit in December 2000. Everything was going perfect. I had many donations: Six 55 gallon drums were full to the top with donations for the children. AEA Technology in Burlington, MA stepped forward again to ship everything free of charge to Calcutta with the help of International Specialists, Boston, MA.

I agreed to be responsible for any duty, local taxes, and local shipping costs once everything arrived in Calcutta by ship. The consignments, totaling 791 lbs., left Boston by ship to Calcutta via Singapore on September 1, 2000. Everything arrived on time in Calcutta on October 19, 2000.

I was to meet up with the consignments in November and personally distribute all the beautiful donated items to the children with the people who help me in India. I am sorry to say I did not meet up with everything. Indian Customs officials would not clear the consignments as charity.

I made a big mistake – I sent everything to St. Vincents home. I visit many children at St. Vincents, it is right around the corner from where I stay in Calcutta. EVERYTHING I have ever sent to Calcutta has gone to St. Vincents. I found out that St. Vincents is not a registered charity. So, Customs would not clear my cargo. I spent six full days and two half days at the Custom house with AKB Shipping Agency trying in vein to get the donations cleared.

I met with the Commissioner of Central Excise and wrote to the Ambassador of India, and the Mayor of Calcutta. I went to every office in the Custom House doing my best to clear the consignments. I spent so much time in the Custom House, I felt like I worked there.

Mr. Bibhash Nandy of AKB Shipping in Calcutta did everything he could to help me. Sister Teresa Anthony of St. Vincents did all she could to help me. I asked the Salvation Army (who is a registered charity) to help me. Captain Chhotka Hembrom did not waste a minute and did his very best for many days to help me. I also had my Indian Mum and Uncle and other special friends also trying to help me.

What bothered me the most was, I spent many of my days in Calcutta not with the children, as I had planned. Instead, I was involved in government red tape. I agreed to pay storage and duty charges to clear everything before I left to go back to the USA. The donations were still in a locked up warehouse in Calcutta at the time of my departure. I was leaving everything up to the people who helped me in Calcutta to clear the donations.

Did you ever mail a letter to an address and try to change it at the post office? That’s what had to be done and this was inter-country mailing addresses with the Customs office overseeing everything. It was very frustrating to leave India and not have my work complete. Most of all I did not know what would happen to all the donations I was responsible for.

It took six months and four days, but FINALLY everything got cleared on April 23,2001. The donations were brought to the Salvation Army home for safe keeping until I arrive this November 2001, to distribute them.

I gave a great deal of thought to all of this and lost many nights sleep over it. The best and only way that the consignments would be cleared was to pay duty and storage charges. As the president of Angels from Heaven, I was the person responsible for the address mistake and will pay all duty and storage charges out of my personal money. The total cost is $717. Your donations were given for the children not for duty and storage charges.

We all tried to help poor children. No questions asked or no big pat on the back. Our missing is very simple “HELP CHILDREN” in some small way. I consider this a bump in the road and will continue to help poor children any way that I can. There are many good parts to this trip that I will write about in this newsletter. If anyone would like to call me with any questions feel free to do so I would love talking to you about any part or all of my trip.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned from all of this besides the shipping problems, is helping poor children is not an easy thing to do! It takes many hours of hard work. I am looking forward to my trip in November. I am going to spend every day with the children! I will have six drums full of your beautiful donations to give to the poor children.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you for helping the children and trusting me to help them. To my friends in India, I will never forget your hard work to help get the consignments cleared. You never gave up! What would I ever do without all of you? Thanks again for your continued support!

Ray O’Brien (Uncle)

While in Calcutta…
Some of the places I visited:
International Mission of Hope (IMH)
Society of Indian Children’s Welfare(SICW)
Missionaries of Charity
Loreto Day School
St. Vincents Home
The Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption
St. Paul’s School
Salvation Army Girls Home
Don Bosco Ashalayam
St. Thomas Technical School
Adarsha Hindi Vidyalaya School
Custom House on Strand Road