Monday morning, the slightly cooler December air had me battling temptations to yield to an extra few minutes of sleep. But duty called. I had an appointment to keep—with the wife of our nation’s prime minister. When I called to confirm, Raquel Du Boulay-Chastanet sounded as bubbly as someone who’d just received by special delivery all of her Christmas wishes. Of course, the reason she was so energized had everything to do with her second Officers’ Ball, created as a fundraiser to benefit the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and the fire service—an activity associated with her Make It Happen Foundation formed at her husband’s behest to use her platform to benefit others soon after he became the island’s prime minister.
Getting involved with something for the police came naturally to her. As she told me, being an attorney had already provided the opportunity to discover the difficult circumstances of the police. Besides, DuBoulay’s Bottling Company, her family business, is located on the doorstep of police headquarters, and the family has always maintained a very close relationship with the police force over the years.
She spoke with regret about the less than conducive conditions under which the police and firefighters carry out their vital duties: from poor accommodations to a gross lack of facilities for work and recreation. “Yet, we expect when we call they must immediately respond, even if it means putting their lives at risk because they are ill-equipped to carry out their duties to the best of their ability.” Raquel is dedicated to making life easier for the protectors of our lives and property.
Last December saw the Make It Happen Foundation’s inaugural fundraiser, the first annual Officers’ Ball, tickets to which sold out in less than two weeks. This year’s tickets, she is happy to report, sold out in just four days. But ticket sales alone wouldn’t take Make It Happen very far and Raquel couldn’t be more grateful for the donations from entities at home and from caring Saint Lucians abroad.
The evening also promises an exciting auction, raffle and door prizes, which are a common feature of her fundraisers. The second annual Officers’ Ball will be hosted at Sandals Grande this evening.
STAR: What can your supporters look forward to this time?
Raquel: The Royal Saint Lucia Police Band who are always amazing, Ricky T, Frankie D, a surprise guest artiste from Jamaica and your publisher, who is not allowed to say no to me for my fundraisers. He has assisted me in my events for the last four or five years, going back to when I was raising funds for my children’s school. We have dozens of door and raffle prizes and also some amazing auction items, including tickets for a seven-day Royal Caribbean Cruise and gorgeous jewellery from
Harry Edwards and Diamonds International. My favourite artiste Jallim Eudovic, who is incredibly talented and always supports my fundraising efforts, will be auctioning a special sculpture. The ladies from The Soup talk show will also be on hand to see who’s wearing what and to interview those wearing dresses and clothing made by local designers, which is always something I am keen to promote. Of course I will be wearing at least two gowns from my go-to gal Queen Esther to showcase the sort of local talent we have here.
STAR: Why the Christmas season for your Officers’ Ball?
Raquel: Because it’s immediately after Police Week, and because it’s the time of year when everyone is in a mood to celebrate and to get all dressed up.
STAR: What has been the response from officers and their families?
Raquel: Incredible. Those who have spoken to me have been so grateful for the little that we have done. The ones from Gros Islet and Laborie have been particularly happy to have a hot water heater, having to bathe in cold water for years. The Choiseul officers got a completely refurbished station although I was disappointed we could not afford to redo their kitchen this year. The Gros Islet officers have told me they are very much enjoying their new lounge and recreational area. I have been fortunate to get to know dozens of them over the past year and I feel privileged to be in the position to be able to help them, even if in a small way.
STAR: Was everything done for the police and firefighters funded by the budget of last year’s ball?
Raquel: Primarily, yes. But we had several companies, which made financial and other donations, which helped our cause enormously. Please permit me the space to thank a few of the major ones: George Elisee of Model Homes was a gem and oversaw the larger remedial works at the Choiseul, Laborie and Gros Islet Police Stations, at no charge. Brice and Company, through Godfrey Jn Baptiste, provided water heaters and faucets, some free and others at substantially reduced prices. M&C was a terrific partner and assisted us in building the Odsan Primary School Library. IGY gave us a US$10,000 donation!
STAR: What was a favourite aspect from last year’s ball?
Raquel: One of my favourite moments from the ball was a recognition ceremony where we honoured with awards and prizes three retired police officers and two fire officers. It was particularly moving to see these persons get the long overdue respect they were owed for their lifetime of service. Inspector Gerald Cyril, a childhood hero of mine and, in my view, one of the great legends of law enforcement in Saint Lucia, gave an incredible speech about the meaning of being a police officer, and extolled the virtues of discipline, honesty and integrity. He also bemoaned the fact that after a lifetime of sacrifice it took the private sector to say thank-you and to give him this recognition. We were thrilled to see several months later that he was the recipient of a Queen’s Honour as MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire).
STAR: How has the Prime Minister supported this cause?
Raquel: Allen has been hugely supportive and helps me in many ways with this initiative. The main way I want him to help, though, is to mobilize his government to address the critical needs of all our police and fire officers. I know it can’t happen overnight but I would love to see mandatory life and medical insurance offered to all police and fire officers, and other incentives such as duty-free vehicles or reduced interest rates on home loans. I believe this would attract young, dynamic and capable persons to the police force and fire service. We need to get back to that time when young persons in society looked up to these officers and when officers conducted themselves in a manner befitting of their offices. But I think it starts with all of us treating them better. Only when we do this,in my view, can we expect better of them. Only when better is given can we seriously talk about moving forward toward a developed and progressive society where law and order prevails.