DAMON Gilbert has more than one reason to be happy today. For one thing, his search to find his family is now complete. For another, his extended family has grown bigger overnight!
The UK resident has for years been searching for his family, most of whom are based in Saint Lucia. His quest began ever since he learned that his roots in Saint Lucia might be a little deeper than he could have ever imagined.
The floodgates opened with a phone call from a woman named Elvina Marcia Philip who claimed to be Damon’s sister. She had heard about the feature in the Tuesday edition of The VOICE Newspaper. After a quick phone conversation, she made her way to our offices. Marcia came with her heart set on meeting her brother. She wanted to take him to meet his family, which includes an aging auntie. She was also prepared to accompany him to the airport whenever he decided to head back home. Though she was slightly disappointed to have missed him on his December 2018 trip back to Saint Lucia, her excitement didn’t fade.
“I spoke with my cousin from Gros Islet,” she said, “He takes care of our aunt. When I called him he said, ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you, your brother in Saint Lucia, and he’s looking for you.’ I said my brother? Oh my God… He’d gotten a call from someone who’d seen the article.”
Though the appeal made by her brother from the United Kingdom within our publication had been miscommunicated, (the article had not in fact stated he was on island) it had still managed to reel Damon’s family in.
Marcia and I sat in the VOICE’s editorial office scanning through emails and trying to fit together the pieces of a dynamic puzzle. As we sifted through the details, I picked up a copy of the newspaper and read the name of the man Damon had mentioned was his father aloud, then paused as Marcia’s face lit up with recollection.
“Coco?” I prodded. Her face transformed from mild recognition to surprise.
“Ti Coco…” she repeated. “How did you know?”
“He mentioned it in his email,” I told her, as we continued to scan through the article.
Just hearing her father’s nickname quelled any doubt that Damon was in fact her blood brother.
She studied the front page photo and exclaimed, “He looks like daddy… oh my goodness!”
Marcia was the first of a stream of people who sent emails to The VOICE this week asking questions or offering information they hoped would be relevant in helping bring the estranged family together. Marie offered more information on how the disconnect happened.
“His parents were married, but things weren’t going well so she left with him. He was small. Our father never told us what happened. Years later our father’s girlfriend told us Damon had written to our father saying he wanted to come down, but before he came he wanted to know if it was okay for him to come, so he could get to know us. Our father never told us. I asked her to look for the letter so I could get the address and write to him. She looked for it everywhere but never found it. After that our father never had a serious girlfriend.”
While it would seem strange to some that anyone would have a hard time finding family on an island as small as Saint Lucia, Marcia explained, “My aunt told me there was a man in Gros Islet who knew them but he died, and I never got to meet him.”
She also had some devastating news. Their father, whom Damon had never met, died about six years ago.
On Wednesday morning Marcia and Damon’s cousin, Cornbread Chouloutte contacted The VOICE. He was nine years old when Damon was born in 1972.
“When Damon’s mother left, Coco was a young man at that time, living his life,” he said. “When she left, she was either still pregnant, or she already had her child. She left and I never heard a thing about her again.
“It’s sad to see things like that happen,” he said. “It’s sad his mother held him so long from relatives. Sometimes people have that anger, they ignore the whole matter, but at the end of the day, now that he’s married his wife or partner probably wants him to know his family. People must not interfere with kids and their relatives, that’s one thing I’ll never do in my life. If you need to know your family, I will tell you who they are, not keep them away because I have a problem with you.”
On the lighter side, Damon is elated about how quickly things turned around in a search he almost gave up on.
“The VOICE has made this happen!” Damon wrote in an email. “The response to the article has been overwhelming. I have been in touch with a lot of my family. I believe Marcia is my sister which I have just recently found out. I lost 47 years with family I never thought I had…”
So what’s next for the new found siblings?
“I just want to get in contact with my brother,” Marcia said. “I have a 12-year-old son, and I want him to meet his uncle. I’m going overseas in July, so maybe we can make arrangements to meet.”
If plans to meet in July fall through, Damon told The Voice he has plans to come to Saint Lucia this December. He promises to send a photo to us of his long awaited family reunion!