Bequest buoys AIDS research

By on May 1, 2004

A man whose son died of AIDS in 1991 and his wife a year later of a heart attack has left his estate valued at almost $490,000 to an AIDS research facility in a country where he sought refuge from the grief over his double loss: Cuba.

In making the bequest, Doug Blanchard had sought the help of Rev. Ed Schmitt, then a priest at St. Agnes church in North Vancouver, according to Monica Farrell, his bequest executor. He was also assisted by David Hamid, who was then director of ecumenical affairs and relations for the Anglican Consultative Council in London.

After sorting out bureaucratic details, the bequest was recently given to the AIDS department at Centro de Ingenieria Genetica y Biotechnologia (CIGB) after Mr. Blanchard died in July 2001.

“He loved the people of Cuba and did all he could to improve their homes and begin successful farming,” wrote Ms. Farrell in a letter to Rev. Philip Wadham, regional mission co-ordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Anglican Church of Canada. Ms. Farrell, who was a neighbor of Mr. Blanchard, added, “It’s amazing how many people contributed to his cause once they knew of it. I lost count of the number of parcels in school supplies and toys and vitamins we packed up and sent in between his trips.”

According to Ms. Farrell, Mr. Blanchard’s gift would “fulfill a promise that he had made to his son “to try to make a difference in the search for a cure.”

Dr. Carlos A. Duarte Cano, head of the AIDS department at CIGB, said he and his colleagues were “quite surprised” when they received notice of the gift. He added, “When we knew better about Doug’s life and motivations we felt very touched with his sufferings and sensibility and how he loved our country and committed himself to help the Cuban people at the end of his life.”

He said that the money would fund research projects of CIGB, in collaboration with other Cuban research centres, which are aimed at developing new drugs or a vaccine against AIDS. It will also be used to buy equipment, reagents and laboratory supplies.

Cuba has a 0.05 per cent AIDS incidence rate, “one of the lowest in the world,” said Dr. Cano.

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