- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Former heavyweight champion and philanthropist Evander Holyfield showed up at the State Department yesterday with eight Indian orphan girls in tow, pleading for a visa for the caretaker of a ninth orphan fighting for her life at Children’s Hospital in Washington.

“One of the little girls has diabetes and is in critical condition. Her caretaker needs to come but can’t get a visa,” Mr. Holyfield said in a telephone interview as he stood outside the State Department’s doors.

The hospital has said it cannot release the child without training her custodian in how to monitor 11-year-old Shyamala Peddibotla’s blood sugar level and administer shots of insulin, according to a hospital letter made available to The Washington Times.

If the caregiver — a woman who has tended to Shyamala for the past five years — does not receive a visa, Mr. Holyfield said, the child’s position “is kind of bleak.”

It was a fairy tale visit to the United States that ended up in a bureaucratic nightmare.

Global Peace Initiative (GPI), an organization that works with street children, widows and refugees, had put together a round-the-world tour for the girls that included a state dinner organized by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and a private reception at the home of Carl Lindner, owner of the Cincinnati Reds.

When the visas for the girls’ three caregivers from the orphanage in Hyderabad, India, were refused, an Indian lawmaker stepped in to accompany the girls.

But Shyamala became seriously ill while in Washington on Thursday night, and was rushed to the hospital. GPI coordinator Doug Dodson said she had been on the verge of slipping into a coma and on Monday was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

“She was rescued off the streets,” Mr. Dodson said. “The only mother this little girl has is the caregiver, Lakshmi Chodisetty.”

He said the visa had been denied without any explanation by the U.S. consular section in Madras, India.

K.A. Paul, who heads GPI and has placed hundreds of thousands of orphans around the world, was frustrated by the slow State Department response.

“One little orphan is in the hospital fighting for her life. This is just stupid bureaucracy,” he said.

Asked why the group had gone ahead with the U.S. visit after the caregivers’ visas were refused, Mr. Paul said: “We could not break our promises.”

The standoff finally ended in the late afternoon when Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, met with the group and said she would apprise officials in Madras of the situation.

“She was very gracious and said she would do everything in her power” to help, Mr. Dodson said.

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