Kavalas prepare to hold last luncheon for seniors

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

AS Dr Mallikharjuna Rao Kavala prepares to host his final senior citizens luncheon which has become a popular event on Grand Bahama, the physician's legacy of service, kindness and caring for people will always be remembered.

For the past 22 years, Dr Kavala and his wife Nalini have touched the lives of hundreds of seniors on the island through their annual event at St Stephen's Parish Hall in Eight Mile Rock.

The luncheon, which also features live gospel entertainment by The Cooling Waters group, has grown throughout the years catering to more than 500 seniors exceeding the hall's capacity and is now held under large canopy tents on the church grounds.

This year, the Kavalas will hold their last luncheon on April 26. Dr Kavala said many people have come on board to help make the event a success over the past 20 years.

He said the event takes months of planning and preparation and he is no longer able to continue because of his age.

"When I started 22 years ago, I was still a physician in the government service," he recalled. "I would ask the nurses to collect the names of the senior citizens in Eight Mile Rock and send the fruit baskets to everyone."

After a couple of years, the physician decided to bring everyone together by hosting a luncheon. Since then, every year the event has been expanded to include seniors in other settlements and eventually the entire island.

Dr Kavala bussed seniors from far away from settlements in East Grand Bahama to the event every year.

"In the early years, my wife and myself and one or two other persons would go to the hall with the brooms to clean and decorate the room, and we started with 100 or so seniors," he recalled.

The event soon spurred community participation, and residents wanted to become involved. Former Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin and other Cabinet ministers, MPs, and local government officials have attended the event.

According to Dr Kavala, an invitation has been extended this year to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis in addition to other government officials.

The physician said the event has brought him much satisfaction over the years, especially seeing the smiles on the faces of the seniors enjoying themselves.

"I feel very good about it because we must remember our seniors and to take care of them and show them that they are appreciated, and that is why it has expanded to this level," he said.

Dr Kavala said despite his busy schedule as a doctor, he and his wife always found time to devout to the charitable event. He said he hopes the activity is continued by energetic and enthusiastic young people.

Mrs Kavala said she is very proud of her husband.

Dr Kavala, who is a native of India, also travels back to his home country and hosts a similar luncheon for people there.

He was recruited in 1982 as a general practitioner working in a government clinic in Andros. He moved to Grand Bahama in 1984 and was stationed at Eight Mile Rock where he served 34 years before retiring from government service.

"For the first 15 years I was the only physician in EMR, the biggest settlement in the Bahamas. I am the longest serving physician in government," he said.

After his retirement, Dr Kavala remained in the Eight Mile Rock community where he lives and operates his private practice.

He thanked persons such as Ralph Russell who allowed him to use a small building to start his practice. After purchasing a house from the Butlers, Dr Kavala said Henry Johnson got architectural drawings for the clinic.

The Kavalas' two daughters - Gita Kavala, who specialises in global health at the University of New York, and Latha Kavala, who has been working at Jarvik Heart, which manufactures artificial hearts - attend the luncheon every year.