I feel just terrible for you mom. She must have been devastated. I know I would be. But the icing on the cake is that the Society wouldn't return her deposit. That is a lot of money to lose when you are living on a fixed income or for anyone for that matter.
It doesn't sound right. Because as a rule when a package is that expensive they should automatically have got insurance in case of not being able to go. Like if she were ill they still wouldn't give her deposit back.? It doesn't make sense. I would have your mom check that out and see if insurance was made availabe at the time of booking. I know when I have travelled in the past I took out insurance and got my money back. You know she could have paid about 1500.00$ round trip and stayed with a witness. I am sure that there are many witnesses who would gladly welcome her into their home. She still has time to write the Brothers in Austraila and tell the brothers she is looking for a pen pal and then she could correspond with a witness friend and maybe they would open their home for her to stay during the convention. I mean $5000.00 is really expensive. I know Australians are very very friendly people too.
I have had a cyberfriend in Australia for several years . They are a wonderful family not witnesses. But they told me if I just got to Australia they would take care of me. My friend said even if I didn't have enough money they would see that I had a wonderful memorable stay with them. I have a sister and brother in law in Queensland and I have my niece and nephew with their families there. They are all Jehovah's witnesses. So maybe your mom could get a penpal or cyberpal witness. I think it would be worth a try.
I just feel so sad for her though. I think if they don't give her money back they are really quite cruel as they all know of her finicial circumstances. And as someone said I guess that Jehovah didn't answer prayer. So she must be feeling pretty terrible.
My thought are with you and her.