Helping them to Smile Again
HIV-positive children are one of the most vulnerable groups of abandoned kids. Many are orphans who have been thrown out of their homes by family members who fear infection and social stigma.
On the streets, they are exploited and abused, have no access to healthcare, and are discriminated against and stigmatised.
As Pr.Reji Thomas family started growing with more children coming home, Thomas took a tough decision to only care for boys between the ages of 5-16 years.
His wife, Mini, is a pillar of strength and constant support. A nurse, she monitors the health of the children and ensures their antiretroviral therapy drugs are administered regularly. She also cooks their meals and is their emotional crutch. The children call her "mummy".
One of the older children is Suraj, 16. "Papa Reji is our papa. He cares for us and we love him. He never pushes us away."
BLESS Foundation rented house is modest and neat. Foam mattresses for sleeping double as seating arrangements during the day. When Thomas took the first group of children, he had no money and furniture. The family was sleeping on mats on the floor. One of the children, who had tuberculosis, required a low bed. Friends and visitors began making contributions with mattresses, cots, chairs, and food
While Thomas manages the home through these contributions and donations, he wants to move to a bigger dwelling to give the children more space.
Joy, 5, came into their lives when he was 18-months old. His mother, a sex worker, had abandoned him on the street. He was underweight, listless, and withdrawn. No one knew his name. Thomas brought him home and named him Joy. He was nurtured back to health and has blossomed in the loving environment. Ask the active boy his name and with a big smile he replies, "Joy Reji Thomas!" He gets anxious, however, if someone playfully suggests there is no food in the house. Having lived on the streets, with only hunger to remember it by, he has to be reassured he will always get a meal.
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