“Rays, as the name says, is a complete place of hope for HIV positive children. For children who are suffering, who have been disowned by society, thinking that they don’t have a right to live because there is a stigma attached to their lives. Our main agenda is to integrate them into mainstream society where they can live a life like you and I live. Absolutely normal” – Shweta, Vice President of Rays
“At risk child”, it’s a term so broad in India that the potential to help seems almost infinite. We commonly hear about child labour, sex trafficking, gender inequality, illiteracy, and destitute poverty intertwined, affecting many of the 400 million Indian children. After a chance encounter with Rays Children Home, we are now introduced to a challenge so remarkable it’s hard to believe we hadn’t come across it earlier.
In North America, the number of children living with HIV is around 1,900, a disease generally associated with adults. In India it’s estimated there are around 170,000 – 220,000 HIV positive children. What’s even more alarming is the widespread discrimination these children face from general society. Direct results of the stigma include denial of health care, education, and family or institutional care – not to mention the fear of being identified as HIV positive that discourages children & families from seeking care in the first place.
This stigma became so apparent to us upon visiting Rays. It is the one and only home for HIV positive children in Jaipur, a city of 2.3 million people. Rays home cares for 40 boys and 16 girls suffering from HIV, along with employing 15 live in HIV positive women as caretakers. “With heavy hearts” Rays has to deny new children nearly every day. This is because they are committed to giving their current children a high quality of life rather than catering to the number of children in need. Until Rays can expand on their vision they will do everything to build a positive life for their 56 kids – through nourishment, education, health care, activities and a loving family environment.
“When you have a child you do everything for that child. It’s just the same for us, we do everything for these children”
– Rashmi, Founder Rays
In order to be completely self sufficient as they reach the age of independence children must not only have transferable skills & training, but also confidence within themselves. There is a lot of focus on development. The staff at Ray’s understands that not every child can excel in academics and must be nurtured in other ways for future successes in life. Shewta says;
“We really need to do something else for them so that when they leave this place they can be completely independent and earn a living. We try to open their mind and give them a better exposure of the world. We try to let them utilize their time through different activities yoga, computers, photography, beauty, stitching. We help them out with all activities they would want to pursue in future”
It’s very clear that these children are positive, outgoing, loving & definitely dreamers. We interviewed all the boys with a simple question;
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Answers varied from Army man to Bollywood Star to Architect to Psychologist. Once these dreams have been fostered, it’s equally as important that their skills in their area of interest are improved. This will help them reach their college requirements.
This is where the Tribe comes in. After a meeting with Shweta and Mr. Gurinder, the passionate & humble founder, we decided the best program for Tribe of Lambs to support would be the summer training programs. Students are off school for about 3 months so it’s crucial they not only find activities to occupy their time but activities which add value to their lives. We worked with a vocational training school called Landmark to tailor the 30 day programs in computer & arts for 38 children over the age of 10. We then kept a smaller budget for a 30 day home program of arts & crafts and other creative outlets for 18 children 10 and under.
It’s our goal that this project will help facilitate the journey towards fulfilling big dreams for these children. An integral part of this project is to raise awareness to the challenges faced by children suffering from HIV/Aids in India.