Home away from home

Home away from home

Pragmatic Approach

Home away from home

 HIV-afflicted people are ostracised in the society. But here is an organisation that doesn’t have the same mentality. Mahesh Foundation is striving hard to motivate HIV-positive children lead a normal, respectable life, says Divyashri Mudakavi.

The word ‘positive’ invokes an optimistic feeling within us. But the moment, ‘HIV’ is prefixed to this word, there is a lump in the throat. This was what 25-year-old Mahesh Jadhav of Belagavi exactly felt when he first saw a child lying like an untouchable on a bed at the district hospital. The four-year-old HIV-afflicted child was abandoned by his parents and had no special care or treatment. Mahesh was moved at the sight of this helpless child and realised that the lives of HIV-positive children weren’t easy. He then began reading about AIDS and started to work with organisations, that dealt with such children. His exposure and experience with other organisations motivated him to do something more for these children.

Social stigma

Mahesh, a diploma holder, initially decided to set up a hostel for some HIV children whom he adopted. But the real problem started when no one was ready to rent a house for accommodating these children. Thanks to the many misconceptions that people have about HIV, they deemed such children unacceptable. Mahesh even had to face some resistance from his family. But they came around after he cleared their apprehensions and stressed on the importance of such a righteous cause.

Consequently, he opened the doors of his own home in Kanabargi in Belagavi to four HIV-positive children. This number later grew to 23. In 2010, the financial support from industrialist Suresh Handre, helped him start Mahesh Foundation, a caring home for HIV-affected children. Braving the social stigma associated with HIV-infected persons, he decided to give a new lease of life to them. The foundation began providing moral, emotional and medical support to these little ones, who came in from in and around Belagavi.

Today, the Foundation has around 50 children in the age group of 3-15 years and is helping another 2,000 children in the form of medical and educational assistance. There are two ‘house mothers’ and several medical assistants who take care of these children round the clock. In all, there are around 30 staff members including an in-house doctor and volunteers.

“HIV-afflicted children face high levels of stress, both physically and mentally. Apart from frequent drop in calcium and haemoglobin (HB) levels, they also have a lot of skin problems. Hence, they need regular health monitoring. At Mahesh Foundation, we have maintained separate medical files for every child, so that they get special attention and care. Solving such medical problems is challenging but can be done if nutrition and lifestyle discipline is taken care of,” explains Mahesh.

He further adds, “But the toughest thing is boosting their morale. Most of the people don’t treat these children like humans. They avoid mingling with them. Even their families and relatives abandon them. In such cases, their mental strength gets crushed. So, all our efforts are to ensure that these children regain their strength and hope.”

Fighting discrimination

Nagaratna Ramgouda who counsels the children says that HIV-positive children suffer a lot from discrimination, which needs to end. To make the lives of the children simpler, Mahesh Foundation even counsels the school teachers and headmasters. “During many instances, these children were not admitted to schools and were ostracised. We fought against this and got them admitted to government schools. Activities like drawing, yoga, games are held regularly to keep them healthy and happy,” she said. She also says that their efforts also focus on making the children independent, so that they don’t have to run to others for every little issue.

The Foundation has also opened a centre in Gokak where the general public is being made aware about AIDS. In order to address the basic cause for HIV/AIDS, they regularly conduct health check-up and awareness camps.

Contact Mahesh Foundation at www.maheshfoundation.org.

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