Offering a ray of hope

ABODE OF SOLACE

Offering a ray of hope

Sneha Sadan and Jeevadaan in Mangaluru  extend care and support for HIV-positive people, and provide them a platform to build a secure future.

Perched aloft the Kaikamba hillock, overlooking the picturesque vistas of green fields, swaying coconut palms and the serene waters of the meandering Gurupura river, lies the twin abodes of Sneha Sadan and Jeevadaan. Both of these extend care and support services for HIV- and AIDS-infected individuals, and offer them a platform to grow and build a good future for themselves. As it is a disease dreaded by many, individuals infected with HIV and AIDS are often ostracised from society. However, this is not the answer.

The order of the priests of St Camillus de Lellis, which has been involved in the healthcare for more than 450 years, started caring for these vulnerable victims about 15 years ago. They took within their care people with HIV and AIDS, by starting a palliative care centre of 65 beds, called Sneha Sadan in 2001. Sneha Sadan is the third initiative of the Camillians India under the Sneha Charitable Trust to provide succour for people with HIV.

A platform to grow
As this institute includes men, women and children, a need was felt to start another institution exclusively for women and girl children. So, Jeevadaan was started in February 2004 by the Daughters of St Camillus to provide care and support exclusively for HIV-infected and abandoned women and children, and also to provide palliative care to women who are terminally ill.

Usually it is the children of HIV-infected parents who are robbed of their childhood and face discrimination and social boycott for no fault of theirs. It is to address this issue that these centres started comprehensive care programmes. These include residential care, value-based formation, formal inclusive education in local schools, sports and recreation, counselling, appropriate healthcare, nutrition, spiritual support and yoga.

These institutions provide the children a platform to grow and build a future for themselves. In the process, they instill self-confidence in the children through various activities, so that they can face the world with a bold approach.

It was indeed wonderful to witness the exuberance of the boys all set to play their evening football match at Sneha Sadan. Their boisterous bickering, kicking and tackling of the ball and laughter ringing in our ears made us feel that we were in any other school.

Eradicating social stigma
The shadow of the debilitating disease  has not in any way dimmed their lives. In Jeevadaan, the clear melodious voices of the little girls echoed in our ears as they sang for us. We were given to understand that they were a part of the local church choir.

The homes celebrate the lives of those who are living without hope by providing a way to lead life that is almost normal. This is done by helping them realise their dreams and channelising their energies into productive creativity.

Counselling and psychological support are integral parts of the therapy that the residents get. Poems written by the children here show how traumatised and bewildered they are, when they witness first-hand the suffering and deaths of their loved ones.

One such poem goes like this: “What an illness!/ My life is meaningless../ It makes my life lifeless, makes me hopeless/ What an illness!/ It killed my brother/ Everyone hates me because of this illness/ What an illness…?”

The social stigma attached to AIDS drives the victims into a trauma of hopelessness. It is in times like these the Reverend Fathers and Sisters of St Camillus follow the principles of their founder and strive to help these victims stand up and walk on their own through education and counselling, and liberating them from their hurts and prejudices.

The environment of peace and tranquillity, the smiles on the faces of the children, their vibrant enthusiasm as they explained their achievements and even the little acts of mischief all go to show us their near normalcy lifestyles. Thanks to the Order of St Camillus, the excluded are included in society.

(To know more about Sneha Sadan, one can visit www.snehacharitabletrust.org or email at snehasadan05@gmail.com.)

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