What is the connection between this,
Know that Holy Trinity Church is the link and you have the answer.
For many years the church has supported a project in south India which, among other things, helps children who are affected or infected by HIV. I’m lucky to have orange and lemon trees in the garden so winter sees me making marmalade which I sell in the church hall after the Sunday service.
The NGO run by my brother supports 130 of the poorest families. Usually the children are looked after by a single mother (the husband having died) or a grandparent. The families are given a monthly allowance, this encourages the careers to keep the children in their villages rather than send them off to a distant orphanage. Not many institutions will take positive children.
Children are living longer now with antiretroviral treatment (given free by the Indian Government). However there is still a great deal of discrimination toward people with HIV (often coming from within their own families). One woman told me that the people in her village avoid her and won’t let her use the village pump. When asked if she couldn’t get together with women in her situation she said she had no way of knowing about others as people don’t dare draw attention to themselves.
“In any case,” she said, “my village is mixed caste, I’m low caste and I can’t join any of the high caste groups. When I work in the fields the others work in a group apart. They think that they will catch HIV if I touch them or happen to cough,” she chokes back her tears.
Part of the project’s work is to inform the village people about the illness, also to visit schools where discrimination is taking place and talk to the staff and the pupils. It happens that a child is tormented by other children or even the teachers who make them sit aside on the floor.
Arjun, an eleven year old, recounts how he was always getting bullied “Even by my own friends,” his lip trembles. “Then people from Arogya Agam came to explain, and now everything is alright and even the teachers themselves bring me special treats.”
My visits to these families are very humbling. I hear so many stories of hardship; in one particular area there are more than usual orphans being looked after by grandmothers. This area is near to the border with Kerela State; many men leave home to get work there and stay for months. Some are infected by the time they return, and in turn infect their wives.
I was greatly moved by these elderly ladies with their care worn faces, who carry on working as ‘coolies’ so that their grandchildren can stay in school – truly inspirational.
But there are success stories too: children doing well in school and becoming leaders in the children’s clubs we have set up in the villages where they have fun and grow in self confidence. We train them in children’s rights, sports, health and hygiene and many groups are now tackling issues in their areas addressing problems of early marriage for girls, school drop-outs and bonded labour.
A big thank you to all who support these children by buying jam! I was able to hand over 500 Euros’ worth of marmalade on my last visit as well as funds raised by the International Club of the Riviera.