In today’s world, where everyone is focused more and more on “Self”, it is heartening to see someone working towards making the world a better place for kids.
Solomon Raja, or “Appa” as he is lovingly called, has been the lifeline for 45 HIV positive kids in Chennai. He has made it his life’s mission to kill the stigma around HIV patients.
Raja and his wife had two kids after marriage but always wanted to adopt children and give them a good life.
In 2005, when a social activist told them about HIV positive 7-year-old boy, Raja immediately decided to adopt the kid and this changed their lives.
While talking to Indiatimes, Raja spoke about the emotional moment.
“Initially I had no other option but to leave him behind and go for work. The boy invariably hated being kept alone at home and called out people. Meanwhile, I’d somehow manage to get out of work during a 45 minute lunch break to feed and make sure he’s alright.”
But things weren’t easy.
“When I started taking him to my office, they were fine with him initially, but after they came to know about him [that he was HIV positive] they started keeping distance from both me and the child.”
Even though the society kept on judging Raja and passing distasteful comments about his adopted kid, Raja had bigger things in mind.
He decided to make an effort to break the stigma and adopted more children who were abandoned because of HIV.
Most of the children adopted by Raja are from neighboring villages. These kids are generally left behind by their relatives while undergoing treatment – either because of the cost of treatment or because of the negative thought process.
Raja takes these children in and makes sure they get the best possible treatment. He says,
“The doctors stipulate the kind of treatment required and determine the stage of the disease. The things after that are all taken care by me.”
Raja set up a home for these kids, called Shelter Trust, in Red Hills on the outskirts of Chennai. Talking about the challenges he faced in setting up the home, Raja mentioned:
“In the initial days finding a place for the kids was a challenge, not many were willing to rent out a space for the fear of the disease. That’s when the RightNow Foundation, an NGO based in UK, that I work with, helped with zeroing down a place to run the shelter.”
The staff running the shelter comprises of commercial sex workers and children who have grown up in the Shelter.
And it’s not just Raja and his wife who are in love with these children.
“My biological children who are in their teens, love these kids to death. In fact, my son even questioned me for a need of a children shelter. He asked me, ‘Why can’t they just stay with us?’ to which I said there are legal restrictions”
To make sure these kids are protected, Raja has legally adopted them under the Child Welfare Committee provision and has a license to take care of them.
Raja and his wife juggle between multiple jobs and make sure they are able to provide for the kids by contributing personally as well as raising contributions from other people.
Given the medical state of these children, it is not always easy. Raja mentions that the most difficult part is that these kids are very prone to opportunistic infections – most pick up viral infections like flu, diarrhea, from school every now and then.
“The biggest challenge while dealing with these precious kids, is the constant fear of uncertainity. I cannot predict how many children would fall sick the next month and over the years, we’ve lost six of our kids and it’s extremely emotionally draining.”
Despite all the challenges, Raja makes sure his kids are getting a proper education, and leading a normal life, as much as possible. Raja added:
“All my kids go to government schools, six children have written their 12th exams and another has just finished her B.Com degree.
My biggest accomplishment was to get them married off. One of my kids named Uma, a former sex worker, got married and has had a baby, I am a proud grandfather too”
There are only a few Samaritans in this world, who would live their lives in a way that it brings sunshine to other lives.
And at I For Her, we salute Solomon Raja for being one such angel to these 45 unfortunate kids!
In case you want to help Raja’s children, you can donate to his fundraiser here.