I am a graduate student at the Harvard Design School of Architecture and I recently had the opportunity to visit the homes of several PATS children. Working alongside the PATS health workers and volunteers, I focused on getting to know each of the children in the program, in order to organize and create Sponsor a Child profiles. Through the profiles, PATS can best match children with generous donors abroad, whose support deeply impacts the lives of these children.
During my trip, one child in particular stood out to me. On a site visit to Lixin, Anhui, the PATS team met Ling, who lives in a rural house with his grandfather and brother. In addition to being HIV-positive, both of his parents and three of his four uncles had passed away. Because his elderly grandfather has trouble remembering to give him his medication, drug adherence is a challenge for Ling. PATS workers provided the family with marked pillboxes and make special efforts to visit the house to provide health support and encourage accountability.
On this particular visit, meeting with Ling's family alone was complicated by the fact that it was summer and the neighborhood children were playing nearby. Ling was incredibly nervous because
of the attention brought on by the health works and the possible stigma of being seen as HIV-positive. I was there as well, trying to get to know Ling to create a summary for the Sponsor a Child packages, a difficult task given the tension. At this point, in order to distract the children playing tag in the area, three of the health workers and volunteers began singing songs in English and Chinese. The children were delighted and joined in on the choruses. Ling, seeing many of his friends comfortable with the health workers, relaxed and began to enjoy himself.
In many ways, Ling is a very normal boy. Recovering from his shyness, he shared with us that his favorite activities were swimming and playing basketball and that he likes to eat noodles with meat. He started school this past year and his grandfather reports that he is doing well and has many friends. But in order for Ling to be healthy, he requires a lot of support from his family and the health workers. Evident from the diversion created by the singing health workers, his family also needs support from the health workers to show by example the possibility of community support rather than stigmatization. That afternoon made it clear to me how much a team of health workers have to not only be competent but also sensitive, committed, and creative in responding to the many details in caring for vulnerable children. I was not only able to get my interview with Ling and to learn a few Chinese folk songs, but I was also reminded it will take many clear voices, singing together to make a change.
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